From The Least Likely Sources…

I kinda like this. Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that Robert Downey Jr. has been involved in movies for decades before the MCU “made him famous.” Personally, I thought he was great in Sherlock Holmes and Tropic Thunder. But from an 80’s standpoint, Johnny Be Good, Weird Science and The Pick-up Artist comes to mind. A great actor. But the thought provided above does get one thinking. Depending on who you’re dealing with, sometimes there’s no winning and you’ll just have to forge your own path regardless of what others think. ☯️

There’s No Gym Like Home…

Over the past few years, I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying a certain level of fitness within my own home. Over time, I accumulated enough equipment that I could get a decent sweat going in my home. Due to different circumstances at different times, my workout areas have been taken apart and dismantled. A few years ago when my basement shifted and I had to have it demolished and braced, i moved my workout area to the garage. That was okay for a while, but colder weather made it problematic. Plus, everything that was in the basement had to be stored somewhere.

When the basement was completely braced and secure, I bought a bunch of floor matting and created a makeshift dojo in my basement. Once again, when the time came to renovate and rebuild the basement (it was down to bare concrete) I had to pack up the floor mats and I lost my workout area once again. Given that I was stuck at home and contemplating a job back in New Brunswick, I sold off most of my equipment in anticipation of moving away. When that didn’t happen, I found myself in a position where I didn’t have many options at home. Body weight workouts will only get you so far.

Last year, I learned that one of the benefits of my job is a flex benefit that can be used on anything fitness or health related. Although I used that flex benefit on my karate tuition last year, I didn’t need it for that this time around. Instead, I chose to use it to purchase a bunch of fitness equipment for my newly-renovated basement. As you can from the photo above, we have new flooring, newly-drywalled walls and a drop ceiling with recessed lighting. A full bathroom with a standup shower is included. Listen to me, I sound like I’m advertising my basement for rent.

I started with a simple curling bar and some weight plates. From there, I got the bench, straight bar and more plates. The half bosu is useful for lunges, squats and developing balance. 10-pound ankle weights, a weighted vest and a set of kettlebells completed the set-up. I also grabbed some heavier dumbbells as the ones I had were starting to lack a certain, shall we say, challenge. Combining all of this has given me the opportunity for a number of different workouts while keeping everything fresh and new. The small table in the corner holds my phone cradle that allows me to play music while I exercise.

I don’t think I need to stress the importance of exercise and proper fitness to someone who lives with Type-1 Diabetes. Proper diet and blood sugar control aren’t enough. You gotta keep that engine revving. It’s like the simple formula of life that I discovered, decades ago. Life brings movement. Movement brings energy. Energy brings life. Eliminate any of those three and it’s a recipe to end one’s life. Good movement is integral to good health. And working out at home is awesome! There’s no better gym than the one you create for yourself. Food for thought… ☯️

“Wine-ing” About Carbs…

Having Diabetes makes almost everything food and fitness-related more difficult. That’s why when I find something that boasts being “sugar-free,” I jump on that shit like, well… me! I’ve been fooled on a number of different occasions, where things like sugar-free candy still have carbohydrates that affect overall blood sugar levels. This is part of the struggle that most people don’t understand. That’s why, when I found a bottle of wine boasting “0g sugar,” I couldn’t help but grab a bottle. Although several different blends were available, I opted for the Pinot Noir, since it was on special and a couple of dollars cheaper. What can I say? I’m cheap…

Bask is a Canadian-made wine that appears to be recently featured at my local liquor store. Sitting at 12.5% alcohol ( as though you couldn’t tell from the photo), this pinot noir has a pleasant taste and a light finish that goes quite well after stuffing my face with buffalo chicken dip and nachos. But I digress… Unlike most other wines, there’s a full nutrition label on the back of the bottle, which boasts 7 grams of carbs per 188mL, which means approximately 21 grams of carbohydrates for the entire bottle. If accurate, that’s almost more than double the carbs in the bottle of shiraz I usually purchase.

