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The world under the ground

That the traveling – not just the destination – can be a way to having fun is true, particularly as being shown by New York City’s subway system, and as discovered by Dom (DominiK/Dominique). Here’s why Dom thinks it’s a world on its own that is worth discovering.

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The first time one of my Dads took me out riding New York City’s subway system, there weren’t that many people. I think it was past 9:00AM already, so the rush hours were done. Plus – coming from Queens while heading to Brooklyn – we already passed Midtown Manhattan, so the only people left were those who weren’t stuck for the day in the Big Apple, and I tell you, there aren’t that many on weekdays…

That first time, I remembered seeing much: a heterosexual couple eating each other’s faces (my Dad said for me not to stare, but…); still-sleepy commuters heading to work; tourists who were finding their ways toward the city’s attractions…

But, apparently, as they say, I’ve not seen nothin’ yet!

You know that cliché about a journey being of value not only because you’ve reached your destination, but because of the travel towards that destination? Well, I’d say this is true. Particularly if you’re traveling using the subway of New York City, as you try to reach point A to point B to… point Z.

Because in not so many words, braving (yes, I used the word braving) this city’s subway system is in itself an adventure.

That there is an underground world is true. And no, I don’t mean those bunks that weird people may have built in anticipation of an atomic war, or to hide from the arrival of zombies. But a concept of an underground world is exemplified by, yes, the subway.

Here, you’d see people do what they would be doing at home – eating proper meals (complete with silverware cutlery); expertly put on make-up (using the windows, darkened because the train’s moving underground, as mirrors); make-out (like that time that Dad said for me not to look); do homework (kids even have their crayons out!); and so on…

You’d see people, too, continue what they started elsewhere – the laptops come out for work; Kindles pop out for reading; yoga stretches in the middle of carriages; and so on…

My favorite would have to be the performers. Actually, Dad calls them performers. But they’re really buskers. They perform a song or two, and then they ask for money. Like carolers in the Philippines. Only here, no dog will chase them. But I like them – the hip hop artists, the balladeers, the acoustic performers, the rappers…

There are, of course, beggars who ask for help – the war veteran, the pregnant woman, the homeless old man, the abandoned younger people…

What I don’t like is the rudeness of some. There was one time, I saw someone pick a fight with someone because he took his bike in the train. The bike owner wouldn’t have any of the rudeness, so he became rude, too. They were blabbering so loudly right there, in the middle of the train – and during rush hour, too. It was kinda weird…

But then there’s kindness, too. Dad’s friend from Kenya, Angela Muthama, said that she was told that one of the signs one has become a New Yorker is when he/she starts wearing earphones/headphones while traveling in the subway. And she may be right – just about everyone has ear pieces that allow them to get lost in their own worlds. But they’re never really “lost” – one time, Dad dropped a piece of paper, and this young woman chased us to give it back to him. At another time, this Black guy’s money in his back pocket was just about to fall out, and this Chinese guy called the Black guy’s attention about it. And at so many times, people – men or women – offer their seats to others. For instance, if you are with someone, and only one seat is available, the one seating beside you/your friend will offer his/her seat to you/your friend so that you can be together. I think this is very nice indeed…

That people can be nice was experienced by me when I had my photos taken in F train. They were all giving me space, and then giving me smiles as I shyly tried to pose.  That was awfully nice of them, I think.

And then there are the sweet stories of meeting the love of your life emerging from the subway.  Makes me want to find my Teddy, too…

My Dad met this girl, 70ish-year-old Babara Adams, who said that so many New Yorkers “live their lives under” (that is, they spend most of their time in subways, going from here to there, and vice versa), and so they miss out on so many beautiful things above the ground. In fact, Dad said Barbara would only go to a station where her train actually is; not on connecting stations, because then it would mean she’d walk from one station to another under the ground. “Why go under the ground when you can have all these?” she supposedly said, gesturing to the world around her.

She’s much older, so Dad believes her.

I think I only half believe her. Don’t tell Dad, okay? He may tell my other Dad.

Because I say that now and then, going under isn’t all that bad.

If it’s winter time, and you don’t have thick clothes, then going in the subway is always a relief.

And if you wanna people watch, you can skip the café; just head to the subway.

