Friday, August 30, 2013

Seamus Heaney

Seamus Heaney has died at the age of 74, which seems young to me now. This is from the New York Times obit:
In the 1984 collection, “Station Island,” he wrote: “The main thing is to write for the joy of it. Cultivate a work-lust that imagines its haven like your hands at night, dreaming the sun in the sunspot of a breast. You are fasted now, light-headed, dangerous. Take off from here. And don’t be so earnest.”
This is from a guy who grew up a farmer's son and Catholic in Northern Ireland, learning about prejudice and injustice. I should learn from him.


I may have written something like this before. In fact, I am pretty sure I have. But I'm not going back to check. This particular iteration is in response to a post on the Book View Cafe blog, talking about having multiple projects going at once.

I usually have several projects going at once. I don’t sell work until it’s finished and can only remember one time I wrote a story to order. So the reason I do this is personal preference, rather than the demands of editors. When I get stuck on one story, I switch to another, rather than stop writing for several days, while I figure out what to do next on story # 1. Of course, I could push through the problem area in story # 1. That might work. But I prefer to let the story rest, while my unconscious (if the unconscious actually exists) mulls and finds a solution to the problem. In the meantime, I work on story # 2.

I like first drafts and don’t much like revising. If I have two stories going at once, I can have the pleasure of writing a first draft at the same time that I am trudging through a revision.

There are limits to this technique. I have a novel and six short stories in various stages of completion right now. I don’t rely on outlines, and I take only a few notes, so I have to keep all the information about the stories in my head. I find I am running out of memory room. (Many of the stories are almost done, so I don’t have to keep them all in my memory, but there are changes that have to be remembered, until I input them.)

I’m not sure I recommend this method of writing. There is a lot to be said for focusing on one project at a time.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

1963 Civil Rights March

I was on the 1963 Civil Rights March. I went with my mother and my friend Gail and her mother. We took a union-rented bus from Newark, NJ. It's one of the most important memories of my life -- and biggest march I have been on, though there have been bigger marches since then.

The most important part of the memory for me was not the march itself, which was so big that I had no sense of its bigness. I just remember a lot of people strolling under trees. I also don't remember the famous "I have a dream" speech, because I skipped it. I had been on a fair number of peace marches in Washington, and I always skipped the speeches and went off to an art museum. So I convinced my mother to go to the National Gallery, and we were looking at art while Dr. King gave his speech.

What I remember most clearly was the ride down. We were in a line of buses with union banners on their sides, rolling south out of the New York metro area. As we got out of the Central Atlantic states into the Border states, into the south, we began to see black people standing by the side of the highway -- entire families, just standing and watching the buses go by. There were a lot of them.

And when our bus drove into Washington, we saw black families standing on the porches of their houses, watching the buses go by. The way I remember it, they were not waving or cheering, they were simply watching, and their watching was intense.

The sense I got was -- this march was hugely important. People hoped for real change, and they were not entirely certain they would get it. Still, they hoped.

Well, that is my memory. It was important enough to me, that I put it into a story I wrote, "Big Brown Mama and Brer Rabbit," which is in a collection that got published this year, Big Mama Stories. In my story Brer Rabbit gets turned into a black man and becomes an auto worker in Detroit and later, after he has moved to the Rondo neighborhood in St. Paul and is a middle-aged handyman, he goes on the march.

(The Big Mamas are magical beings, who come in all colors, including blue, green, orange and purple. They are tall tale characters like Paul Bunyan, only bigger and stronger, with a lot more skills and powers. If you want to know more about the story, you will have to get the book.)

I am not entirely enjoying the celebrations of the 50th anniversary, because they are putting the march into history, locking it into the past, and they are making it about Dr. King. He made the famous speech. But Bayard Rustin organized the march, and A. Philip Randolph called in every debt he was owed by the union movement for the march, and union locals all over the country rented buses and filled them. I had forgotten, but there were also special trains that carried marchers to Washington.

Most of all, the march was the people who organized it and went on it, and the people who stood on their porches and by the highway and watched. They knew this was important, and they hoped it would change America.

It didn't. It isn't part of the history because the job isn't done. The march was for jobs as well as civil rights, and too much of the country is unemployed, far more than in 1963, in fact. The jobs that exist -- especially for black people -- mostly suck. Who wants to work in the fast food industry for minimum wage?

Instead of having an end to racism, we're having a resurgence, including laws that are designed to disenfranchise people of color.

