Sunday, February 7, 2016

Trouble Sleeping? Try ASMR

So, anybody who knows me knows that, for about the past year, I've been experiencing some problems with insomnia. It comes and goes, but I seem to go through a bad bout of it at least once or twice monthly, and by "bout," I mean it lasts for several nights in a row. Now, I've never had problems sleeping before (except for when I was drinking--alcohol ramped me up instead of making me tired), and since I'm a woman of a certain age, I'm guessing it's hormone related.

For a while there, I tried everything: Benadryl, melatonin, valerian, chamomile tea. Didn't work. There were a couple of times I drove in to work when I probably shouldn't have been driving, and I discovered that, after three nights in a row of insomnia, I would start hallucinating. (Once I saw a bunch of black squirrels running around in the middle of the freeway, and even I knew enough to tell myself, "Those aren't really there.") Finally I broke down and my doctor gave me a script for Ambien. It has largely solved the problem, though not always. I also only take it when I have had insomnia the night before, to ensure I sleep that night.

All of this is prelude to another thing I've discovered that helps. I started researching AMSR, which is short for autonomous sensory meridian response. You can look that up, or read about it here on Wikipedia, but basically it's a tingling sensation you get on your skull that then moves on down the back of your neck when you hear certain sounds. It's a pleasant sensation that can also lull you gently to sleep. And there is a whole AMSR worldwide community that posts ASMR videos to Youtube.

Different strokes for different folks.... certain sounds that give some people tingles don't work for me and vice versa. Some folks like tapping, whispering, mouth noises, ear cleaning, or role plays (such as a pretend acupuncturist treating you or a pretend stylist fixing your hair). None of those are ASMR triggers for me at all, and in fact, some are annoying sounds to me. I, though, can get a bit comatose listening to the sound of furniture being dusted, the sound of drawing or doodling, the sound of pages turning with very quiet reading or just murmuring, the sound of shoes being polished, and the like. On my own Youtube Channel, I have a playlist of ASMR videos that work for me.

When I'm ready for sleep, I put in earbuds, turn the light on my computer way down, and watch a few of these videos. They've been quite good at helping me relax and go into a sort of pre-meditative state. Usually I can tell I'm about to fall asleep and so will turn off the computer altogether. Other times I've fallen asleep listening to them. I'll wake up briefly hours later and then turn everything off... or just let the videos keep going on autoplay. I've never had trouble getting back to sleep.

Just thought I'd put this out there in case I have any readers who occasionally have sleep problems and haven't given this a try.

Friday, January 29, 2016

It's So Easy to Forget

A good many people I know think that alcoholics and addicts are just having the time of their lives when they are using, that they are selfish and care about nothing more than their high. That's partially true. Because we are so desperate to feel normal and can't cope with monstrous cravings that seem bigger than we are, we will always act selfishly in order to use, even if we know we are hurting our loved ones. The booze, the drug, comes first. That alone makes us feel even worse but we see it as necessary to get the relief we need. 

As for the rest--that we're having the time of our lives--that's untrue. Being a using alcoholic was one of the most hellish experiences I've ever had. The last thing it is is fun. 

If you're a recovering alcoholic, never forget what brought you down.

If you know a recovering alcoholic, hug them close.

If you know an alcoholic who's still using, may God bless you, give you patience and understanding, give you the fortitude to draw lines when they need to be drawn and to stick to your promises of consequences, love your alcoholic but hate the addiction, help your alcoholic but don't enable them, and never, ever blame yourself when it's an emotionless substance that is to blame.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

On the Way to Work....

Interesting thing happened this morning on the way to work. I'm out of my Quest protein bars, so I stopped by a corner convenience store/gas station to pick up a protein bar to eat later for lunch. I pulled up and parked next to a beaten up old car, packed full of what looked like junk, newspapers covering a part of one window as a sort of sunshade that protected a baby seat. A big guy wearing ratty clothes came out of the store with a monster-sized soda pop, and even though it's a chilly day for San Francisco, all he had on over a t-shirt that was way too small for him as half of his belly was hanging out, was a thin windbreaker.

I went into the store, grabbed my bar, and stood in line as a deathly thin, pale woman in front of me made small talk with the cashier as she was ringing something up for her.

I'd seen these two before in this store at this time of the morning. They've never paid much attention to me, nor me to them, beyond my impression that the woman might be a meth addict, but maybe not because she doesn't have the tell-tale facial scabs, the wrecked teeth, the general unsteadiness that long-term addicts of anything tend to develop.

I paid for my protein bar and headed out to my car. The big guy was still standing on the curb in front of his old beater, but the scrawny woman had gotten in the car and was looking away, as if she were embarrassed.

"Ma'am," the big guy said to me as I unlocked my car door.

I looked up at him, waiting.

"Do you have a dollar you could spare by any chance? We're homeless."

I instantly felt bad, and I empathized with the embarrassed woman, who refused to meet my eyes. "I don't have any bills," I said, regret in my voice. Then I brightened. "I do have some change. Is that okay?"

His face, which had been tense and troubled, relaxed and he said, "Yes! Sure! Whatever you can give."