In the end, there’re all kinds of weirdness there, and so there’s much, much more life there!

I’d say you may have arrived in New York, but you haven’t really arrived until after you’ve braved this world underground…

My name is Dom - that's short for DominiK... or Dominique, depending on which parent you're speaking with. One of my Dads, Michael, says it should be the former; but my other Dad, also named Michael, said it should be the latter. It must be because they have the same names, so they get confused about me, too (!). But no matter, I'm here - all peachy and fluffy. About me: I'm almost peach in color (not brown, ARGH!); have striped ears (white and red), black eyes (and toes), and brown nose. No, my nickname is NOT "Fluffy"! I'm only four (or five - again, depending on which Dad you ask); but that's a gazillion years in Teddy-time (if you must know). So I feel... experienced. I move a lot, too, with my Dads, and I'm here to share everything as I move around. So come join me...

Health & Wellness

Osteoporosis risk may be greater in gay men – study

As it is, sexual minorities already have greater risks of several adverse health outcomes. This may be due to a greater prevalence of unhealthy lifestyle factors, including smoking; as well as the significant stresses they experience related to the stigma associated with their sexuality.

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Non-heterosexual minority men have a greater risk of poor bone health than heterosexual men. This is according to a study published in the American Journal of Human Biology, which also noted that this risk appears to be independent of lifestyle and psychosocial factors.

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Surprisingly, the study – “Sexual orientation‐based disparities in bone health: Evidence of reduced bone mineral density and mineral content among sexual minority men but not women in multiple NHANES waves” by James K. Gobb and Eric C. Shattuck – did not find that non-heterosexual minority women were more likely to experience poor bone health.

As it is, sexual minorities already have greater risks of several adverse health outcomes. This may be due to a greater prevalence of unhealthy lifestyle factors, including smoking; as well as the significant stresses they experience related to the stigma associated with their sexuality.

But according to the people behind this study, there has been little research looking at whether sexuality has any impact on bone health using assessments of bone mineral density measures or fracture risk.

To examine the association between bone health and sexuality, these researchers combined data on 3,243 adults from the 2007 to 2008, 2009 to 2010, and 2013 to 2014 cycles of US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The data included dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) assessments. With an average age of 36 years, the participants included 253 sexual minority people (53 lesbian/gay, 97 bisexual, and 103 same-sex experienced) and 2,990 heterosexuals.

Sexual orientation-based comparisons were made for a number of bone health indicators, including z-scored bone mineral density in the lumbar spine (L1-4 vertebrae) and proximal femur (femoral head, greater trochanter, and intertrochanteric line), bone mineral content in the femur and spine, and osteoporosis risk.

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The study reported sexual orientation‐based disparities in bone mass across all anatomical sites. This effect was due to differences between heterosexual and gay men and persisted in linear regressions after adjusting for risk factors.

Differences were also found in femoral and femoral neck BMC in heterosexual and gay men (P = .02) and in femoral, femoral neck and spinal BMC between heterosexual and bisexual women (P = .05). Sexual orientation remained significant in BMC regressions.

“Our findings suggest that sexual minority men but not women are at greater risk for poor bone health relative to heterosexuals and this disparity is independent of the lifestyle and psychosocial risks included in our models,” the researchers stressed.

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Health & Wellness

Trans women can safely maintain estrogen treatments during gender affirming surgery

The practice of withholding estrogen prior to gender affirming surgery was not necessary. Most transgender women can now safely remain on their estrogen therapy throughout surgery.

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There was no difference in blood clots when estrogen hormone therapy was maintained during gender affirming surgery.

This is according to a study (titled, “No Venous Thromboembolism Increase Among Transgender Female Patients Remaining on Estrogen for Gender Affirming Surgery”) helmed by John Henry Pang with Aki Kozato from Mount Sinai, and was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Historically, the lack of published data contributed to heterogeneity in the practice of whether doctors and surgeons advised transgender women to withhold their estrogen therapy before surgery. The sudden loss of estrogen in the blood was sometimes very uncomfortable with symptoms that amounted to a sudden, severe menopause.

So the researchers tapped 919 transgender patients who underwent gender affirming surgery at Mount Sinai’s Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery between November 2015 and August 2019. Notably, including 407 cases of transgender women who underwent primary vaginoplasty surgery.