The Washington I remember from the march was black and full of ordinary working people. I was in Washington a couple of years ago. Georgetown was amazing: so rich and clean and white. It looked like a European capital. Washington is now the richest metro area in the country, and its black citizens are getting pushed out of the city, replaced by affluent white people.

In 1963, Detroit was the richest metro area in the country. Its money came from production. Washington is made rich by the federal government and the money that floods in to influence the government.

The country will be free when everyone can vote, and Washington listens to the voters, when the wall of money that isolates the city now is gone. It will be free when everyone has a decent job and a decent place to live, when healthcare and a good education is available to everyone, when racism and sexism are always confronted, when the government deals with real problems, such as global warming...

So, there is plenty of work left to do. The march was a milestone, but there is a long way to go. La lucha continua, as they say in the countries south of us.

P.S. The march was amazing and wonderful and inspirational. Being there was one of the best things that has happened in my life. (I added this, because I didn't want to end on a down note, and because big changes happen over time, step by step. You don't get where you want to go without taking each step.)

P.P.S. From the wonderful economics blog Naked Capitalism: "The (1963) March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom included the concrete demand for a $2 an hour minimum wage, which in today’s dollars would be $15.27."

The Federal minimum wage right now is $7.25 an hour.

Monday, August 26, 2013

More weather

The trouble with being trapped like rat in an air conditioned apartment is, I feel like a trapped rat. Soon I will begin to gnaw off my tail... This is the summer version of cabin fever and much worse. If it were winter and snow, preferably a blizzard, I'd be pulling on my mukluks and my melton wool parka and going out to frolic in the drifts...

But I have to run errands tomorrow. So -- even though this heat wave is supposed to continue -- I will be out and about.

Pride and Prejudice

We watched the 2005 Hollywood version of Pride and Prejudice last night as part of our ongoing Jane Austen obsession. It's visually very impressive, and I like the Bennett estate as a working farm. Good pigs. Good cattle. Good hens. Excellent geese. But it skims over the surface of the novel. I did like Donald Sutherland, and I liked a Mrs. Bennett who didn't shriek all the time. No question in my mind, however, that the BBC TV series is much better. I suppose we will have to see the famous Lawrence Olivier version now.

Patrick found an essay on the 2005 Pride and Prejudice movie. The author makes a good defense of it, but agrees that it is more a movie experience than a Jane Austen experience. I thought a lot of it was lovely -- and gritty and Hogarthian. The essayist says it works visually to a considerable extent. You are given information through images, rather than dialogue. We bought it at a large discount at Target, so will be able to watch it again.

Austen, I suspect from her writing, was not especially visual. It's her dialogue and her narrative voice that I notice and remember.

I woke this morning thinking it was not a good movie. Emma Thompson wanted her name off the script, and this was a wise decision. The script is not good, except when it uses Austen's lines. I think it's a serious mismatch. A director who thinks visually and an author who thinks in words not images. The script writer should have been a bridge. But it's not a good script...

Weather Report

You know those summer mornings when it's bright and cool, but you can feel the noon heat coming behind the coolness? This is not one. At 8:30 it was hot and humid and sticky and awful. The air was not breathing quality air, but the kind of air you used to get in Detroit in the summer, when the city was full of car plants making production. Industrial quality air. An hour later, it was slightly worse.

Patrick says we are getting California wildfire smoke. So that's the particulate matter and the grayish haze. In Detroit, it was the plants making cars and good jobs and money for most everyone. Now it's the west burning down.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Economists and Taxes

This is a comment I posted on the wonderful Naked Capitalism blog in response to an article by an economist on taxes. He was actually making a good point: that economists use language about taxes that builds in an anti-tax prejudice. But he didn't do it in clear English, and he presented his ideas in the abstract way that economists do, without reference to reality. So I wrote:
I had three responses to this article.(1) Why can’t economists learn to write in the English language? (2) Why postulate what people are like? There are polls, and there is sociology. You can actually find out about people’s wants and needs. (3) Why not take a look at history? World War Two and the 1950s show how much damage was done to the economy by high taxes combined with high government expenditures.
(Note: there is a bit of sarcasm here. The American economy roared during WWII and did better in the 1950s than it has done since. Taxes were high, and the government spent a fortune on the war effort and then on post-war housing and education and the interstate highway system and... Economists talk about the dead weight of taxes pulling down the economy. Top income tax rates were over 90% in the 40s and 50s. They didn't seem to weigh on America one bit.)
I don’t think (as this guy does) that we want to maximize after tax income. I think we want to maximize a decent life in an environment that doesn’t collapse around us. I’d take a very low after tax income in return for national health, an improved national pension plan, free education, good social services, and national programs to build affordable, low energy housing and a sustainable world.

