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I… ‘Ciaz’

This isn’t gonna be on everyone’s must-have car (particularly with cars fast mimicking tech goods, with newer units released before you can say “HELLO!”). There’s bound to be a model (or two, or three – depending on needs and budgets) that one would want to get hold of. But having said this, Ciaz is not at all a bad car particularly in its category. Sleek (even sexy), not-a-bad performer, no voracious gas guzzling, et cetera, it’s not surprising for Ciaz to be noticed. And so, yes, I do see you Ciaz…

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To be blunt, the first time I “encountered” Suzuki Ciaz was through an ad – there, the model unit was tan-colored (apparently they refer to this shade as “Prime Dignity Brown”) that, at any other time, may look okay, but didn’t do it for me because the shade reminded me of (sorry to say this) poop. So it was with abated breath that I waited for the unit to drive test to arrive (at my tita’s place in BF Resort Village in Las Piñas). A white unit (they call the shade “Pearl Snow White”) arrived, and I was pleasantly surprised that it didn’t look “wedding-y”; it was actually a pretty car (it isn’t drop-dead gorgeous, yes; but it’s not ugly at all).

And so I was exposed to Suzuki Philippines’ entry in the sub-compact sedan segment, the Ciaz.

Ciaz – said to be an acronym for “Comfort-Intelligence-Attitude-Zeal”, and which actually replaces Suzuki’s SX4 sedan – is, to my surprise, a nice looking car, with no out-of-place parts.

On the outside, the car is elegant – e.g. there are no lines out of place/un-sexy edges (making it look even sleek/sporty), unnecessarily large grills (as if calling for attention), unsightly headlights (as if they’re too big for the model; this one has projector-type headlamps), et cetera. Particularly when considered front-facing (complete with the signature Suzuki “S” logo in front), Ciaz looks like an executive sedan.

Inside, the Ciaz continues to be not bad. Some features worth highlighting:

  1. Start with the all-black interior. Some may find this boring, but you know, black=class, at least most of the time. An issue for me here, though, is how easy it is to leave marks on… just about everything. I placed Baliwag chicken (inside a plastic bag inside a supot/paper bag) beside me, and upon removal, the mark left didn’t come off easily (no stains; but removing the mark was tedious).
  2. The gear stick is “supported” by the dashboard – i.e. you can see what gear you’re on right on the dashboard, as opposed to other cars that: A) relies on you “knowing” your car enough to trust your shifting; or B) somewhat forces you to look at the light that appears beside the gear. The somewhat tricky part here is when you’re turning (and may have to change gears), and the dashboard is covered by the steering wheel.
  3. The enhanced leg, head and shoulder room for all occupants (and I mean all). Ciaz claims to be the longest car in its class, measuring 4,490 mm (length), 1,730 mm (width) x 1,475 mm (height), with the car getting an extended wheelbase of 2,650 mm. Particularly when you check the back seats, the space is impressive – it ought to seat three, but four (admittedly slimmer) friends didn’t find the back tight at all. There are minute details worth mentioning – e.g. rear headrests don’t adjust – though these become trivial/appear like we’re nitpicking, considering that the back also has an armrest (as needed).
  4. A keyless push start system – i.e. “Look, ma, no keys!”.
  5. An Android OS-based multimedia system with mirror-link capability and GPS navigation (As a friend said, “It’s like having a tablet there.”). It’s not iPad-fast (or since it’s Android, Samsung-like); but considering that other at-par cars aren’t even touchscreen equipped, can’t complain on this one.
  6. The trunk space isn’t bad – e.g. I carried three sacks of gravel (over 15 kilos per bag) alright; and another time, a bicycle (with the wheels removed) fitted inside nicely (plus some bags). Forget trunk space flexibility, nonetheless, since the rear seats don’t fold in any way.
  7. Equipped with dual SRS airbags and ABS with EBD (on all variants).
  8. It even has a heater – sorta (initially) out of place in a tropical country, though coming in handy when heading to places like Tagaytay or Baguio City.

Ciaz is powered by Suzuki’s K14B 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine, and come with VVT (variable valve timing; with the VVT emblazoned at the side of the car) to generate up to 92 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 130 Nm of torque at 4,000 rpm. Obviously depending on the variant, the engine can be mated to either a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic.

But for me, more than the nimble performance, Ciaz also fares well because it offers a quiet(er) and smooth(er) ride. If you’re heading to Las Piñas coming from Pasay/Baclaran via Coastal, and turn right at BF Resort Drive at Casimiro/Alabang-Zapote, you’d encounter oh-so-many humps (not to mention potholes). Braving these (humps and potholes) didn’t bother me (and my passengers) at all. Turns aren’t problematic either (stable and quite sharp).

