Monday, October 11, 2010

How To Be a Genius with Physician's Notebooks

 How To Be a Genius with Physician's Notebooks
Up-Edited: 17 July 2020                                                     
               Because Notebooks is a blog, its sections constantly are being updated so it ought not to become out of print. One way to start reading it is to look for a section that interests you. For example, if you like something brief but important to you, click  9.34 The Edge - Secret of Stopping Habits; if you want to spend time to become a math genius, click 2.6e Numbers for Healthy Longevity; if you are considering going to medical or nursing school, click X. A Book for Young Physicians and Nurses and also... ; if you wish to read advice for living long, click 10.20 How to Avoid Being Murdered - Advice that . And so on.
   And you don't need read all at once. You are Sir Boss; it is your pleasure; you pay nothing and no one will test you.
   Because it is a blog, the information improves daily. With a book, you read once or twice and that's It for You.  But with Notebooks you come back to the reading at your pleasure; not only to firm up what you already learned but to get the new things that were added. With important information, re-reading improves your understanding and your memory of what you read.
   To make the most of Notebooks, you should do one leisurely read from beginning to end, serially - Say a chapter each morning? - over your snack, tea or coffee. And also refer to relevant chapters before a decision or even hold a chapter seminar with friends or family.
   And keep in mind,You are the lucky one! Notebooks is for you. By good luck or good friend you have been put in touch with a key to a happy, successful, long-lived future. Don't lose the opportunity!
   Read Notebooks a little each day and you will get success in your way. Nothing to lose; try it and enthuse.
   Also try the Slim Novels by clicking on .
Continue on by clicking 1.1 Read Well/Admire Art

1.1 Read Well/Admire Art

Physician's Notebooks 1 - See Homepage -
Read and Appreciate the Arts (Updated 04 July 2020) 
 Headings in order as in text.     
                 Why Read?
Technique - The Read-Unit
Place of Reading,Copying
Online Reading
Pacing, Food and Stimulant
The Read Session - You, an Idiot Savant!

Special Note for Students Reading Difficult Tomes with Illustrated Figures

novels and fiction
Interactive Reading
General Knowledge
 Biography & Memoirs
 Books of Wisdom
Science & Math 
Medical Self-help: Healthy longevity
Vocation & Hobby 
Magazine & News
Computer Technology
Appreciating the Arts
Song & Music
Pictorial Art
Garbage Reading & Wasteful Pastimes
Paper Books - To Find, To Buy
Really Good Reads from a Life-Time Experience

Why Read?  Reading leads to success in life. A life reading will help you live long and give you happiness.
In reading, seek new knowledge which will eventually lead to wisdom but make it fun and not a chore. So it should not be forced and the best way to succeed at that is to do much of your reading at times where you get reinforced with healthful pleasure, like with delicious but not unhealthy eating and drinking.
 One's early years depend on parent or teacher, on the culture one grows up in, and on the physical and emotional environment, if one has been lucky and is a big reader. But, even then, use this chapter to up reading pleasure and input.

Technique - The Read-Unit 

(Pronounced "reed" like the verb with its meaning): To make reading less a chore and to help your recall, limit each read to a read-unit - a chapter, a section, a paragraph. If you plan wide reading, you will rarely spend more than 30 minutes a read. Most often my read is <15 minutes, and I stop and go on to other reads. And in such reading, I do not just read for x minutes and stop. I read a topic or subtopic or segment. In a text, I may simply limit my read to understanding an illustrated figure with its explanation legend. In my reading session, I try not to mix subjects, ideas or explanations; I stick to one thing and on completion think over what I just have read. Then, if it is not clear and the subject is important, I may at separate spaced readings, re-read it until I get it. This may result in a read-unit as short as 5 minutes and also sometimes in many repeat readings. The end point of one's read can be a chapter-ending, a line of asterisks, or a double space as a convenient stop point.

Place of Reading,Copying: A bulky book may be converted into sheets of enlarged, bold text that can be read without eyeglasses standing, sitting or reclining, or traveling. I collect the copied chapters and eventually have a complete book.