For what it is worth, when Republicans were the dominent party in Minnesota and refusing to raise taxes, the people of Minnesota passed two constitutional amendments by popular vote. Both raised sales taxes, one to fund transportation in the state, the other to fund clean water, the environment and the arts. People will take less after tax income in return for social goods.
Read more at Naked Capitalism.

Minnesota Orchestra

I have been trying to figure out what the administration and board of the Minnesota Orchestra think they are are doing. The lockout of orchestra musicians has been going on for the better part of a year. For what it is worth, the Orchestra Association is being advised by the law firm that advised American Sugar in its lockout of workers up in Moorhead and advised the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra in its lockout of musicians. The SPCO musicians finally settled. Their base pay has been cut 19% and the number of musicians in the orchestra has been reduced.

I knew the SPCO had financial problems, but the Minnesota Orchestra is doing a huge expansion of Orchestra Hall, partly funded by a state grant. To get the state grant, they had to show that their financials were solid.

Per the musicians' website, the administration wants pay cuts of 30-50%. Also per the website, the Minnesota Orchestra pay was in line with other major orchestras, and other major orchestras -- such as Chicago, Cleveland, San Francisco and Pittsburgh -- have new contracts with flat pay or slight increases in pay.

This is by Alex Ross, music critic for The New Yorker:
In his latest piece, (Graydon) Royce alludes to a column I wrote in 2010, in which I said, "For the duration of the evening of March 1st, the Minnesota Orchestra sounded, to my ears, like the greatest orchestra in the world." … I stand by the statement, at least as far as the musicians themselves are concerned. As for the board and the management, I am tempted to apply a superlative of a quite different kind. I'll simply say this: do the board and management actually wish to destroy the Minnesota Orchestra? So far, their actions seem to be moving steadily toward that end.
It is quite amazing for a nonprofit with one mission, maintenance of a classical orchestra, to destroy that orchestra and its mission. I think it's flat out insane. Remember that Alex Ross thinks it may be the greatest classical orchestra in the world. That's a heck of a thing to destroy. Not something a sane person would do. Remember that the orchestra administration was able to convince the state of Minnesota that the orchestra was in good financial shape, so the problem does not seem to be money. If the problem is money, in spite of their representations to the state, then they need to open their financial records to the union and the public and plead for help.

In an attempt to make the actions of the board and administration appear rational, I came up with two theories. Remember these are only theories.

(1)The administration and board decided to save money while the new Orchestra Hall lobby was under construction by locking out the musicians. Why pay musicians when the Hall was barely -- if at all -- useable? Why worry about finding other venues? Simply lock the musicians out. In addition, I imagine, they hoped to break the union and thus be able to pay much less, when construction was done and they rehired the orchestra. If they lost the current musicians, it wouldn't matter because they could hire recent music school graduates. Anyone can play classical music. They haven't managed to break the union, and they don't know what to do next. They are stuck with a bad plan.

(2)They decided to eliminate the Minnesota Orchestra, because it's too expensive, and replace it with a pops orchestra, which will -- they hope -- cost less and bring in more subscribers. Or have no orchestra and rent the Hall out for special events -- rock concerts or weddings.

Patrick says it would be a lot easier to just have recorded music. But they'd better remember to pay ASCAP and BMI.

Sunday, August 18, 2013


I don't usually remember dreams. However I did remember part of a dream from last night. It was a Star Trek TV show dream or maybe a Galaxy Quest dream. I didn't recognize any of the characters, but the uniforms looked familiar.

A human star ship had gone into a new region of space and met aliens, who looked like humans, at least superficially. The aliens were afraid of being conquered or assimilated, which led to conflict. I have forgotten the middle of the dream, the part with action. But I remember the resolution.

The aliens communicated with each other via the direct exchange of cellular material, rather like bacteria. Because of this, it was possible that there was only one alien with many bodies. In any case, humanity could not assimilate the aliens, nor could they assimilate humanity, because real communication was not happening.

The aliens were talking with the human star farers, but this speech was superficial, not their real -- chemical -- form of communication.