It’s this quietness that I also remember even in longer drives (e.g. Tagaytay) – though as my cousin (who also tried the unit) said, “this calm is tricky” as it “could cocoon you into a false sense of being secured”. More than once, I got a sense that Ciaz is a lightweight car (curb weight is 1,010-1,040 kilograms) because I could “feel” big (e.g. trucks) or speeding (e.g. jeepneys driven by barumbado drivers) vehicles “pushing” me, so that I had to cut speed (then at 80kph). And you know that oft-repeated stories about smaller cars, that when you reach a certain speed, your control over it lessens faster, too? I had some moments like those in Ciaz, too…

Fuel use isn’t fixed. In ideal (and I’d say often city driving) conditions, just as when I received the unit, the dashboard boasted that consumption is at 8.8L/100 km. Driving around the city (e.g. from Las Piñas to Quezon City), this went to 8.1L/100 km. And on the way to Tagaytay, this went up to 9.1L/100 km. I’d say more than acceptable…

To sum up, this isn’t gonna be on everyone’s must-have car (particularly with cars fast mimicking tech goods, with newer units released before you can say “HELLO!”). There’s bound to be a model (or two, or three – depending on needs and budgets) that one would want to get hold of. But having said this, Ciaz is not at all a bad car particularly in its category. Sleek (even sexy), not-a-bad performer, no voracious gas guzzling, et cetera, it’s not surprising for Ciaz to be noticed. And so, yes, I do see you Ciaz…

The Suzuki Ciaz is available in five colors (Pearl Snow White, Metallic Star Silver, Metallic Mineral Grey, Pearl Super Black, and Prime Dignity Brown), and sell for P738,000 (GL M/T), P773,000 (GL A/T), and P888,000 (GLX A/T).

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The founder of Outrage Magazine, Michael David dela Cruz Tan is a graduate of Bachelor of Arts (Communication Studies) of the University of Newcastle in New South Wales, Australia. Though he grew up in Mindanao (particularly Kidapawan and Cotabato City in Maguindanao), even attending Roman Catholic schools there, he "really, really came out in Sydney," he says, so that "I sort of know what it's like to be gay in a developing and a developed world". Mick can: photograph, do artworks with mixed media, write (DUH!), shoot flicks, community organize, facilitate, lecture, research (with pioneering studies under his belt)... this one's a multi-tasker, who is even conversant in Filipino Sign Language (FSL). Among others, Mick received the Catholic Mass Media Awards (CMMA) in 2006 for Best Investigative Journalism. Cross his path is the dare (read: It won't be boring).

Health & Wellness

Love hormone also forms important link between stress and digestive problems

Oxytocin, an anti-stress hormone, is released from the hypothalamus in the brain which acts to counteract the effects of stress. For a long time, the actions of oxytocin were believed to occur due to its release into the blood with only minor effects on the nerves within the brain that regulate gastrointestinal functions.

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IMAGE SOURCE: PIXABAY.COM

New research published in The Journal of Physiology shows that oxytocin, known as the love hormone, plays an important role in stress’ disruption of digestion such as bloating, discomfort, nausea and diarrhea.  

Stress disrupts gastrointestinal functions and causes a delay in gastric emptying (how quickly food leaves the stomach). This delay in gastric emptying causes bloating, discomfort, and nausea and accelerates colon transit, which causes diarrhea.  

Oxytocin, an anti-stress hormone, is released from the hypothalamus in the brain which acts to counteract the effects of stress. For a long time, the actions of oxytocin were believed to occur due to its release into the blood with only minor effects on the nerves within the brain that regulate gastrointestinal functions.  

The study used new ways to manipulate the neurons and nerves (neurocircuits) that oxytocin released from the hypothalamus acts upon and measured the effects on the response of gastric emptying to stress. They have shown that, contrary to previous assumptions, these oxytocin circuits play a major role in the response of the stomach to stress.  

Activation of these oxytocin circuits reversed the delay in gastric emptying that occurs normally in response to stress, by increasing muscle contractions (motility) of the stomach, while inhibition of these neurocircuits prevented adaptation to stress.  

The new research, conducted at Penn State University- College of Medicine and was sponsored by a grant from the National Institute of Health, USA, employed cutting-edge tools that allow selective manipulation of the circuits that receive hypothalamic oxytocin inputs together with simultaneous measurements of gastric emptying and motility in response to stress.  

