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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

5 Ways to feel the holiday spirit

It’s that time of the year again when the holiday spirit is all around us. And I say: Why not make the most of it by enjoying it?

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Yes, it’s that time of the year again when the holiday spirit is all around us. In a country like the Philippines, it – in fact – started as early as September (when what is called the -ber months started, covering September-December) and won’t end until mid-January, when Filipinos mark the Feast of the Three Kings. So the holiday spirit is really inescapable, as malls are decked in Christmas-related decors, kids start their door-to-door caroling (for a fee), offices hold once-a-year parties (as bosses hand out annual bonuses to employees), and DJs in radio stations/TV anchors keep counting the days left before we all mark Christmas and the start of the New Year.

This is not to say that everyone is touched by the holiday spirit. Because there are some who feel the stress brought by the season instead of the joys it brings. And so for these people, partaking in the festivities isn’t necessarily easy.

Worry not, though: With the belief that this season should be enjoyed by everyone (not just kids), we have here five ways to help get you in the festive spirit.

1.  Play the right music.

There’s a running joke in the Philippines – i.e. that the moment you hear Jose Mari Chan’s Christmas in Our Hearts being played on air, it must already be Christmas. This makes Chan adored… and admittedly hated by some.

But the thing is, you don’t have to just stick to Chan’s songs because there’s more to Christmas music than Chan and, yes, jingle bells and reindeer. And many of the popularly played music for the holidays are chart-toppers.

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There’s more to Christmas music than Jose Mari Chan and, yes, jingle bells and reindeer.
Photo by Mohammad Metri from Unsplash.com

In the UK, the modern fascination with the race for the festive No. 1 started in 1973, thanks to glam rock bands Slade and Wizzard. Not surprisingly, the Christmas No. 1 has been a feature of the UK Singles Chart since 1952, after the week’s best-selling singles was first published in the New Music Express.

Here are some interesting FYIs:

  • 35% of all Christmas No. 1s are cover songs – meaning originality isn’t always the best way to go when it comes to Christmas singles, given that covers account for 23 of the 66 festive number ones
  • Four acts have ever had multiple Christmas No. 1s: The Beatles, Queen, Cliff Richard and Spice Girls
  • Just 12 out of 66 number ones are actually about Christmas; surprisingly, 33% of Christmas No. 1s are actually about love

But there are numerous holiday-related songs to enjoy.

There’s Do They Know It’s Christmas? by Band Aid (released in 1984), which has gone on to sell over three million copies – more than any other Christmas single. 

There’s Last Christmas by Wham! (released in 1984), the best-selling UK single that actually never reached number one.

Fairytale of New York by The Pogues (recorded in 1987 and released in 1988), which reached the top 20 on 15 separate occasions since losing out to Always On My Mind by the Pet Shop Boys in 1987.

And there’s Cliff Richard’s festive-themed chart-topper Saviour’s Day (released in 1990).

Incidentally, more pop songs (30 chart-toppers) than any other genre scooped Christmas number one. In fact, Ariana Grande (4/9) is the current favorite in the online betting this year. So you may want to consider other genres, too.

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Rock songs account for 11 Christmas number ones, including Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen, which took the title in 1975 and 1991 and is the UK’s third-best selling single of all time with 2.53 million sales.

Easy listening, with crooners claiming number one seven times between 1952 and 1976, the most recent of which being Johnny Mathis’ When A Child Is Born.

Choral songs, which are also chart-toppers, most recently A Bridge Over You by the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Choir in 2015.

Or you can even consider soul (with two chart-toppers), dance (also with two chart-toppers), instrumental, folk, disco and a cappella.

The point is, if it gets you in the groove, play it/listen to it. This way, you may finally ease into the holiday mode.

2.  Deck the halls… no, make that the whole house.

Put up the Christmas tree. If you manage to get a fresh one (by ditching the plastic trees), so much the better. Because once set up, staying near that tree, sniffing that pine aroma, is certainly going to pull some strings in you and make you feel… Christmassy.

Bring out those flickering lights, hang the parol (Christmas lantern), place that wreath up, ready the poinsettias, hang the stockings…
Photo by Markus Spiske from Unsplash.com

But don’t stop there: bring out those flickering lights, hang the parol (Christmas lantern), place that wreath up, ready the poinsettias, hang the stockings…

All these help make you anticipate that something special is bound to – and will – happen.

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3.  Watch some classics.

Particularly if you’re – say – Netflix- or HOOQ-crazy or is a couch potato, opt to watch some flicks that will remind you why this season is special.