The humans told the aliens that they were leaving this region of space and would not be back for a long time, so the aliens were doubly safe.

That was the dream. What was it about? A failure to communicate, which is probably important to a writer.

Thursday, August 15, 2013


I have mixed feelings about exercise. I feel better when I do it, and I like the people I meet at the Y. But in the end my idea of real fun is cruising the Internet or reading a book.

But I love going to the Y in the morning. Today was sunny when I headed over, the sky bright blue and the air cool. As I crossed the street to the park, the Asian Invasion lunch truck zipped past me, heading for a parking place. There were people walking dogs, and a guy playing the beat-up, rainbow-colored, upright piano that sits under the band shell. A building in the neighborhood offers apartments to people who have been homeless. This guy looked as if he might live there, as did the two men who made up his audience. He played darn well.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Silence, Please

Ta-Nehisi Coates has a lovely post at The Atlantic on the Amtrak quiet car and the kind of people who make noise in a car reserved for quietness. I enjoyed the post and the long series of comments, which went through many kinds of rude public behavior. One of the commenters said that he or she believed many people -- possibly most people -- could not handle silence.

This instantly hit home with me. I have thought for years that people are afraid of being alone with their thoughts. Either their thoughts are painful or they have no thoughts, though Zen teachers tell us there is always some kind of crap floating through our minds.

I like silence. I plot stories while walking the track at the Y, and I appreciate the silence in the weight room. Once in a while a staff member plays music, but usually there is no sound except a bit of conversation. When there is music, I find its beat puts me off my own rhythm as I work out.

At home, I either have silence or classical music, played not too loudly. I especially like 17th and 18th century chamber music. This was music designed to be played while the nobility digested their dinners. It does not demand the same kind of attention as Beethoven, for example.

But having said I like silence, I remember the noises that don't bother me. I have lived in cities my entire life, so the background noises of cities -- cars, machinery, sirens -- don't usually bother me. I am able to shut them out. I hear them as silence, I think, though the true quietness of the country is more relaxing.

I like going out to write. A coffee house with a good collection of CDs is a wonderful place. Most of the time, people around me are fairly quiet. Many people sit alone with a computer or notebook. The staff is willing to sell me a cup of coffee plus refills and then leave me alone for hours.

This kind of noise -- a good CD, people talking quietly -- does not bother me. In fact, it seems to help me write.

Rude noise bothers me. Music played too loudly. Drunks yelling in the street. The TVs that run endlessly in public places. Why? Most of the time no one is watching. One makes a choice to go into a coffee house and listen to music, while writing. One does not make a choice to listen to drunks yelling. And if one is waiting in an airport, one is making a decision to fly, which is not the same as a decision to listen to Fox News.

I like to be alone with my thoughts. More silence, please.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Occupy Maflow

This is a photo from an Equal Times article about an Italian factory that went out of business. The workers first occupied the plant and then turned it into a workers co-op. So far, it is surviving. The wonderful graffiti is on the exterior of the plant.

Lunch and a Bus Ride and Love

I had lunch with an old friend yesterday and had a long bus ride home after. The ride was good, because I wrote a poem about two young people, a Somali woman in traditional clothing and a Euro-American man in backpack and jeans, standing at a bus stop, obviously very much in love.They were an amazing sight, just standing facing each other, but with love shining out of them.

I have a long series of poems that I've written about bus trips and the people I see on buses.

But the lunch was not entirely comfortable, because I was thinking about the process of growing old. When I got home I said to Patrick, "Am I eroding? Have I changed from the person you first met?"

Patrick said, "To me you look the same as you did when we first met, and you were wearing the purple dress with white triangles."

I did in fact have a Marimekko dress, purple with a pattern of white triangles, and I was wearing it when Patrick and I first met in 1971.

So I wrote another, very short poem:
Love changes everything,
even the old.
Because we have, of course, changed, but it is love that changes us back.

Cat Picture

Courtesy of Google, of course. I like this one.


Why do I quote so often from conversations I have on facebook? Well, it's easy. If I have already said something on facebook, why not just copy it over to my blog? And facebook is a conversation, which I find a lot easier than writing in isolation -- which is a funny thing to say, considering that I'm a writer.

Well, yes, I do write fiction in isolation. But I talk about my stories while I am writing them, and then bring them to my fiction writing workshop, and then send them out in the hope that they will be published and so reach readers.