This study found that the practice of withholding estrogen prior to gender affirming surgery was not necessary. Most transgender women can now safely remain on their estrogen therapy throughout surgery.

The bottom line: This study found that most transgender women can  safely maintain their estrogen hormone treatments during gender affirming surgery.

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Health & Wellness

Facebook posts help facilitate belief that HPV vaccine is dangerous to health

Nearly 40% of Facebook posts about the HPV vaccine amplified a perceived risk, and the data suggests these posts had momentum over time.

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The human papillomavirus infection, or HPV, is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). HPV is associated with health problems including genital warts and cancers, but a vaccine has been available since 2006 to help stop the virus. The CDC reports more than 12 years of data supports the HPV vaccine is safe and effective, yet HPV vaccination rates still remain low.

Social media has a history of being a popular place for sexual health discussions, and the HPV vaccine is one of the most discussed vaccines on the internet. Monique Luisi, an assistant professor in the University of Missouri School of Journalism, has studied more than 6,500 public HPV vaccine-related posts on Facebook from 2006 to 2016. In a previous study, Luisi used these Facebook posts to identify a negative trend on Facebook related to how people perceive the HPV vaccine.

Now, she suggests this negative trend on Facebook may also cause people to develop a false perception of the health risk of the vaccine. After looking at the percentage of posts that made the vaccine seem more dangerous, less dangerous or neither, Luisi found nearly 40% of Facebook posts about the HPV vaccine amplified a perceived risk, and the data suggests these posts had momentum over time.

“We should not assume that only the disease is perceived as a risk, but when research supports it, that medical treatments and interventions might unfortunately also be perceived as risks,” she said. “It’s more likely that people are going to see things on social media, particularly on Facebook, that are not only negative about the HPV vaccine, but will also suggest the HPV vaccine could be harmful. It amplifies the fear that people may have about the vaccine, and we see that posts that amplify fear are more likely to trend than those that don’t.”

Luisi suggests the spread of this negative information may lead people to have a false perception of the vaccine, so people should consult their doctor or health care provider before making an informed decision.

“Facebook remains a very popular social media platform for adult audiences, which necessitates action to address HPV vaccine risk messages,” she said. “People are going to see what they are going to see on social media, so it’s important to not only take what you see on social media, but also talk to a doctor or health care provider. Just because it’s trending doesn’t mean it’s true.”

Luisi notes research must continue to address the perception of vaccine safety where the vaccine is perceived as a greater health threat than the virus or disease it prevents, and her study could also inform officials for the ongoing COVID-19 vaccine roll out and distribution.

“As the COVID-19 vaccine is being rolled out, people are likely going to see a lot of negative information, and that negative information will be what trends on social media,” she said. “But, if the public can anticipate this negative information, it will be interesting to see if that will that make them less sensitive to the perceived risk of the vaccine.”

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Health & Wellness

Depression and stress could dampen efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines

Even though rigorous testing has shown that the COVID-19 vaccines approved for distribution are highly effective at producing a robust immune response, not everyone will immediately gain their full benefit. Environmental factors, as well as an individual’s genetics and physical and mental health, can weaken the body’s immune system, slowing the response to a vaccine.

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Decades of research show that depression, stress, loneliness, and poor health behaviors can weaken the body’s immune system and lower the effectiveness of certain vaccines.

A new report accepted for publication in Perspectives on Psychological Science suggests that the same may be true for the new COVID-19 vaccines that are in development and the early stages of global distribution. Fortunately, it may be possible to reduce these negative effects with simple steps like exercise and sleep.

Vaccines are among the safest and most effective advances in medical history, protecting society from a wide range of otherwise devastating diseases, including smallpox and polio. The key to their success, however, is ensuring that a critical percentage of the population is effectively vaccinated to achieve so-called herd immunity.

Even though rigorous testing has shown that the COVID-19 vaccines approved for distribution are highly effective at producing a robust immune response, not everyone will immediately gain their full benefit. Environmental factors, as well as an individual’s genetics and physical and mental health, can weaken the body’s immune system, slowing the response to a vaccine.