If you’re not keen on a movie that is hard-selling Christmas, there are other holiday-linked films worth considering.
Photo by Sven Scheuermeier from Unsplash.com

Off the head, must-consider include: Meet Me in St. Louis (1944); It’s a Wonderful Life (1946); Miracle on 34th Street (1947); White Christmas (1954); Home Alone (1990); The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992); The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993); and Love Actually (2003).

If you’re not keen on a movie that is hard-selling Christmas, there are other holiday-linked films worth considering, including: Gremlins (1984); Die Hard (1988); The Family Stone (2005); Edward Scissorhands (1990); and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005).

4.  Join the parties.

There’s nothing wrong with flying solo; but the holiday season is really about togetherness. So try to get out of your shell and/or comfort zone and mingle. Consider this as an opportunity to party and not be judged for being overly festive (meaning, yes, you can drink and party all you want).

The holiday season is really about togetherness.
Photo by Mel Poole from Unsplash.com

5.  Share the spirit.

There are many who may not be as fortunate as you and be unable to celebrate the holidays – e.g. forgotten seniors in old-age homes, kids in orphanages, sick kids in – say – a cancer ward in some hospital, homeless families, et cetera.

As someone who may be in a better position, give some joy by reaching out to them. Maybe – just maybe – by seeing that you’re actually in a far, far better position than many others, you’d understand that there are actually things to be thankful for this season.

As someone who may be in a better position, give some joy by reaching out to them.
Photo by David Everett Strickler from Unsplash.com

So, yes, it’s that time of the year again when the holiday spirit is all around us. And I say: Why not make the most of it by enjoying it?

Technology

How to stay safe when shopping online

While online shopping is super convenient, it is also essential to be aware of the dangers of internet shopping and take steps to keep your details safe and secure.

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It can be hard to remember what it was like before online shopping took the retail industry by storm and transformed the way that people buy goods forever. According to research, 75% of Americans have shopped online, and it’s easy to see why when it is such a convenient option with so much choice readily available for you to browse from your own home. Nowadays, you can buy pretty much anything and everything online from groceries to cars; you can even buy weed online.

Image credit: Pixabay

While online shopping is super convenient, it is also essential to be aware of the dangers of internet shopping and take steps to keep your details safe and secure. Cybercriminals are continually coming up with new ways to get us to part with our personal information and cash, so being savvy when shopping is so important.

Here are some ways to help keep you safer when online shopping.

Passwords

There’s nothing more irritating than forgetting a password, which makes it all the more tempting to stick with the same password for absolutely everything. While using just one password may make it easier to remember it when you need it if your password is compromised, everywhere that you use that same password is compromised too.

WiFi

While WiFi is an incredibly useful thing, it can also leave you vulnerable to hackers too. Using public WiFi connections when you’re at the coffee shop or in a store is tempting, but it can leave you vulnerable, especially if you are doing some online shopping.

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Lock

A simple way to see if the online retailers you are buying from are secure is by checking the address line. Any site that you are purchasing from should start with HTTPS rather than simply HTTP, you should also be able to see a padlock in the address bar too. Having https and a padlock shows that the site has secure sockets layer encryption.

Feeling

Some websites can give you a bad feeling about them from the get-go, if you visit a site that you don’t like the look of, trust your instincts and don’t make a purchase. You may be wrong, it may be entirely reputable, but you don’t want to find out the hard way that it is not.

Check

You may have been happily shopping away without anything sending alarm bells ringing about a security breach, and then the post arrives, you open your bank statement and get a shock. Even if you don’t think that anything untoward has occurred while you were shopping online, it is still essential to check your bank and credit card statements so that you can check through for any irregularities.

Credit

Never use your debit card when shopping online, as this could leave you open to trouble. Using your credit card when you buy, means that you have a better level of protection if something goes wrong with the transaction, such as your item is never delivered to you despite your payment still being taken.

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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

Freeze! Is CoolSculpting for you?

You may experience some amount of fat loss but there are really certain fat areas in our body that’s too difficult to ditch. This is why some people prefer to turn to the experts to have such issue resolved.

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It can be such a frustrating thing to experience when intense workout and strict diet don’t seem to work to help you get rid of those excess fats. You may experience some amount of fat loss but there are really certain fat areas in our body that’s too difficult to ditch. This is why some people prefer to turn to the experts to have such issue resolved. And, if you’re the type who is not comfortable about the invasive way of losing fats, you may turn to cool sculpting.