Now, I have a ton of change in my car. No idea how much. When I get change, I just dump it in a cup. When the cup is full, I bring it inside at home and pour it into the house change jar. So, I just put my paw into the cup and scooped up a bunch of change and walked over to him to put it in his outstretched hand. He met me halfway, of course.

"I don't know how much is there," I said. "But I hope it helps."

"Thank you, thank you!" he said. I got into my car and turned over the engine, and I heard him say over the noise, "Nice car!"

"Except for the dents!" I laughed, then waved, pulled out and was on my way. It's true my ole 2004 Mustang convertible has its fair share of pings and dings and scratches and one nice bump the size of a volleyball in the bumper. I've never managed to set aside enough to get the body fixed.

But once I was about a block away, those voices in my head started in. You know those voices. How do you know they're homeless? How do you know he wasn't just conning you for money? How do you know they're not going to go buy drugs or booze? How do you know, how do you know, how do you know?

Well, they sure looked like they lived in that car.

Sucker, the voices said.

Shut up, I said back.

I was in a position to help. I have a job, I rent a nice condo, I have a car with dents, Chelle has an SUV, we also have a house, we have so much. And all they have is in that beater little car.

It's not my place to second guess or judge them for how they got where they are. And who knows, one day I may be a little old lady, alone, in the same situation. It could've happened unless I'd stopped drinking. It could still happen if I ever pick up again.

What troubles me is why those chastising voices have to chime in to begin with. How have I gotten so warped that even if I give a person in need a handful of change, part of me wants to lecture myself for being a sucker? When did I become so selfish? It's just fucking change.

If they take that change and go buy a lottery ticket with it, I hope they win.

Monday, January 25, 2016

I'm Baaa-ck!

I haven't posted in forever!

Never fear; I'm still here. C and I have just been crazy busy finishing up the new house we just built (primarily by one builder we hired, but C did all the electrical wiring and put in all the flooring except for the carpeting, and both of us helped stain wood inside and out and paint). Between teaching and finishing up the semester and working on the house, I ran out of time to do much of anything else.

Anyway, we call the house our "fancy cabin," and I can't wait to see if the bulbs I put in come up in the spring, or if the critters ate them. I'm told the deer don't eat bulbs but like to move them around. So there may be tulips and daffodils and hyacinth and all else popping up in weird places.

It's a peaceful place, very quiet, and I hope to get tons of writing done here. Here is a pic of my favorite spot in the house: the loft, which will double as a third bedroom and as a work space.

More later!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Upon a Friend from Europe's Observation

I worry for my country too, for precisely that reason [she is concerned that we will prefer to kill each other rather give up our arms]. Look, we Americans deny easy concepts like climate change because of.... heck if I know, it's some "liberal plot" to make oil companies fail. Perfectly logical people I know deny the science. I couldn't tell you why. There's just this basic mistrust of govt. I mean, seriously, we hate govt so much we'd rather turn our social security over to private companies than pass a law stating that govt may not spend our SS. We are a country of teeny tiny minds and shriveled dick fear-mongers. 

We used to be free, or at least white people were, but now everybody here is a racist coward, or so it seems to me. For Pete's sake, half the Christians here couldn't even engage a person in a discussion about how to deal with contradictions in the four gospels. No, we just swallow the belief that we are somehow superior and should rule the frikkin world with our weapons.. because Jesus. 

So when the rest of the world rates America as the biggest threat to world peace? They're damn right, and we don't even care. I love my country. I'm also ashamed of my country. We are lost. I would like to see us be a good example again, but right now? We somehow seem to think Jesus wants to lob missiles at people while we "save" the fetuses and give the vicious the same right to shoot us all in order to protect our right to shoot back. Or, if it's the govt's idea, it must be bad, so screw you and not have anything productive to contribute to how our tax dollars should be spent. 

Are we crazy? Yes, we are.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Del Mar Late Pick Four

Well, I spread quite a bit in the 7th and 10th races in hopes of picking up a longshot. I did single Beholder in race 8. Good luck to all! PS--looking forward to seeing American Pharaoh run tomorrow.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Yeshua in Biblical Archaeology Review

Check it out! The BAR did a nice job with this. It's a half page ad that will run in the Sept/Oct issue of Biblical Archaeology Review. That issue hits stands next month.

Monday, July 6, 2015

The Master Yeshua Chosen for July Issue of Kirkus Reviews

Hey, this is cool. Tons of folks are reviewed by Kirkus online, but it's pretty rare to have your book chosen to appear in the print edition. My book counts as an indie novel since the press that picked it up is so small, but only 35 books (10% of the indie titles) wind up being featured in the print version every month.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Book Giveaway!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Master Yeshua by Joyce Luck

The Master Yeshua

by Joyce Luck

Giveaway ends July 10, 2015.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to Win

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Belmont Stakes 2015: Late Pick 4 Tickets

And they're off!
As promised, here are two tickets for the Belmont Late Pick 4, each with a different strategy. The first one gets solidly behind American Pharoah by singling him to win. Therefore I went a bit deep in the other legs in hopes of hitting a longshot. The second ticket doesn't single American Pharoah and therefore doesn't spread as much in the other legs. However, I have a betting superstition about betting against myself (your own mileage may vary on that), so it's possible both tickets could hit, although I did include on the second ticket some horses that I didn't on the first one.