So, the irony here, and what’s difficult for most Type-1 Diabetics, is that many are often fooled by a claim that something is “0g of sugar” or sugar-free. Although sugar in and of itself may be low or excluded, the total carbs will still affect one’s overall blood sugars. It will be interesting to see how this bottle affects me. I’m not bolusing for the drinks I’m having but rather, I’ll correct for any rises in blood glucose that I note in the next hour or two. What’s funny is that the nutritional label even talks about the sugar content that MAY be contained within…

By that count, there could potentially be 2 grams of sugar within one full bottle. This would be included in the total 21 grams of carbs, based on the nutrition label’s count. It’s a decent wine, the flavour isn’t my favourite but it’s good enough for the experiment at hand. Plus, it gave me a reason to sip wine. Not this morning, mind you. But let this serve as a PSA for all my fellow Diabetics out there. “Sugar-free,” “No Sugar Added” and “All Natural” may mean nothing, in terms of total carbohydrates and how it may affect one’s blood sugar. Food for thought… (pun fully intended) ☯️

BrightBurn: A Review (Significant Spoilers)

in case it wasn’t obvious from the multitude of references I’ve made over recent years in all my posts, I’m a bit of a comic book nerd. Having started my collection in the early 80’s and never really stopped. I’m a child of what was referred to as the Bronze Age of comics, and was carried well into the “Dark Age” of comics before I stopped purchasing monthly editions. When I reached adulthood, I started purchasing collected works of certain titles, better known as graphic novels. Although not traditional comic books, graphic novels have allowed me to reminisce and read some of the storylines I lived through.

The Death of Superman storyline is a solid example. Green Lantern’s Emerald Dawn/Twilight and the Flash’s “Terminal Velocity” and “Dead Heat” are among my favourite storylines. Since the entire point of comic books is to read and escape to a reality where people can do amazing things, I’ve always been a fan of original and unique comic book series, as well as the visual media that’s all the rage these days. For example (and it may not be a popular opinion among my comic peers), I rather enjoyed the changes brought about by the New 52 take on the DC universe. Movies and television have only gotten progressively better, although you’ll never convince me that anyone is a better Superman than Christopher Reeve.

With some of that originality comes some ideas that step away from the norm, and they can often be quite interesting. This is where I landed on a movie called BrightBurn. Released in 2019, this is a movie classified as a “superhero horror film” and features a couple unable to bear a child who finds an infant in a crashed ship on their property. The couple raise the infant as their own, knowing that someday the ship that carried him may be revealed and they’ll have some serious questions to answer. As the boy gets older, he begins to exhibit certain abilities including invulnerability, heat vision and flight. Sound familiar? It should; that’s basically the origin story for Superman.

The difference in this instance however, is that BrightBurn (or Brandon, as he’s named in the movie) begins to respond to calls from the ship and becomes darker and more sinister as the movie plays out. After a brief and awkward chat with his father about the birds and the bees, he begins to stalk and watch one of the girls from his class, going as far as killing her mother when he’s told to stay away. When one of his aunts opposes him, he kills her husband and makes it look like an accident. His parents realized far too late that their adopted child is turning evil and get killed themselves. The movie doesn’t end well, with the child carrying on as he sees fit, wreaking chaos and killing at will.

Picture Superman growing up as the worst possible version of himself. Some graphic novels have taken liberties with what may have happened if Superman had landed anywhere other than a Kansas field to be found by the Kents. Elseworlds Comics has done a pretty good job of this. Superman: Red Son examined the possibility of Superman landing in Soviet era Russia. Superman: True Brit examines if he would have landed in England as opposed to Kansas. But none has quite examined this level of destructive evil in one possessing powers similar to Superman’s.

Picture a child with all of Superman’s powers, completely unhinged and willing to kill anyone who opposes him or questions his will. That nightmarish in the best of circumstances and this movie examines that exact premise. Between burning a hole through his father’s skull with his heat vision and dropping his mother from 30,000 feet before intentionally downing a full passenger plane, the thought of what this child will be capable of as he gets older and takes full stock of his powers is the stuff of nightmares, and they put it in a movie.