This is particularly troubling as the novel coronavirus continues to rage across the world, trigging a concurrent mental health crisis as people deal with isolation, economic stressors, and uncertainty about the future. These challenges are the same factors that have been previously shown to weaken vaccine efficacy, particularly among the elderly.

“In addition to the physical toll of COVID-19, the pandemic has an equally troubling mental health component, causing anxiety and depression, among many other related problems. Emotional stressors like these can affect a person’s immune system, impairing their ability to ward off infections,” said Annelise Madison, a researcher at The Ohio State University and lead author on the paper. “Our new study sheds light on vaccine efficacy and how health behaviors and emotional stressors can alter the body’s ability to develop an immune response. The trouble is that the pandemic in and of itself could be amplifying these risk factors.”

Vaccines work by challenging the immune system. Within hours of a vaccination, there is an innate, general immune response on the cellular level as the body begins to recognize a potential biological threat. This frontline response by the immune system is eventually aided by the production of antibodies, which target specific pathogens. It is the continued production of antibodies that helps to determine how effective a vaccine is at conferring long-term protection.

The good news, according to the researchers, is that the COVID-19 vaccines already in circulation are approximately 95% effective. Even so, these psychological and behavioral factors can lengthen the amount of time it takes to develop immunity and can shorten the duration of immunity.

“The thing that excites me is that some of these factors are modifiable,” said Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, director of the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research at The Ohio State University and senior author on the paper. “It’s possible to do some simple things to maximize the vaccine’s initial effectiveness.”

Based on prior research, one strategy the researchers suggest is to engage in vigorous exercise and get a good night’s sleep in the 24 hours before vaccination so that your immune system is operating at peak performance. This may help ensure that the best and strongest immune response happens as quickly as possible.

“Prior research suggests that psychological and behavioral interventions can improve vaccine responsiveness. Even shorter-term interventions can be effective,” said Madison. “Therefore, now is the time to identify those at risk for a poor immune response and intervene on these risk factors.”

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Lifestyle & Culture

How you should pack for a cross country move

Packing can take a long time, which is why this is a task you won’t want to put off. You shouldn’t try to pack everything you own up in just a few nights. Instead, you’ll want to tackle this job a little at a time. Start by packing non-essential items. Save the items that you regularly use until the last minute.

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Are you getting ready for a big move? If you’re packing up your things ahead of moving day, many tasks need to be taken care of. Thankfully, this advice will help you as you pack for a cross-country move. 

Start Packing As Soon As Possible 

Packing can take a long time, which is why this is a task you won’t want to put off. You shouldn’t try to pack everything you own up in just a few nights. Instead, you’ll want to tackle this job a little at a time. Start by packing non-essential items. Save the items that you regularly use until the last minute. 

If you give yourself more than enough time to pack, you won’t feel rushed. You’ll be able to take your time and make sure that everything is properly organized when you’re packing. Remember, this is a big task. Set a packing schedule so that you’ll have more than enough time to take care of everything. 

Look Into Hiring A Full-Service Moving Company 

If you feel overwhelmed by all of the packing you need to do, you should keep in mind that you don’t necessarily have to do all of it yourself. You also have the option of hiring a full-service cross country moving company that will be able to pack everything up for you. 

Hiring professional cross country moving companies to pack up your things is an especially great option if you’re working with a tight schedule or feel that you don’t have enough time to prepare for your move fully. You can trust your movers to take care of the packing. You’ll be able to focus on other tasks. 

Get Rid Of Items Before You Start Packing 

You likely have many things that you won’t need to bring with you when you move. That’s why it’s a good idea to go through your belongings and see what you can donate, give away, or sell ahead of your move. 

This is the perfect time to get rid of clothes that no longer fit or clear out toys that your kids don’t play with anymore. You’ll have limited space for your things when you move cross-country, and because of that, you’ll want to get rid of plenty of items before you pack. 

Label Every Box That You Pack 

You should be able to identify exactly what’s in each box that you pack. Once you’ve packed a box, you’ll want to make sure that the box is clearly labeled so that you know exactly what’s being stored there. 

Although it’s standard to use cardboard boxes when packing for moves, you may want to consider investing in clear plastic storage containers. When you use these kinds of boxes, you’ll be able to see everything that you’ve picked up at a glance. You can also reuse these boxes for storage once you’re settled in. 