Online Reading:  Now there is online one may subscribe to or access. For example, I recently got a gift of the Access Medicine set of neuroscience, and the illustrations and diagrams are brilliant. It is a superior way to learn and read. The free online reading access has done away much with the need to buy books because by just clicking on the URL, you may get the books or shorter reads you want on your laptop, smartphones or desktop. Most of the classic books are now free through the Gutenberg Project on the internet.

Pacing, Food and Stimulant  Food or non-alcohol drink reinforces learning and memory when reading. Coffee is useful for energy and motivation but limit it for specific motive, e.g., to make an incentive to start a difficult read.
    Since full stomach induces drowsiness, do not eat too much until after a read-for-study session. And reading just before going to sleep (even a brief nap) has been experimentally shown to enhance memory an understanding of what you just read.  Small bites of fruit or nuts, or cookie with tea will be stimulus and relieve hunger that can disturb reading. This is for a beginning program; once into it, you develop your own way. You may, as I do, enjoy to read while you snack and/or drink, pacing yourself to take one bite and read one page. With main meal where hands are busy with the food, I switch to a non-page-turning internet read, primarily for enjoyment rather than memory-associated learning. 

The Read Session - You, An Idiot Savant! The above-mentioned type of read with snack can become a routine during a day as read sessions. I do 4 or 5 over a 24-hour. And much of that can be concentrated on your becoming what I call idiot savant (an expert in a localized field). So I have become brilliant in Neuroscience while enjoying my daily food and drink. You may choose your subject and during a long life it may be more than one.

Re-read when it is important for your learning. One may not get the wisdom of a book or a written explanation in single or repeat readings. You can read a good book or a section of it again and again with mounting pleasure, uncovering new understanding and more wisdom. The more one does repeat reading the more protected its memory is from loss. With each re-reading one may notice previously overlooked, important facts. For learning a difficult concept, it is best to read in small segments and re-read for good understanding. Einstein’s Relativity as a single read will be hard for even a good reader. But done in short segments slowly and repeatedly it gets easier to understand.
  Also re-read to be sure you do not mistake what the writer is actually saying. Too much have I seen a quick reader make a fool of self by responding too quickly because of not reading a writer's words carefully enough.
With technical book I find that comparing successive edition for change and error and to critique writing style is fun and rewarding.

Special Note for Students Reading Difficult Tomes with Illustrated Figures: 

My technique has evolved to where I do a triple read where difficult Figures are involved in the reading; that is, first I read the difficult section through without carefully inspecting the Figure; then I inspect the Figure carefully to ensure I completely understand its import; and, finally, I re-read the section integrating the Figure into the reading.

With novels and fiction, the joy in re-reading is a sign of best quality writing or content. Fiction that merely depends on the suspense of "What will happen?" can only be read once; but fiction that has depth and beauty - like Edith Wharton's short novel Summer - can be read again and again with pleasure.

Accessories: Magnifying glass is for small print and inspection, especially with poor vision. (Now that I use a magnifier, I am discovering many typo errors I passed over previously; I advise it for all proof readers & editors) For night reading with poor overhead lighting, a lamp on a clamp attached to edge of desk helps much, especially with aging; and a 15- or 20-watt bulb is best to read close-up; without glare or overheating.

Interactive Reading: A book you think essential, should be read with no skipping. I skim table of contents, reference, and index; otherwise I read every written word and inspect Figures and tables of explanation. Any question of meaning, spelling, usage and style, or fact should be immediately checked on Internet. (Medical students quickly learn an abstruse syndrome by immediately referencing on the Internet in Wikipedia as they come across one) I critique author style and content and in a paper book I may pencil-in comment in margin (Of course not in another person's book). Finding typo error is fun. And if you are reading a successive edition that will be republished, it is useful for the book's editor to receive your list of the errors with comment – you may even end up getting paid or appointed associate editor.
   An average reader lacks full meaning of many words. For example, reading “The cowboy rode into town on a sorrel,” most readers know “sorrel” is a horse but few know it is a light brown of a certain look. Checking things may slow the reading but it makes it more interesting, and is more educative.