The authors used a rat model of different types of stress – acute stress, appropriate adaptation to stress, and inappropriate adaptation to stress. The authors infected the neurons controlling the oxytocin nerves and neurocircuits with novel viruses that allowed them to be activated or inhibited and measured muscle activity in the stomach, as well as gastric emptying (the time for food to leave the stomach).  

The researchers have shown that these oxytocin neural circuits play a major role in the gastric response to stress loads. Indeed, their activation reversed the delayed gastric emptying observed following acute or chronic responses to stress, thus increasing both gastric tone and motility. Conversely, inhibition of these neurocircuits prevented adaptation to stress thus delaying gastric emptying and decreasing gastric tone.   

These data indicate that oxytocin influences directly the neural pathways involved in the stress response and plays a major role in the gastric response to stressors. ​ 

The ability to respond appropriately to stress is important for normal physiology functions. Inappropriate responses to stress, or the inability to adapt to stress, triggers and worsens the symptoms of many gastrointestinal disorders including delayed gastric emptying and accelerated colon transit.  

Previous studies have shown that the nerves and neurocircuits that regulate the function of gastric muscle and emptying respond to stress by changing their activity and responses.  

In order to identify targets for more effective treatments of disordered gastric responses to stress, it is important to first understand how stress normally affects the functions of the stomach. Their study provided new information about the role that oxytocin plays in controlling these nerves and circuits during stress and may identify new targets for drug development. 

Commenting on the study R Alberto Travagli said: “Women are more vulnerable to stress and stress-related pathologies, such as anxiety and depression, and report a higher prevalence in gastrointestinal disorders. Our previous studies showed that vagal neural circuits are organized differently in males versus females. We are now finalizing a series of studies that investigate the role and the mechanisms through which oxytocin modulates gastric functions in stressed females. This will help to develop targeted therapies to provide relief for women with gastrointestinal disorders.”

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Health & Wellness

Sexual minority men who smoke report worse mental health, more frequent substance use

LGBTQ+ people are more likely to smoke than their cisgender and heterosexual peers to cope with an anti-LGBTQ+ society, inadequate health care access and decades of targeted tobacco marketing. Those social stressors drive the health disparities they face, which are compounded by a lack of LGBTQ-affirming healthcare providers, research shows.

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Photo by Dominik Kempf from Unsplash.com

Cigarette smoking is associated with frequent substance use and poor behavioral and physical health in sexual and gender minority populations, according to Rutgers researchers.

The study, published in the journal Annals of Behavioral Medicine, examined tobacco use by sexual minority men and transgender women to better understand the relationships between smoking, substance use and mental, psychosocial and general health.

The researchers, who are part of the Rutgers School of Public Health’s Center for Health, Identity, Behavior and Prevention Studies, surveyed 665 racially, ethnically and socioeconomically diverse sexual minority men and transgender women, 70 percent of whom reported smoking cigarettes.

They found that smoking was associated with participants’ race/ethnicity, marijuana and alcohol use and mental health. Current smokers were more likely to be white and reported more days of marijuana use in the past month. The study also found that current smoking was associated with more severe anxiety symptoms and more frequent alcohol use.

“Evidence also tells us that smoking is associated with worse mental health and increased substance use, but we don’t know how these conditions are related to each other, exacerbating and mutually reinforcing their effects,” said Perry N. Halkitis, dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health and the study’s senior author.

LGBTQ+ people are more likely to smoke than their cisgender and heterosexual peers to cope with an anti-LGBTQ+ society, inadequate health care access and decades of targeted tobacco marketing. Those social stressors drive the health disparities they face, which are compounded by a lack of LGBTQ-affirming healthcare providers, research shows.

“Our findings underscore the importance of holistic approaches to tobacco treatment that account for psychosocial drivers of substance use and that address the complex relationships between mental health and use of substances like alcohol, tobacco and marijuana,” said Caleb LoSchiavo, a doctoral student at the Rutgers School of Public Health and the study’s first author.

The study recommends further research examining the social determinants of disparities in substance use among marginalized populations and how interpersonal and systemic stressors contribute to poorer physical and mental health for minority populations.

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Lifestyle & Culture

Bringing your employer to rights over workplace health and safety

As LGBTQIA people often find barriers to gainful employment and legal recourse, they will find workplace conditions even more unsafe than the average person. However, legal protections are changing, and workers can now bring their rights against their employers.

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Workplaces in the Philippines are often not safe to work in. A study conducted in 2016 by the British Medical Journal found that workplace injury was prevalent nationally in the Philippines, rather than just being outlying incidents and errors on a small scale.