Read further to learn more about CoolSculpting and see if it suits you.

What is CoolSculpting?

CoolSculpting is also referred to by experts as cryolipolysis. It is a body contouring procedure that makes use of cooling technology that is non-invasive. When a person undergoes CoolSculpting, a plastic surgeon will make use of a device that freezes fat cells. When these fat cells were destroyed, they are moderately broken down then removed from your body as it is being shuttled out by the liver.

CoolSculpting utilizes patented cooling technology. It is an FDA-approved procedure and was developed by reputable scientists from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University. This high tech cooling procedure eliminates fat cells without the need for surgery in the shortest time possible. It typically takes around an hour to complete one session. This non invasive fat loss removal reduces the amount of your fat cells from 20 to 25 percent. People who underwent coolsculpting procedure claims to have noticed the positive effects just few days after their treatment. However, full result of this treatment usually takes about 1 to 4 months to complete.

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CoolSculpting  is Meant For Whom?

Though CoolSculpting is an efficient fat removal procedure, it is only meant for those who are trying to find mild improvements only. There is no available procedure designed for your one-stop-shop extensive fat removal just like what liposuction does. When people come in for CoolSculpting, there are various factors to consider. Their skin quality, age, and firmness of tissue must be taken into consideration. If the customer has a thick tissue, then chances are the procedure may not yield the level of results that are considered too impressive.

What are the results?

It usually takes several sessions to see optimal results. A single treatment session may yield minimal changes only. After the session, the results could be too subtle to notice by the clients. Some people even tend to look at their before and after photos and still were not able to see results after undergoing first session. It is helpful to know that experts guarantee more apparent results if the client undergoes more treatment sessions as well. After several sessions you may now start to notice a reduction in your waistline. Cellulites will be reduced to minimum levels as well.

Although fat removal procedures are all aimed at reducing excess fats, but  CoolSculpting seems to stand out from any of them. This is because CoolSculpting offers a more reliable, safer, and non-invasive way of reducing fats.

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Travel

In first for Asia, Taiwan parliament legalizes same-sex unions

Taiwan became the first place in Asia to legalize marriage equality, as it passed a bill that allows same-sex couples to form “exclusive permanent unions” and another clause that would let them apply for a “marriage registration” with government agencies.

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All photos taken during Taiwan's Pride parade in 2015

Taiwan became the first place in Asia to legalize marriage equality, as it passed a bill – by 66 votes to 27 – that allows same-sex couples to form “exclusive permanent unions” and another clause that would let them apply for a “marriage registration” with government agencies.

In 2017, Taiwan’s top court ruled that not allowing same-sex couples to marry violates the constitution, with judges at that time giving the government until May 24, 2019 to make the changes or see marriage equality enacted automatically.

The law, however, only: 1. allows same-sex marriages between Taiwanese, or 2. with foreigners whose countries recognize same-sex marriage. It also permits adoption of children biologically related to at least one of the same-sex pair.

But while this development is monumental, there are members of Taiwan’s LGBTQIA community – much like in Western countries where marriage equality has also already been legalized – are also lamenting the over-emphasis on same-sex marriage as a seeming “end-all issue”.

In 2015, for instance, during Taiwan’s Pride, some members of Taiwan’s LGBTQIA community lamented the “hijacking” of an LGBTQI event because of the lack of opportunity to highlight “non-mainstream LGBTQI issues.”

LGBTQIA activist 徐豪謙, for instance, noted at that time that “people only talk about the politically correct and popular issue of same-sex marriage, as if we don’t have other issues to face.”

In other parts of Asia, only Vietnam decriminalized gay marriage celebrations in 2015, even if it stopped short of giving full legal recognition for same-sex unions.

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In the Philippines, various government officials – including Pres. Rodrigo Duterte – have expressed support for civil unions, not marriage equality per se. To date, however, even the anti-discrimination bill is failing to gain traction in Congress, and is still stalled after almost 20 years.

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Travel

What you need to know in planning for a getaway

Staying near the action will help you get the most out of the getaway. That might be a campsite or a cabin in the outdoors, a condo on the sea beach, or just a resort in the near vicinity of the city’s must-see points of interest.

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A getaway can be the ideal opportunity for any individual to unwind far from the hustles and bustles of the hectic city life. However, it requires some doing while planning for the getaway and one needs to be meticulous while doing so.

In the following paragraphs, we mention some essential tips that will aid you to plan for the getaway in the best possible way.