Still and all, writing fiction is a pretty solitary activity. Somehow, I find it less difficult than writing non-fiction, such as -- for example -- this blog.

And conversations have never been a problem for me. I like talking. I love doing panels at conventions, though it took years of work to get over my stage fright. There is a lovely give and take in a good panel or a good conversation. I learn more talking to other people than I learn talking to myself.

Sunday, August 11, 2013


A new big-budget science fiction summer movie is coming out, from the director who made District Nine. The blog motherboard says this is the year's most radical film.

I said, as part of a discussion on facebook:
There is always this problem with Hollywood movies. They will go only so far in their critiques. Matrix made me crazy because the science was so bad, but it told us we live in a dream while our masters use us as generators, feeding off our power. Well, yes, actually.

I liked V, though people who know the comic tell me the movie is awful. Still, we see those masks everywhere now.

I thought Avatar was visually stunning. It is an argument for Nature and aboriginal rights, though in a very stupid form. (White man saves blue natives.)

It's hard to get the funding and the distribution, if what you are saying is a genuine and strong attack on the system of which Hollywood is a part.
So what can we say about Hollywood movies? They are not going to be as direct as an IWW song. But they can be fun, and they can do things that people are able to use, like the V masks.

They are not likely to give us a good plan for action, however. The struggles are too quickly won in Hollywood movies. It's hard to show years of hard work, which finally may result in change. And violence is not always the answer. More often, it is organizing. I also believe in ideas -- and a good understanding of what the problem actually is.


From a discussion of "slipstream" on facebook:
I seem to remember that Sterling came up with "slipstream." Nowadays people call it "interstitial," though I don't, because I can neither spell nor pronounce it. Both terms come from within the science fiction community and apply (I think) to works that push at the traditional boundaries of SF. The words have nothing to do with fiction written outside SF. There is a lovely Halldor Laxness novel about a woman who is turned into a salmon and frozen in a glacier for decades, then recovered and turned back into a living woman. Not slipstream or inter-whatever, because those terms have no meaning in re Icelandic fiction of the first half of the 20th century. Calvino isn't slipstream. Nor is Borges. Lem might be, because he knew (and disliked) traditional SF.

I think these terms do have meaning within SF and may be useful in the field.

I don't like the terms personally, but I am not a critic. I also have a firm position on my own fiction. If I write it, it's science fiction or fantasy, dead center in the field.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013


A horror writer named Lisa Morton posted the following quiz on the blog of the Horror Writers Association L.A. Chapter as a way to determine if you are a real writer, a pro, rather than a hobbyist. According to Morton, you need to answer yes to at least eight questions in order to be a pro. I have printed her questions in bold and my answers in regular typeface.

1. Is your home/work place messy because that time you’d put into cleaning it is better spent writing?

No. I like neatness. I admit that my filing is backed up.

2. Do you routinely turn down evenings out with friends because you need to be home writing instead?

No. I don't like to go out in the evening. My friends know this and rarely ask me. When I do go, it's usually to attend my fiction writing group.

3. Do you turn off the television in order to write?

No. I don't own a TV.

4. Would you rather receive useful criticism than praise?

I'm 50-50 on this one. Useful criticism is useful. But I love praise.

5. Do you plan vacations around writing opportunities (either research or networking potential)?

No. Though the places I see on vacation may turn up in later fiction.

6. Would you rather be chatting about the business of writing with another writer than exchanging small talk with a good friend?

Yes. I don't like small talk one bit. My friends are mostly writers of fiction, poets, critics, journalists, reviewers, serious readers and so on. Any conversation is likely to be about writing, though not necessarily writing as a business.

7. Have you ever taken a day job that paid less money because it would give you more time/energy/material to write?


8. Are you willing to give up the nice home you know you could have if you devoted that time you spend writing to a more lucrative career?

No. Living in a garret has never appealed to me.

9. Have you done all these things for at least five years?


10. Are you willing to live knowing that you will likely never meet your ambitions, but you hold to those ambitions nonetheless?

Probably not. A sane person has ambitions that are achievable. When you are young, you may not know what you can achieve. At my age, you ought to have some idea. I would like to have more money and more fame, but I'm not going to bend myself out a shape trying to get either. At this point, my main ambition is to continue writing and have a pleasant old age.
A lot of writers have posted their answers to this quiz. Everyone I've read has failed the quiz. Neil Gaiman claims that he answered no to every question.
I think the moral of the story is: people write in different ways. I don't much like the division between pros and hobbyists. The word professional is slippery. It means both a person who makes money, maybe all her money, from a certain kind of work. It also means well and seriously done. "This work is professional."