General Knowledge: H.G. Wells The Outline of History I have read with pleasure several times. (Now out of print, it is available on Internet) As result, I am more able to interpret the world around me and predict my future correctly and to my benefit.

Skills: Gaining personal excellence should be a goal of reading. The Lorayne and Lucas’ Memory Book made me a memory idiot savant, Calculator’s Cunning published by Basic Books (Now out of print but available on made me a wiz at numbers and, because of that, it helps me to make more money.

Fiction: Here one should focus on a major aim: reading as substitute for life (Cf. Fannie Hurst’s Imitation of Life).  We have limited time and not enough of it to make us wise enough to avoid repeating old mistakes. And an actual experience may be dangerous. In fiction we can live many lives at once and experience mistake without risk. Fiction should not just be read to pass time. It should be looked at with the question: Is it teaching me new, useful experience to make life better? Reading fiction should be a pleasure but your real reason to read should be to improve your life.  In American fiction, Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence (and all her work) is better than Herman Melville’s murky Moby. And J.D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey, and the fiction of John O’Hara, should be read before age 50. A special case is Balzac’s Comédie Humaine covering lives, vocations, and professions. Set in post-Napoleon I France but relevant still, it gives good models for attaining an all-around wisdom for happy life. If you are lucky to be young and run across this advice, go at it and you will get pleasured by the gold you mine! And James Michener is a writer who can supply a huge depth of learning one can use to find success in life. And a book that will help you understand the inevitable collapse of our society is Anatole France's Penguin Island. (English translation unless you read French in the L'Île des Pingouins) Then to make you wise in legal questions while being fascinatingly pleasured, read Louis Auchincloss, a page-turning writer/attorney.  And do not forget the two Russians, Tolstoy and Turgenev, who are realistically relevant for modern life. Oh yes, I can't leave this without also admiring Thackeray's Vanity Fair as an all-around good preparation for life for a youth even in 2020. And the Slim Novels which are accessible through

Biography & Memoirs: The lives of famous persons are useful to help you make decisions in your own life to avoid trouble.Recently I super enjoyed Lillian Hellman`s Pentimento got for 48 cents at a New York used bookstore.  (Unfortunately that service --- the 48-cent, street-stall book --- has been discontinued at the Strand as of 2020)

Books of Wisdom: Here Socrate's Dialogs come to mind. And include The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, the works of Thoreau, starting with Walden.  B.F. Skinner's Walden 2. W.S. Maugham's The Summing Up, Bernard Berenson's Rumor and Reflection, and Theodore Dreiser's Memoir. And add the futuristic works of R(ichard) Buckminster Fuller: Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth (available free on internet) and Utopia or Oblivion.

Science & Math: For students or readers who do not have skills in arithmetic, a good text of algebra and geometry should be reviewed. Similarly,  high-school physics, chemistry, and biology texts should be reviewed, followed by organic chemistry.

Medical Self-help: Healthy longevity – living past 80 with intact mind. For that, check out

Vocation & Hobby reading: Many persons have hobby or vocation. I liked science fiction as boy. Nurtured on the sci-fi of the 1940s and 50s, I recently wanted to return to my youth so I bought several hundreds old pulps. I had fun reading. And for some  those superb stories click .

Magazines & News:  
National Geographic gives facts to keep one up to date and to help one predict future. Scientific American is good to keep up with progress. Both are mostly free now online. Newspapers I no longer buy because Internet news serves me better free. And keeps you up to date on cultural happenings around the world.

Computer Technology: Reading from screen is good for the aged who have problem reading standard-size print. The capability of the computer to adjust alphabet-letter size and the good contrast afforded by the bright white video-screen background helps readers with poor, aging vision. And now there are computer programs for the blind to read voice-over of written text. Thus the computer should liberate the old and all-age blind person to read more. It can prolong reading for years after paper-page reading is impossible. Also note the revolution in reference material because of Internet search. Instead of looking up fact, spelling and definition by book, you can access it via Wikipedia and other internet on computer. Finally to mention are the online reads.