The film was widely received as a failure, with the potential for BrightBurn’s universe to be expanded upon before scoring quite low with critics and audiences alike. I don’t get it, because I thought it was creepy as hell and an interesting and refreshing take on the superhero genre that shows that power doesn’t always land at the feet of those who will do good with it. It’s a decent watch, if you’re looking for something with a bit of creepiness mixed with super powers. I thought it was good and I would certainly watch it again. ☯️

If You Can’t Block The Noise, Cancel It…

I’ve often written about how hard it can be to find moments of silence within one’s day to meditate or even just to let one’s head cool after a long day’s work. This is especially true if one has a family with small children who want your attention once you finally walk through the door. That’s where noise-cancelling headphones come in. Just to be clear, I don’t mean earbuds. Earbuds have got to be the stupidest damn thing I’ve ever used. At least headphones from the 80’s and 90’s would muffle some noise but earbuds don’t do much (at least for me) other than get jammed inio one’s ears and push earwax further. But I digress…

On my last birthday (which was September 11th, thanks for remembering), I decided to do the responsible thing and look for something that could count towards a birthday gift from my family that I could use for work, at home and for fitness. I landed on wireless headphones made by JBL, their Live model 660NC. I didn’t land on these easily. In fact, I looked up a number of different headphones from a number of different locations in order to land on a set that I felt would provide me with what I needed. After travelling the city and searching online, I landed on JBL, which ironically, is the same brand of Bluetooth speaker I’ve been dragging around with me for years.

I finally landed on purchasing from a local retail outlet and found the set I wanted. I was lucky enough to find them on special. According to BestBuy’s website, “Featuring adaptive noise cancelling technology, they avoid the interference of unwanted ambient noise to deliver loud and clear audio. Easily customize the settings and features of the headphones in the My JBL Headphones app.” Although a bit pricey (I paid a couple of hundred for mine), they would prove to be a life saver in terms of daily life and bring some much-needed peace in a chaotic and noisy world.

When purchasing this product, you get a USB-C charging cable for easy recharging, an audio cable for those devices you can’t connect through Bluetooth, and a nifty carrying case. The cushioned ear pads fit comfortably over the ears and block out all ambient noise, with multiple settings available through the JBL app, which I also downloaded and seems to work great. I use the headphones at work when trying to concentrate, I use them for workouts (some routines require some alcohol-based cleaning afterwards) and I even use them when doing dishes or chores around the house to block out noise and allow my head to cool.

Sometimes I listen to green or pink noise to allow my head to cool. Sometimes I listen to music or even binge-watch my favourite shows on my favourite streaming service. The benefit of having wireless headphones is I can wander and get things done without worrying that the cord will pull my phone or device off whatever surface it’s laying on. It’s definitely a good alternative for those who live in an environment where blocking out the noise is necessary or needed. Although the JBL LIVE660NC works well for me, the important thing is to find a set that fit well over YOUR ears and provide the benefits and features that you want. ☯️

Movember Update

Alright folks, here we are! The middle of November. On October 30th, I posted that once again this year, my team and I would be raising money for Movember, which is a registered charity aimed at men’s health, prostate and testicular cancer as well as suicide prevention. I know some folks find it odd that I would be lobbying for such a charity, especially since I have Type-1 Diabetes AND November is generally considered Diabetes Awareness Month. But the truth is, I raise awareness for Diabetes all year round with my writing and through discussed education with others. No, the month of November is when I can take four weeks ot attack something else that’s near and dear to me.

Decades ago, my grandfather was diagnosed with prostate cancer. It was long enough ago that I didn’t fully understand the situation. Hell, I had no clue what a prostate was, let alone the fact that I had one. When Movember came out, I decided right away to start participating. The best thing is that I was always part of a team that gathered together to raise funds as a group, which always made things easier. For the pst two years, I’ve gone it alone along with a few people at my work. Although we tend to donate ourselves in order to participate in moustache growth, we depend on outside donations in order to reach our very modest goals.

All we’re trying to raise is $500 and let’s be honest; you guys don’t come on my blog to be solicited for donations. But you should also recognize that I’m not typically one to solicit as a general rule. But this is a great cause and despite the fact that we’re only halfway through the month, we’re also only at about halfway of our total goal of $500. I know times are tough and everyone has their hand out, these days. But honestly, any little bit will help. Hell, if you can only donate $5 or even $1, it all goes towards the ultimate goal. This is where I ask for some help…

Please visit the Movember website. Once there, you’ll find a button at the top right corner that says “Donate.” Click on it and select “Find a Person or Team” and type in my name (Shawn Cook). There, you can donate anonymously or put your name and information in, should you need a tax receipt. It couldn’t be simpler. Prostate cancer is reasonably avoidable, provided men get themselves examined and checked on a regular basis and take the steps for self-care. I know this post will go to my Facebook as well and given the number of friends and followers I have, my hope and expectation is that at least some of you will step up to the plate. Help me help others… ☯️