1. Pick an interesting destination

In case you adore the water, it will be sensible for you to spend some time basking on the sea beach, going for a picnic near the lake in your locality, or kayaking down the river. Maybe you prefer exploring the streets in your city or wandering through the wilderness. Although the getaway might not take you far away from your abode, it will be a sensible idea to follow your interests which will provide you with a memorable time out there. In case you want to organize a getaway cruise for you as well as your companions, it will be imperative to make a decision on the size of the ship which you’d like to go on. You’ll come across lots of articles on the Internet which will provide you with genuine and authentic info. Feel free to browse them and take your time for research till you find a cruise which is reasonably affordable as well as comfy too.

2. Take into consideration your accommodation

Staying near the action will help you get the most out of the getaway. That might be a campsite or a cabin in the outdoors, a condo on the sea beach, or just a resort in the near vicinity of the city’s must-see points of interest. Whatever accommodation you pick, loitering nearby will allow you to enjoy your time to the fullest.

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3. Venture out with a partner

Traveling solo has its own advantages, but a getaway at the weekend can be enjoyed much better while you are with a partner. A good company will allow you to share your feelings and he or she can likewise come of help to you in case you are in need.

4. Pack light

In case you are going for a two or three-day trip, there is no need for you to pack many items whatsoever. Simply take one casual outfit for the day and another one for the evening and perhaps an additional set of apparel will do just fine. Look for any transitional piece such as jeans which can be combined with a casual T-shirt while you’re venturing out at the daytime and a trendy jacket for the evening. In case you are planning to do lots of walking, make it a point to take with you a pair of sneakers as well. There is no need to carry any extra items like shampoo, lotion, or conditioner given that you’ll find them in the hotel where you will be staying.

5. Pack some snacks

It hardly matters whether you are driving, flying, biking, or hiking, it would be a sensible idea to bring some mouth-watering snacks along with you. Eating these treats every couple of hours will boost your energy and will likewise motivate you to have a nice time along with your companions. It will likewise help you save your cash by keeping you away from expensive and unhealthy airplane or gas station foods.

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One of the best ways to plan for your weekend will be to design the outline of the trip on your laptop or PC. You may likewise discuss with your friends and family members regarding some essential aspects like the ones mentioned above. Preparing yourself in advance will save you from lots of unexpected problems afterward.

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Health & Wellness

Lesbian, gay and bi adolescents at elevated risk for engaging in polysubstance use

Lesbian, gay and bisexual adolescents were more likely than heterosexual adolescents to be polysubstance users versus non-users across multiple classes of use: experimental users, marijuana-alcohol users, tobacco-alcohol users, medium-frequency three-substance users, and high-frequency three-substance users.

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Photo by Đoàn Ngọc Thành from Unsplash.com

Lesbian, gay and bisexual adolescents were more likely than heterosexual adolescents to be polysubstance users versus non-users across multiple classes of use: experimental users, marijuana-alcohol users, tobacco-alcohol users, medium-frequency three-substance users, and high-frequency three-substance users. In general, sexual orientation identity differences in polysubstance use class membership were larger for females, especially bisexual females, than for males.

These are the findings reported in “Latent Classes of Polysubstance Use Among Adolescents in the United States: Intersections of Sexual Identity with Sex, Age, and Race/Ethnicity”, an article published in LGBT Health, a peer-reviewed journal from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers.

The study by Robert W.S. Coulter, Deanna Ware, Jessica N. Fish, and Michael W. Plankey aimed to estimate latent classes of concurrent polysubstance use and test for sexual orientation differences in latent class memberships with representative data from adolescents (in this case, living in 19 US states). The researchers also tested whether sex, race/ethnicity, and age moderated the sexual identity differences in polysubstance use class memberships.

The researchers analyzed data from 119,437 adolescents who participated in the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Latent class analysis characterized polysubstance use patterns based on self-reported frequency of lifetime and past-month use of alcohol (including heavy episodic drinking), tobacco (cigarettes, cigars, and smokeless tobacco), and marijuana. Multinomial logistic regression models tested differences in latent class memberships by sexual identity. Interaction terms tested whether sex, race/ethnicity, and age moderated the sexual identity differences in polysubstance use class memberships.

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A six-class model of polysubstance use fit the data best and included nonusers (61.5%), experimental users (12.2%), marijuana-alcohol users (14.8%), tobacco-alcohol users (3.8%), medium-frequency three-substance users (3.6%), and high-frequency three-substance users (4.1%). Gay/lesbian- and bisexual-identified adolescents had significantly higher odds than heterosexual-identified adolescents of being in all of the user classes compared with the nonuser class. These sexual identity differences in latent polysubstance use class memberships were generally larger for females than for males, varied occasionally by race/ethnicity, and were sometimes larger for younger ages.