End Notes

Appreciating the Arts is part of the good life. I do not admire the cult of personality and hero worship that have grown around popular performers starting with Frank Sinatra in the early 1940's and continuing through so called divas like Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, et al. And I condemn the terrible descent of popular music starting with 1950s Rock & Roll.  In 2020, when entertainment celebrity is, in my opinion, not very talented, a reader or viewer or listener should refuse to subsidize such rot. Do not pay for bad movies, raw singing, or poor art. Respect yourself! You deserve a better life than these untalented so called divas are getting on your money! Of course, we adults must all recognize that our children and grandchildren are being conditioned to idolize this low class entertainment and as much as possible, in a reasonably cultured way, we should try to replace it in a child's life with higher class enjoyments.
Song & Music, and drama either on stage or movie should stimulate good thought and should be used to rest the brain between intellectual chores. I do it for 30 minutes to an hour and play classical music or good popular. Internet now has good YouTube, streaming art forms and movies free. But avoid Cable TV and Home Box Office or Netflix or any commercial entertainment you are forced to pay for.
I particularly enjoy the CDs of Gordon Jenkins—-Manhattan Tower—- and jazz artist Judy Barnett—-Too Darn Hot and Blossom Dearie’s Planet.  These have become my brilliant boring time passers in old age.

Pictorial Art should be studied and the great works should be exhibited free and over the Internet as photos and in copies for homes. The market prices of art works are much too high.

Amateurism: I want to see a Science-Civilization future where the Arts will be dominated by Amateurs (Note that the great fictional detective Sherlock Holmes is described by his creator as being Amateur by which Conan-Doyle means to show that Holmes never accepted money for what he did so expertly), meaning no commercial value given to art work; rather it should be a product of one’s leisure. (This presupposes a society where subsistence is free and money, therefore, is devalued) No sports heroes, No artists or geniuses, No divas, No moneyed value entertainment.

Garbage Reading & Wasteful Pastimes: Nowadays there is much to learn and your time is precious so avoid garbage, e.g., almost all movies you are forced to pay for; rather, watch the good movie streaming free from Internet at leisure; do not pay for newspaper or magazine (Use internet or library), do not read junk like the romance-novels or young-adult novels, and do not expose your children to get hooked on video games or pop entertainers, the so called divas or on superhero anime (excepting Casper the Friendly Ghost: a superb anime for a kid) and keep your child away, as much as is reasonable, from musical garbage entertainment like just about everything that has come out popularly since 1950 including Hip-Hop.

Paper Books - To Find, To Buy:  Here I write of books  as physical entities you can hold in hand as opposed to the online book that requires a computer or other reading machine. The paper book remains uniquely useful for access to reading  anywhere, anytime with no need for interface machines, no cost in electricity and money in the reading itself and in having flexibility of use that can not be replaced by the machine. Where to find good books at reasonable price? 
   Of course is an invaluable source to buy an out-of-print book you desperately want in its proper printing or edition at reasonable price. 
   Because new issue books are overpriced and over hyped considering the quality, I limit my obtaining paper books for reading to public libraries and key bookstores that specialize in reselling used books at very low prices. For example, in New York City, The Strand, a bookstore on the northeast corner of East 12th Street and Broadway in Manhattan (Near the Union Square-14th St IRT subway station), that features sidewalk stalls of used books from $3 to as low as $1 a book. Whenever I visit NYC, my first stop is The Strand and it is great fun exercising my skill at finding good reads by flipping through the street bookstalls. A good reader will control his impatience to get hold of a new issue book. By waiting a little, one can select books based on the test of time and also according to one's knowledge of authors. Many readers paid exorbitant prices for Stieg Larssen's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo new issues, but I waited a few months and found used copies at The Strand for 48 cents. (The 48-cent books have since been discontinued) A Hemingway or Faulkner collection of several hundred pages for 48 cents was a not uncommon thrill I experienced in the street at the Strand. My way to efficiently buy at The Strand street stalls is to quickly riffle through a hundred or so books in a few minutes. I look for authors like William Faulkner who I know will satisfy my literary taste, for classics like Thackerey's Vanity Fair that I can read and re-read with pleasure, and for Pulitzer Prize winners like David Halberstam's The Best and the Brightest. Another good used-bookstore is Copper Cat Books in Las Vegas's residential city, Henderson, at 1570 W. Horizon Ridge (Across from the Valle Verde Post Office)