As LGBTQIA people often find barriers to gainful employment and legal recourse, they will find workplace conditions even more unsafe than the average person. However, legal protections are changing, and workers can now bring their rights against their employers.

How the law has changed

A big turning point in workplace health and safety protections came up in 2018, and is now starting to be implemented. As highlighted by the WHO, the Occupational Safety And Health Standards Act brings with it a raft of protections to help the workplace be far safer. What comes hand in hand with this is an enriched legal environment.

American legal experts JJS Justice note that government protections are only as good as their enforcement, and it’s the job of national attorneys to ensure people are well represented. Increasingly, this is becoming a reality for Filipinos – even for the historically under-represented LGBTQIA community.

Improved legal environment

Legal representation is slowly becoming a good news story for LGBTQIA people in the Philippines. 2017 saw the meteoric rise of Geraldine Roman, and her trendsetting has seen a far greater level of protection afforded, legally speaking, to those who could not access legal help due to societal pressure.

Legal advocates and help are starting to take the issues presented by LGBTQIA people in the Philippines seriously, even if the government and administration do not. International trends are starting to indicate that the country is taking this, and workplace protections, seriously.

International recognition

It can sometimes be a good yardstick as to the quality of a country’s legal protections to see how the international community perceive them. The Philippines recently received the Safe Travels stamp from a major international tourism body in recognition of improved safety standards all over the country. With international bodies likely to only recognize international levels of good work being done, this is encouraging in the overall push for better workplace standards.

Keeping this push going is important to improving working lives for everyone. This includes LGBTQIA people, who have historically faced discrimination in employment. As one workplace improves, so do all – and that’s a good thing.

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Health & Wellness

Notable percentage of trans men who have sex with men never got tested for HIV, bacterial and viral STIs

When considering screening for HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), transgender men who have sex with men (TMSM) represent an understudied population. A study found that a notable percentage of TMSM had never tested for HIV and bacterial and viral STIs.

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When considering screening for HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), transgender men who have sex with men (TMSM) represent an understudied population. A study found that a notable percentage of TMSM had never tested for HIV and bacterial and viral STIs.

In “Sociodemographic and behavioural factors associated with testing for HIV and STIs in a US nationwide sample of transgender men who have sex with men” – done by Nadav Antebi-Gruszka, Ali J. Talan, Sari L. Reisner and Jonathon Rendina, and published in BMJ Journals – researchers tried to examine HIV and STI testing prevalence among TMSM along with the factors associated with testing in a diverse sample of TMSM. They used data from a cross-sectional online convenience sample of 192 TMSM, analyzed using multivariable binary logistic regression models to examine the association between sociodemographic and behavioral factors and lifetime testing for HIV, bacterial STIs and viral STIs, as well as past year testing for HIV.

The researchers found that more than two-thirds of TMSM reported lifetime testing for HIV (71.4%), bacterial STIs (66.7%), and viral STIs (70.8%), and 60.9% had received HIV testing in the past year. Engaging in condomless anal sex with a casual partner whose HIV status is different or unknown and having fewer than two casual partners in the past six months were related to lower odds of lifetime HIV, bacterial STI, viral STI and past year HIV testing.

Being younger in age was related to lower probability of testing for HIV, bacterial STIs and viral STIs.

The domiciles of the TMSM also affected their health-seeking behaviors. In this study, those residing in the South of the US were less likely to be tested for HIV and viral STIs in their lifetime, and for HIV in the past year.

Finally, lower odds of lifetime testing for viral STIs was found among TMSM who reported no drug use in the past six months.

According to the researchers, these findings indicate that a notable percentage of TMSM had never tested for HIV and bacterial and viral STIs, though at rates only somewhat lower than among cisgender MSM despite similar patterns of risk behavior.

They recommend for “efforts to increase HIV/STI testing among TMSM, especially among those who engage in condomless anal sex.”

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Health & Wellness

People with anorexia and body dysmorphic disorder show brain similarities, differences

Eating disorders and body dysmorphic disorder are more than simply choosing to eat or not eat or not liking how you look. These are brain abnormalities, and how we treat those brain abnormalities could be with psychotherapy, or psychiatric medications, but brain changes need to happen in order to address these disorders.

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A new UCLA study shows partially overlapping patterns of brain function in people with anorexia nervosa and those with body dysmorphic disorder, a related psychiatric condition characterized by misperception that particular physical characteristics are defective.