As for the Belmont Stakes itself and how I'll bet that race, obviously I need a look at the horses before the actual race, but none of my tickets will leave out American Pharoah or Frosted (Kiaran Mclaughlin is very high on his horse's chances). Other horses I'll have a close look at are the obvious Materiality, and two longshots: Madefromlucky and Keen Ice.

Good luck to all, and may all the horses come home safe!

Ticket 1, Pharoah singled

Ticket 2

Friday, June 5, 2015

Can American Pharoah Win the Triple Crown?

American Pharoah wining the Arkansas Derby.
Time for the last jewel of the Triple Crown! The question on everyone's mind, of course, is can American Pharoah be the one to finally win the Belmont Stakes to take all three legs. It's been a long time since it was last done, by Affirmed, way back in 1978.

Now, some people knock his pedigree--he's not really bred to run long--but I don't know. Honestly, it seems to me that pedigree is only one small piece of the puzzle. Many times the most "well bred" or the horse bred for the distance is still not the best horse. And Pharoah's grandsire is Empire Maker, who did win the Belmont Stakes. For me, the bigger factors are how tired is he coming into this race because he'll be facing fresh horses, how fit he is, and how well he handles that big, sandy track at Belmont. Unlike Big Brown, who missed a workout approaching the Belmont because of a hoof issue, Pharoah seems to be very healthy. He had a nice work over the Churchill Downs track and wanted to do more, but Martin didn't push him. He obviously feels good, because he's eating and has put on weight since the Preakness (not tons of weight, just nine pounds and in horse body weight, that's rather like a human gaining a half pound, if that). It's losing weight that's an indicator of a fatigued horse. Also, trainer Bob Baffert said something interesting the other day. I'm paraphrasing, but essentially he said that the Kentucky Derby for Pharoah was the race that got him super-fit. Usually it's the other way around. Horses give all to get into the Derby, and then the Derby tuckers them out. Pharoah coasted into the Derby and finally faced some serious competition, while having to break from far on the outside in the 18 hole. He's that good.

American Pharoah was more than ready for the Preakness, going to an easy lead in the slop, and he never looked back. The jockey, Victor Espinoza, didn't even have to ask anything of him. There's been criticism about the slow finish, but Pharoah was clearly going to win. Why on earth would Victor have asked more of him? Save some gas in the tank for the Belmont. Don't wear the horse out.

From where I sit, it looks like Pharoah is poised to make a great effort, barring his grabbing a quarter like California Chrome did coming out of the gate or encountering some other bad racing luck.

That leaves us whether or not American Pharoah will take to the Big Sandy. He did gallop over the track and by all accounts, seemed keen to go on. Baffert said he looked like he was "floating" over it the way he usually looks, so that seems to say Pharoah liked the track just fine. Of course, a lone gallop is different from a race, when dirt and sand can get kicked into the horse's face, but since Pharoah's running style is to sit off the pace and then make his move, that shouldn't be an issue unless he gets a bad break. With a small field of 8 horses, I'm not too concerned about this. The real question is whether another horse in the field can run Pharoah down in that long stretch towards the finish line. That, of course, is impossible to gauge, but I do think Pharoah is intelligent enough and competitive enough to not give up a lead that easily, unless he's absolutely pooped.

The bottom line is that I really like his chances. I like them so much that I may do the unthinkable and single him on a few tickets. But I'm wise enough to know that winning the Belmont is just plain hard in a schedule as rigorous as the Triple Crown. I won't single him on other tickets.

The other choices are Frosted and Materiality. Madefromlucky is a possible upsetter, for he was pointed at this race and followed the same path to it as Tonalist, last year's Belmont winner. He also already has a win over the track, although it was not an impressive win. Others are hyping Keen Ice, because you can't disrespect a Dale Romans horse at Belmont, and he'll offer juicy odds at M/L 25-1. The other horses I'd toss out. They may get up for a piece, but I can't see them winning.

Of course, as the favorite with M/L odds of 4-5, American Pharoah will offer no value, so on the tickets I single him on, I'll go deep in the other legs and hope a longshot hits one or two of them.

I'm 'capping tonight. So check back tomorrow for a couple Pick 4 tickets post-scratches.

Hail the Tail!

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Master Yeshua Featured at June Patheos Book Club

Hi, all! Just checking in to let readers know that The Master Yeshua is an "also featured" selection for June at If you don't already know of the site, Patheos represents a large, multicultural online presence for the religious community, with interfaith discussion on various topics, blogs, news, and, of course, a book club. Probably the most popular blogger at Patheos is Mark Sandlin, who publishes "The God Article." There's even an atheist and pagan community at Patheos, and Patheos supports a large progressive Christian readership.

You can find The Master Yeshua at Patheos here, but while you're there, be sure to check out the entire site!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Book Trailer for The Master Yeshua

Now that the book is finally out, I updated the book trailer to include a few excerpts at the end from the Kirkus review. Feel free to share with whomever may be interested.