Really Good Reads from a Life-Time ExperienceHere I want to list some magazine fiction I have read during my life-time that is so excellent it should be preserved for future reading. In , my own Slim Novels, I have inserted, between the ending chapter of each Slim Novel and before the first chapter of each successive Slim Novel, superb short stories by authors I have run across in my lifetime. For Slim Novel 1, click right here Return of The Saint to read it. For Slim Novel 2,
Gold Blindness by Erle Stanley Gardner.
  And so forth and so on with each successive Slim Novel.

     End of Chapter. To read next now, click 1.2 Writing

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

1.2 Writing

Physician's Notebooks 1  - - See Homepage

Writing (Update: 26 June 2020)
The descending column gives subject headings in order and may be useful for search & find and also for giving an idea of the chapter and helping decide whether you want to read it or not at a glance.

For most of us, writing does not come easily
 Magnifying glass improves the efficiency of editing
What to Write
use size-14 Century bold font
A major motivation to write
concept of Amateurism in writing. 
Factors in Success to popularize a book: 
End Note on writing style 
Writing by Dictation 

For most of us, writing does not come easily because we do not, on first try, choose the right words. My first draft is confused and poor sounding, and as an unskilled writer I need much rewriting. Computers give us the word processor and added Internet access to quickly get facts, spelling, grammar and meaning that have made rewriting efficient, effective and time saving for hackers like I. 
  Ming way  Once you make a draft, repeatedly review your text to delete what is repetitious or not needed, to correct error of fact, to remove excessively fancy language, and to further make your text easier for the less educated or non native reader. I benefit much from being aware I have readers for whom English is not native. It makes me try to write less words, clearer and simpler. (Like Ernest Hemingway) One wants to keep an individual style and use elegant or poetic words or phrases when needed, but do not try it merely to impress.
   Magnifying glass improves the efficiency of editing. It is like subjecting your writing to microscope - you pick up error normally missed.
   What to Write? One needs something useful to write. That gets to content, aim and imagination. In my case, I wish to leave to the future my idea of living efficiently and happily so I wrote (and am still writing) the Slim Novels accessed through For my advice on good health and long life, I write Physician’s Notebooks,
   Do your typing using computer graphics, and internet pictures and cover design. I use size-14 Century bold font (You are reading in it now; but perhaps you have enlarged the size), which takes spacing into consideration as well as size of letters. The size-14 is the largest you can use without too widely spaced lines, and is easily read by persons with aging vision. Keep your books slim.  The thicker book is apt to elicit an "Oh! Too much reading !", the slim book psychologically, on viewing, keeps a potential reader's interest better than a thick book. If you need to write a huge tome, break it up into many slim books.
A major motivation to write is to make money and get admirers. For a few it happens but many unpublished writers waste time and money on vanity and vague hopes. The literary agent today charges too much for merely receiving a manuscript. And most of the time she or he will not even try to find a publisher because the market for unpublished writers is glutted with too much material. It is OK to use fame and money to energize your starting a book; but, once you have started, continually up-edit to perfect your writing and develop a readership via an internet blog like this one, If your book has commercial value, you will get readers.
   It is important at some point in writing a book for its writer to decide on its worth to society, its value as entertainment, and its potential for commercial success. If any one of these seems valid, keep improving your book and keep pitching. 
Here I want to comment on my concept of Amateurism in writing. Too many authors take their being a writer too seriously, i.e., calling oneself, for example, an "artist", a term which ought to be reserved only for someone who paints well. One can be an amateur at a particular activity, do it uncommonly well, and not need to flatter oneself by terms like "artist" or "writer"; for example, click next on the URL--
  --for the following, brief film on the winner of the Nobel Prize for literature in 1950, William Faulkner. It is an interesting film to watch but also notice right at the beginning that the great writer starts off by referring to himself as "a farmer, who also writes" by which I take him to mean the concept that I have given for an Amateur: someone who does a thing uncommonly well but does not value his or her taking money for it.