Out Into The Snowy Frontier…

Well, here we are… Winter is upon us. Snow has been on the ground and its been colder than Satan’s testicles for a couple of weeks now, and we’ve had some nasty days of blowing winds, drifting snow and the usual plethora of highway closures and accidents that usually don’t really seem to hit until later in the season. But for some reason, it came out of the blue and struck like thunder. Now, Saskatchewan is blanketed in a sheet of white shit that makes everything more difficult. I know there are some who enjoy the snowy weather but when it comes to travelling, working and trying to keep one’s family warm, the hallmark scenery just isn’t worth it.

We’ve reached the point where my eye injections fall in the snowy months. And as luck would have it, the weather forecast for this morning calls for snow. Luckily, I keep myself pretty well-equipped for winter travel. Besides the very lovely quilted blanket my wife keeps in the vehicle, I also keep certain key pieces of emergency equipment that ensures I can handle most obstacles that winter may throw my way. I haven’t taken a solid look outside yet but I’m pretty sure that it’s cold as shit. I haven’t taken note of whether it’s snowing yet or not. Either way, this post will be short and sweet as I still have some packing and prepping to do before I hit the road. Here’s hoping the roads are dry and clear. ☯️

Little Moments Of Silence

One of the most difficult aspects of adult life is finding moments of silence. Between work, kids and the rigours of daily life, finding a quiet moment to let your head cool can be a difficult aspect, at best. When I was a teenager, I didn’t appreciate those mornings when I could roll out of bed, have some breakfast and things within my home were nice and quiet. I used to think about how boring it was and how I would have loved to have something more to do on those mornings. besides work. Once I got a job, I started to miss those dull, quiet mornings. That feeling never goes away.

As the decades have melted away, I’ve learned to meditate and find the value in silence. But that silence has become fleeting. on mornings that i work, I don’t have the time to enjoy the silence within the house. I prep meals, shower, shave and get dressed before rushing out of the house. The irony is I often have moments of silence in my office; at least a couple of hours’ worth in the morning, depending on meetings. But silence doesn’t hold quite the same quality as it does when you’re at work.

On the weekends, I tend to sleep in (if one can truly call 9 am sleeping in) and usually all I want to make my weekends complete is to sip back that first load of caffeine, watch a few episodes of a preferred show and let my body relax after a week of work. However, since my children don’t usually get to see me in the mornings throughout the week, they have different plans on the weekends. The fact that I usually camp out in the basement with Nathan means nothing. once the morning comes around, both kids think it’s their complete and uncontested duty to pile on top of me and make as much noise as humanly possible. Brutal.

We always make a point of taking the boys to something that allows them to burn some energy and interact with other kids. This weekend, we brought them to Klimerz, and indoor play structure. It always amazes me how after two straight hours of playing, they still objected to leaving and had energy left to burn. Ah, to be young again. I seem to be rambling but the point is that no matter how busy your life gets, never forget to find a few moments of silence to let your head cool. Everyone needs it. Not everyone works to get it. ☯️

I’m Talkin’ About Pressure…

In my most recent visit to the endocrinologist, it was revealed that my blood pressure was quite high. This came as a quite a surprise, since although it tends to be a tad higher than normal, it’s never really been quite as high as it was during this appointment. Although some have suggested that I may be suffering from “white coat syndrome,” where a patient’s stress levels and anxiety are directly affected by the presence of a doctor, I don’t believe this is accurate since I not only enjoy being told how good I am at controlling Diabetes but my visits to the endocrinologist have always been very pleasant and stress-free. So I’m not particularly prescribed to that suggestion.

To put things into context, a normal blood pressure reading for the average person is about 127/80 mmMg, depending on what source you cite or what medical professional you’re talking to. Certainly, the 120’s over the high 70’s to low 80’s seems o be the standard everywhere and has remained as such pretty much since the 1970’s. So let’s get into some of the basics; what the hell is blood pressure? Well, simply put, blood pressure is considered the pressure of the blood circulating in one’s arteries against the surface of one’s blood vessels. Medical professionals will generally use one’s blood pressure readings in combination with a number of other health measurements to assess overall health and diagnose certain conditions.