There is a difference between people who write to be published, those who write as fans to share with other fans and those who write for themselves. But what precisely is the difference? Emily Dickinson wrote for herself and is considered one of the two great American poets of the 19th century. (The other is Whitman, who --I think -- was self published.)

The problems of dividing pros from fans from people who write for themselves is so difficult that I think it shouldn't be tried. I write for publication. Communication with readers is hugely important to me, as is recognition from editors, critics, other writers and so on. But there are plenty of people who don't write for formal publication in a magazine or a book, and writing is making them happy.


When I was fooling around yesterday, doing nothing much, I checked up on Sharknado. It got good reviews on Rotten Tomatoes -- the reviewers said it was awful, but in a wonderful way. It's getting a limited theater release. Apparently some theaters are doing it as a double feature with Snakes on a Plane. This sounds great, but there are limits to my sense of humor. Most likely I would walk out almost at once. But as a concept...


Sharks on a Plane...

Diversacon Report

This was written over several days and posted at facebook. Diversacon is a small local con with interesting programming, full of people I really like.
I stayed at Diversacon only a few hours -- to have lunch with friends, attend one panel and be on another. Then I went home and bought The Hostage Prince by Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple via nook. I've read one chapter. So far, so good. I will now settle down and read more. Tomorrow I have two panels, so will be back at the con. I enjoy this business of dropping in to conventions, then going back to my own home to watch a DVD or read.
I spent six or seven hours at Diversacon yesterday. Very pleasant, though I didn't get a chance to talk to everyone I wanted to. I was on two panels and attended a couple more and spoke with a number of people, including the GoH Jack McDivitt. A very enjoyable, quiet convention.

Then I came home and watched a DVD. Today I feel tired and slow, due mostly to a poor night's sleep. But slow is not bad. I will hang around home and do a little reading and watch a DVD tonight.
Nice things at Diversacon, other than seeing nice people... Russell Letson said he had been thinking of reviewing Big Mama Stories, but discovered three other Locus reviewers had already signed up to review it. My friend Ruth Berman told me her favorite Big Mama Story was the Brer Rabbit one. "The others are fun, but that has heart." It's the story I like the best, but what makes me happy is the various reviews I've seen have all picked different stories as their favorite.

I am talking rather too much about Big Mama Stories, but I am always a bit worried after something I have written comes out. Is it any good? Will people like it? I have said for years that a writer needs a cast iron ego. Unfortunately, I don't have one. I just have the ability to keep trucking, in spite of my doubts. In addition, I really like the Big Mama stories -- I guess because they are in many ways silly, the way tall tales are. Silliness can be a lot of fun. It also can go badly wrong. Serious is easier to pull off. As the man said, "Dying is easy. Comedy is difficult."

For me the master of silly is probably P.G. Wodehouse -- a wonderful stylist with almost perfect pacing, and I have never been able to find any content in his work, except for silliness and style.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Day Dreams

I'm day dreaming this morning about what I would do if I had more money. I have more dental work coming up, due to aging fillings and crowns. My glasses are expensive, in part because I have a complicated prescription and in part because I like nice frames.

I'd like to be able to hire a maid service to come in once or twice a month to give the home -- especially the bathrooms and kitchen -- a really good cleaning.

I would like a built-in floor to ceiling bookcase, because we have run out of space for books and objets. I know exactly where I would put the bookcase.

I would like money to go to Iceland, because I want to write more stories about Iceland. I would also like to go to Scotland -- Glasgow, to see the architecture of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and Edinburgh, because it's supposed to be lovely. I'm also interested in Bolivia and Ecuador.

So... Teeth, glasses, a bookcase, a maid service and a few trips, not long ones.

I will get the dental work, because I have to. I won't need new lenses for at least a year, and new frames for two years. I think I can afford the maid service.

As for travel -- the truth is, I am kind of a stick in the mud. Travel is a mixed good to me. I love the new sights and the memories. I don't like the disruption, and I don't like planes, though I make an exception for Icelandair. So I will probably go to Iceland, but I'm not sure about the other places.

As far as the bookcases go, maybe I will settle for buying one that isn't built in. I have been thinking of one of these.
They are available from Design Within Reach and I think they look interesting.