Factors in Success to popularize a book. 
 a) Writing talent, by which I mean the ability to edit in one's head and to put together words to fascinate a reader; and to make a good story or narrative. Talent is not usually something one is born with although circumstances of birth may help (cf. W. Somerset Maugham, Edith Wharton; their European continental upbringing); it is learned, sometimes by hard study, daily writing and observing other writers' good styles. 
  b) Content and imagination, which relates to the subject(s) of a book. Certain content appeals to a reader's instinct for survival, or addresses his or her anxieties or it promises the reader big rewards. You should keep aware of your book's appeal to readers. An appeal of content may over-ride the reader's dis-incentive from its poor writing.
 c) The power of hype, persuasion and advertisement is a factor that can override factors of content and writing talent. For example, O.J. Simpson's writing How I Killed My Wife and Got Away Free would have been an automatic best seller not because of O.J.'s (or his ghost's) writing talent but simply because of his appearance on the TV news. Name recognition, e.g., "Meghan Markle", is important and, even in the absence of fame, you may get it by getting on a website that gives worldwide exposure.

End Note on writing style, syntax (word order), grammar, and orthography (the use of punctuation marks). Of course, good sources exist: two books, E.B. White's Elements of Style or Donald Hall's Writing Well, ought to be read at leisure purely for the pleasure of reading the good style. Here I try to give a few ideas that new writers in English, especially non-native, may use to make their writing clearer and more compelling especially to those readers who have less education or for whom written English is not a first language.
Writing style by which I mean the feeling your writing should give to a reader is best done in what I call a friendly, informative way, which means paying attention in a reader-friendly way. For example, if you use a foreign language quote or a rarely understood slang expression be sure in footnote or brackets to include the standard English meaning. And neither be overly formal nor too informal, which means no use of slangy or foreshortened or show-off words, unless in context, but also relating to the reader by the not too frequent use of "You", again in context. 
 Grammar and spelling  should be perfect; it means using computer correction but also good knowledge based either on birth in the language or, for non-native writers in English, on previous intense study in writing the language. Do not experiment with word shortcuts or slang; it distracts the reader from his or her main attention which ought to be meaning. Above all strive for clarity and simplicity (in words and syntax).  Rewriting is an absolute must and never satisfied.
A few words on the use of commas. Always keep in mind the one rule that you should never ignore: the comma (or other orthography) should never cause confusion or confuse meaning. Its purpose should be to improve clarity - , the comma is well used to separate the grammar function of words without which, if not separated, confusion may arise. Sometimes we may need to use a comma because it is strongly customary. (After an "if" clause) and lack of its use may prove a distraction even though it is not really necessary for improving clarity.
Unless you are a Nobel prize writer like William Faulkner, avoid long, complex sentences. When you see you have written one, in rewriting, break it up into smaller, simpler sentences (See The inserted story  Twilight by John W. Campbell (To access, click on the “Twilight”) that express each idea of the complex sentence. And edit out words that really do not add anything to what you wish to express as an idea; words like "very", "much" and the like, unless of course they are truly needed for exaggerated emphasis.
Writing by Dictation:  Most persons start off writing with pencil/pen and paper and then typing/computer. I did that for years; then, one day recently, I got to write by dictations. What a difference!  Both have good points and I do not mean to hype dictation; however, the big benefit of dictation is, it gives you more time to think about the content and method of your writing. When you write directly off your hand or computer, your mind and body are so occupied by the direct action of the writing that you do not usually consider other aspects. But when you dictate, you become also a more slow-motion observer of an act of writing that happens to be your own, and hence a better critic and editor. I find I add alternative points of view, modify extremes of my prose and see errors better. Perhaps writing directly allows one to express high emotion better than by dictation. In a sense, writing  by  dictation combines writing by hand with editing your first draft, but taking the editing alone, of course, it lacks the original inspiration of spontaneous writing. In any case, dictation is useful.