So what do the numbers mean? Well, according to an article posted by the Mayo Clinic, the top number is referred to systolic pressure, which measures the force one’s heart exerts every time it beats. The bottom number is diastolic pressure, which measures the pressure one’s blood exerts on the walls of the blood vessels between beats. Knowing these definitions and recognizing the normal range as somewhere in the 120/80 range, my blood pressure that day was 164/86, putting me in what the same article classifies as Stage 2 Hypertension. A part of the issue that was identified was my apparent lack of a second preventative pill in the afternoon. The jury is still out if this is genuinely my mistake or my pharmacy’s, but it has since been corrected.

What I find entertaining is that since then, I’ve been taking measures pains to ensure I measure my blood pressure at home and at whatever pharmacy I casually happen to be walking by. For the most part, my readings have been normal. The joke is that I haven’t yet filled the prescription that was missing but my blood pressure is suspiciously back to normal? Maybe I DO have white-coat syndrome… My suggestion that perhaps their measurement device’s batteries were low was summarily ignored. But numbers from everywhere else don’t lie; my blood pressure is hovering in the normal range.

So why is all of this so important? Well, because on top of a pancreas that threw in the towel against its own body’s immune system decades ago, I have a plethora of secondary health issues to deal with that are directly affected by Diabetes. Good heart health is one of them. And high blood pressure can contribute to strokes, heart attacks, heart failure and can even play a role in kidney failure. Recognize some of those issues? You should… They all relate to someone with Type-1 Diabetes, which is why it’s so important to maintain a good control of one’s blood pressures. My body is fucked up enough, I don’t need to help the outlying issues along.

You would think that by virtue of what I’ve written above that low blood pressure would be okay but it really isn’t much better. Someone with increased and steady low blood pressure will usually suffer from dizzy spells, headaches, fainting and blurred vision, to name a few. I wasn’t able to find any sources that name what the long term effects of low blood pressure may be, but it isn’t a good thing. That being said, there are some folks who live normally with lower blood pressure and it’s generally the “normal” for them. As with all things health-related, every person is different, so you should visit your doctor if you think it’s an outlying concern.

All in all, it’s been one more thing for me to dutifully test and monitor frequently because, you know, I don’t have enough on my fucking plate! Thanks, Diabetes. But seriously, as stubborn as I can be and as much as I don’t like change, it takes a mere minute to test and document my blood pressure and ensure that I’m still hovering in the normal range. Keeping an eye on it can mean the difference between better health and better longevity or further health problems down the road. So, if you’re an adult and you happen to notice that blood pressure cuff in the grocery store or pharmacy, take a second, sit down and jam your arm in there. One minute now can save bigger problems later. Food for thought… ☯️

Remembrance Day

Today is near and dear in my heart. Not only because my grandfather is, at least to my eyes, a significant hero in that he helped to keep his family and country safe but because several if not all of the family members at my mother’s branch of the family has served in some branch of the military. Even several of my cousins have served, with my cousin Jason tragically dying in an accident on route back to his Air Force base. Now being a veteran myself, although not of the military, Remembrance Day has come to carry even more meaning, as I take the time and opportunity to recognize those who made the ultimate sacrifice to guarantee the rights and freedoms of the modern world.

Today should be important to everyone, not only to remember those who fell in the line of duty but as a reminder of the horrible consequences when war ensues, a fact that more relevant than ever, in today’s climate. It’s easy to sit in a comfortable chair and state that war is never the answer without ever having experienced it. But I have fond memories of spending time with my grandfather as he would share stories of the things he suffered through oversees during World War II. Although I treasured the time with him, I always had a deep appreciation that none of what he suffered through should ever be felt by anyone else, even if many still are even as I write.

My grandfather, Lionel, in military uniform

Let’s make sure we take the time today to observe a moment of silence. We may not have been there and we may not have experienced war, but we have THEM to thank for that. We may not even understand why this day is observed, and that’s okay. One does not need to understand in order to show proper respect. If you value your rights and freedoms as you have them today and believe that we should never surrender when faced with tyranny, thank a veteran. And take the time to observe a moment of silence today. On the 11th hour of the 11th day, we will remember them. ☯️