“Compared with their heterosexual peers, gay/lesbian and bisexual adolescents—especially females—are at heightened risk of engaging in multiple types of polysubstance use,” the researchers concluded, recommending that “designing, implementing, and evaluating interventions will likely reduce these sexual orientation disparities.”

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Health & Wellness

Teens face health and safety risks exploring sex online

Online sexual experiences can predict whether they become victims of sexual assault one year later.

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Photo by Sergey Zolkin from Unsplash.com

Teens spend hours every day on internet-connected devices, where limitless opportunities to explore sexuality online. These opportunities don’t come without big risks, though. A researcher from Michigan State University found that online sexual experiences can predict whether they become victims of sexual assault one year later.

The findings, published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence and funded by the National Institutes of Health, are part of a study that is the first of its kind to investigate online sexual experiences using a person-centered approach, which identifies specific patterns of behaviors in sub-groups of people rather than general observations across a large group. This approach allowed researchers to track the girls’ online experiences – and subsequent offline experiences – more intricately than prior studies.

“It makes sense that engaging in risky behavior online would translate to offline risks,” said Megan Maas, research author and MSU assistant professor of human development and family studies at MSU. “But we were able to identify specific online behavioral patterns that correlated with susceptibility to different offline outcomes – which was never captured from conventional approaches before.”

Maas and colleagues assessed data from 296 girls between 14- and 17-years-old, who self-reported their online and offline sexual experiences over five years. Additionally, the girls would visit a lab each year for a trauma interview to measure experiences such as sexual abuse, assault or violence that may go undetected in a survey.

“By assessing the teens’ online sexual experiences using the person-centered approach, we were able to group the teens into four classes of experience patterns, which predicted sexual health and victimization outcomes one year later,” Maas said.

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The four classes were:

  • Online inclusive: These teens have a high probability of having several online sexual experiences, including looking at internet porn, chatting with strangers about sex, sending nude photos and posing provocatively on social media. This class often has strangers posting sexy comments on their social media accounts, requesting nude photos and soliciting them for sex.
  • Seekers: These teens purposefully seek out internet porn, chat with others about sex and post sexy photos on social media, but purposefully do not have a sexy profile picture and do not receive a lot of online attention from others.
  • Attractors: This class of teens gets attention from others online, though they’re not explicitly looking for it. They had a sexy social media profile, had people requesting nude photos, received comments about how sexy they are and have strangers solicit them for offline sex.
  • Online abstinent: This group had little probability in having online sexual experiences.

The goal was to pinpoint online patterns of sexual experiences related to three offline outcomes one year later: HIV risk, sexual assault and intimate partner violence, Maas said.

They discovered that attractors were more likely to be sexually assaulted than the seekers; online inclusive were likely to be sexually assaulted or engage in risky sex, especially if they’d experienced prior sexual abuse or assault; whereas, the seekers were more likely to have a physically violent romantic partner, especially if they’d experienced prior sexual abuse or assault.

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Maas explained that her findings demonstrate how critical it is for teens to receive education to understand how online sexual experiences may shape their offline experiences. Specifically, she hopes that schools and families will educate youth on sexual health and consent as well as healthy relationships, as their online experiences could have serious consequences.

“Rather than trying to tackle the impossible – like eliminating teens’ exposure to porn or ability to sext – we can and should educate them about these realities and risks and offer alternatives for learning about and expressing sexuality,” Maas said.

Maas hopes that her findings will inspire parents to proactively talk to their kids about risks they face online, as well as to establish rules early in their lives that can prevent girls’ from putting too much emphasis on their sexy social media presence.

“The best strategy for parents to follow is to limit time and space for internet usage,” Maas said. “Establish a time limit they can be on a device, and don’t allow screens in bedrooms. There are apps for parents that can help control screen time – and plenty of ways to involve their kids in activities that don’t rely on the internet at all.”

Next, Maas plans to explore why these online experiences predict offline risk and victimization. For instance, if teen girls feel obligated to engage in unwanted sexual activity if they have already sent a nude photo, or if boys feel entitled to sex from girls with sexy social media profiles. She hopes this follow-up study will clarify these findings to provide more specific guidance for sexual health and internet safety programming without attributing blame to survivors.

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