Pack Heavy Items In Smaller Boxes 

When you’re packing up items like books, you should keep in mind that these boxes can become very heavy fairly quickly. That’s why it’s a good idea to stick to using smaller boxes when you’re picking up heavy things. 

If you stick to boxes on the smaller side, you won’t have to worry about the boxes becoming too heavy. You should use your largest boxes to pack up fairly lightweight items. The heaviest items you own should go in the smallest boxes that you have. 

Take A Suitcase 

You shouldn’t put all of your things into cardboard boxes. It’s a good idea for you to pack up some essential items in a suitcase. That way, you’ll be able to access these items before all of your things are unpacking. 

It’s especially important to take this step if you’re going to be stopping at a hotel as you travel to your new home. Your suitcase should include toiletries, a few changes of clothing, and other essential items, like first aid supplies.

Photograph Your Things 

Even if you’re cautious when you’re packing, some of your things may wind up missing. That’s why you’ll want to take plenty of pictures throughout the packing process. Before you seal up a box, take a picture of that box so that you’ll be able to see exactly what’s in there. 

Snapping these photographs will provide you with evidence if something is lost or damaged, and it will also help you find any things you are looking for. It only takes a few seconds, and it could save you a lot of trouble. 

Use The Right Packing Strategies 

If you just toss items into a box without any strategy, a lot of your things will likely wind up getting lost during your move. Beyond that, you might wind up with items that are damaged or even destroyed during the moving process. 

Always pack similar items together. When packing fragile items, you should take steps to protect those items from damage. You’ll also want to mark the box as fragile so that movers know they need to treat your box with care.  

Packing for a cross-country move can be a big project, but with a little bit of extra planning, you’ll be able to get through these challenges in one piece. Follow this advice so that you’ll be able to stay organized as you pack up for your upcoming move.

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Lifestyle & Culture

Are you ready to start thinking about a baby?

Before you commit to this decision it’s important to think about whether the two of you are ready. That’s not always an easy question to answer however there are signs that you can begin to move forward with this new chapter.

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You might be interested in starting a family with your partner. However, before you commit to this decision it’s important to think about whether the two of you are ready. That’s not always an easy question to answer however there are signs that you can begin to move forward with this new chapter. 

IMAGE SOURCE: PEXELS.COM

You’re Both Stable 

First, you need to make sure that you are both stable in your lives. Think about your career and your profession. You should ideally both be earning a solid income where it’s unlikely that either one of you will experience redundancy in the future. While there are no guarantees, there are always signs that your career is stable. You might also want to think about setting up a side hustle to make sure that you have an extra cushion of cash to fall back on whenever you need to. 

Of course, it’s not just your career that needs to be stable. You need to think about your health – both mental and physical – and your lifestyle. Don’t forget, these are things that will be taken into consideration if you are planning to adopt. So, they should be considered when you are thinking about conceiving naturally too. 

You Both Want One 

As crazy as it sounds many couples do end up having a baby because one individual wants one rather than both. The other will often just go along with the idea because they don’t want the relationship to end. That’s why it’s important to have an open and honest relationship with your partner. It’s possible that there are things that are stopping them from seriously considering children. They might even be questioning whether it’s possible for them. If they’ve tried before with someone else, then this fear is always going to be present. However, there are options like advancedfertility.com to explore if that is indeed the case. 

You don’t Argue All The Time 

Finally, many people believe that couples shouldn’t argue and that’s not true. You need to have the occasional argument otherwise issues are going to simply lie dormant underneath the surface. This will lead to a massive blowout and the last thing that you want is to bring a child into an environment with a lot of friction. 

If you do find that you are arguing quite a lot in your relationship, then you should think about something like couple’s counseling. This can help you get back on the right track with your partner and ensure that things don’t continue to get worse. It can help you deal with some of the deeper issues that might be plaguing your relationship and causing you problems right now.  You can learn more about couples counseling on bark.com

We hope this helps you understand some of the signs that you could be ready to start thinking about having a baby with your partner. Remember, while this can be a big step forward, there are plenty of avenues and resources you can explore to help here and ensure that you do approach this the right way.

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