The study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Brain Imaging and Behavior, found that abnormalities in brain function are related to severity of symptoms in both disorders, and may be useful in developing new treatment methods.

The results reinforce the understanding that eating disorders and body dysmorphic disorder are more than simply choosing to eat or not eat or not liking how you look. “These are brain abnormalities, and how we treat those brain abnormalities could be with psychotherapy, or psychiatric medications, but brain changes need to happen in order to address these disorders,” says Dr. Wesley Kerr, neurology resident and biostatistics researcher at UCLA.

For the study, the researchers recruited 64 female participants: 20 with anorexia nervosa, 23 with body dysmorphic disorder, and 21 healthy controls. Patients with anorexia nervosa have a distorted body image and an intense fear of gaining weight, leading them to eat very little. Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is characterized by obsessions with a particular body part or a perceived flaw rather than with weight.

Eating disorders and body dysmorphic disorder are more than simply choosing to eat or not eat or not liking how you look.

Participants were shown images of male and female bodies while researchers observed their brain activity via MRI. Three types of images were used: normal photos, “low spatial frequency” (LSF) images, which had details blurred out, and “high spatial frequency” (HSF) images, in which the edges and details were accentuated.

Functional MRI is a brain imaging technique that detects the blood flow within the brain, allowing researchers to see which parts of the brain are active while a person is doing various tasks. It can also be used to understand what brain regions’ activities are in sync with each other; that is, “connected.”

Each of the women performed a “matching” task while inside the MRI scanner. On the top of the screen, the person would see an image of a body, and would have to choose the matching body from two images shown on the bottom of the screen.

While viewing the images that differed from those of healthy individuals, people with anorexia nervosa and those with BDD showed patterns of activity and connectivity in visual and parietal brain networks. These abnormalities in activity were different in BDD and anorexia nervosa, whereas the connectivity abnormalities were largely similar. The more severe the symptoms, the more pronounced the pattern of brain activity and connectivity when the images were viewed, particularly for the LSF images. Further, connectivity and activity abnormalities were associated with how the participants judged the appearance and body weight of the individuals in the photos.

What the researchers saw indicated that while the brains of patients with anorexia nervosa and those with BDD abnormally process images with high, low, or normal levels of detail, the abnormalities for low level of detail, that is “low spatial frequency” images, have the most direct relationships to symptom severity and body perception. The results may help researchers understand the underlying neurobiology that leads to the characteristic body image distortions in both cases.

“This gives us a clearer picture of neurological basis for what is one disorder, what is the other, and what characteristics they share,” said Dr. Jamie Feusner, senior author and professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the Jane and Terry Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA.

A next step for the research will be to see whether, with existing psychotherapy and medication treatments, the brain activity in patients begins to normalize, or else changes in a different way to compensate for underlying abnormalities.

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Lifestyle & Culture

Things only old-school Pac-Man fans will appreciate

Long before best payout casino games or 3D video games were popular, there was Pac-Man. Although the young generation might not quite appreciate the game, it is really one of the best games, and only old school Pac-Man fans will understand this.

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Pac-Man is one video game that has been around for the longest time. In fact, this game was released back in the 80s and has managed to stand the test of time. In fact, Pac-Man is actually one of the top-grossing game franchises of all time.

Long before best payout casino games or 3D video games were popular, there was Pac-Man. Although the young generation might not quite appreciate the game, it is really one of the best games, and only old school Pac-Man fans will understand this.

Below, we list some of the things that old school Pac-Man fans will appreciate about the game. Enjoy!

Pac-Man Was The First Game With Major Merchandise

We guess that when Pac-Man was first released, it was at a time when mainstream media had just started realizing the power of merchandising. Thus, a lot of products were made that carried the game logo or character on the packaging. This increased sales astoundingly. As a result, Pac-Man became popular amongst all people of all ages.

The Pac-Man Cartoon Was Pretty Good In Its Day

The Pac-Man cartoon was made as a spin-off to the video game. While many cartoons like these seemed to fail, that didn’t happen with Pac-Man. In fact, back in the day, Pac-Man was a really pretty cool cartoon.

Pac-Man Fever Was A Huge Hit

Pac-Man Fever is the soundtrack album of the game that was released on cassette, vinyl, and 8-track. The album carried a total of 8 songs that were based on video games and meilleurs jeux au casino . The album was so popular that the title track actually became a top 10 hit, and it also got featured in a few TV shows. 

Of course, the young generation may not understand it, but the album was pretty cool when it was released. It’s not surprising to see some die-hard fans of the game jamming along to some of the songs today.

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