Fiscal win

Alison in Wonderland, Observant, Maastricht

Never have I called the Dutch tax office – or any tax office, for that matter – and felt that I’d won. Until today, that is. Despite having left the country three years ago, I was still being taxed by the Belastingdienst. I’d been dreading making the call, though, because as everybody knows, the tax office always wins. But it seems they have a new policy in place, one that draws heavily on psychotherapy for its stock phrases: ‘I’m hearing you say you don’t know why you are being taxed here, and that is making you feel angry and powerless.’ The matter was cleared up in minutes (33, to be precise, and at the international calling rate, but still). It seems that now I’ve left the country, I get along much better with it.



Write or die

Alison in Wonderland, Observant, Maastricht

Write or Die is a truly genius app. Its aim is to fight writer’s block by simply not allowing you to indulge in it. There are three settings. If you stop typing, the Gentle setting will politely prompt you to start again, the Normal setting will trigger an unpleasant sound until you keep going and, finally, the Kamikaze setting will actually start deleting everything you’ve written so far. Fortunately, I haven’t had to resort to such drastic measures, because I’m self-deluded enough to be able to set false deadlines and actually convince myself that disaster awaits if I miss them. Speaking of which, I must run – because if I don’t finish this thesis chapter by morning a fridge is bound to fall from the sky, and that will be the end of the cat.

Fanatical positivity

Alison in Wonderland, Observant, Maastricht

I’ve been running some brain experiments recently. No, I’m not a neuroscientist – or a serial killer – I mean on my own brain. I’ve had to give a lot of talks this year, and I used to be a nervous public speaker. Not any more. It’s all about brain manipulation by way of fanatically positive thinking. Whenever a negative thought creeps in, I squash it by shouting positive thoughts at myself: I just love giving talks. My research is so interesting. These people cannot wait to hear what I have to say. I’m so happy I have the chance to knock their socks off. And the thing is – I’ve convinced myself. I’m almost disappointed that, as of this week, I’ve no more talks scheduled. But I’ll manage – because I love writing my thesis.