  To read next now, click 1.3 Foreign Travel Tips

Saturday, September 25, 2010

1.3 Foreign Travel Tips

Physician's Notebooks 1 - - See Homepage
Foreign Travel Tips (Update 27 June 2020)

  The following  column has the headings in order as they appear. Scan, scroll or search & find as you please.

Reason for making a trip
Air flight ticket-buying
Timing of Making Your Reservations
Refundable Ticket
Travel with companions
EAJ; Travel Insurance
Travel light
Setting out for airport
X-ray and Body Imaging Security Scans at Airport
Keep in mind we are now in the surveillance age
Check for Flight Delay Constantly
Food or drink at the airport
They announce your flight is overbooked
Your flight gets cancelled
Wheelchair Service through the Airport
Sit in non premium economy class
Do many-minute stroll on aisle
Stowing your luggage in overhead
 Important health notes based on recent observations
Before you leave the aircraft
TSA Lock
Specific Airport Tips & Pearls 
Airlines to Avoid
Compare Delta with United Airlines on Tokyo-NY route 
Airports I have known
Final End-note
Shanghai Trip Report 

Reason for making a trip: Give it strong preparatory thought – be sure you really need and want it, and then consider what you wish to get done and be sure you have the means and help to do it. Before you leave, check the weather at your destination.

Air flight ticket-buying advice here is based on our experience with United Airlines (UAL) and Delta Airlines round trip between Tokyo and New York City areas. For UAL, you save $25 by doing it online; for Delta, $20. These are flights that I made frequently; the reader can investigate his own routes.

Timing of Making Your Reservations: From a price standpoint, United was a little more expensive for a very early-making compared to a later reservation. On Delta, there was no difference in price. This should emphasize that one should shop around by using the telephone between the various major airlines in the weeks before making the final reservation.
   Important point: You may specify your exact trip without buying the ticket and have the airline operator hold it for you. On United Airlines, they will hold it for 72 hours and on Delta they will hold it for 24 hours. All things being equal, it is not good to schedule too early, meaning several weeks before a flight, because changes may occur that may cause you to cancel the flight for which you will have to pay a penalty. On the other hand, if you schedule too close to your leaving date, the aircraft may be totally booked and scheduling within a day of the flight is more expensive than a week or two before the flight. Generally about 2 to 3 weeks before the flight time is a good time to make the reservation. Also, day of the week counts: midweek is usually least expensive. Also least expensive mid holiday or the week before the holiday when most persons do not fly because they are planning to fly on the holiday. In Japan, never fly on Golden Week (First week in May) and Obon (Summer holiday season in Japan usually mid-August)

2 Little-Known Ultra-Cheap Times to Fly

Refundable Ticket: Most tickets on major airlines for intercontinental trips are refundable with a penalty of c.$300. But occasionally the ticket may be non-refundable so one should check before exhibiting one's credit card. Non-refundable tickets are usually only on promotional flight offerings. Keep in mind that once you reserve your flight with your credit card you will have 24 hours to change your mind without penalty. However, even if you cancel in the first 24 hours, your credit card will still be debited and you will get a credit card refund that may take months. This could badly affect your current credit balance. Concerning credit card, it can be disconcerting to misplace it in the midst of a trip as happened to me once because I stupidly took it out of my regular set of cards and put it in to an outer jacket I had recently bought; then, at a friend's house, I mistakenly switched jackets with him and thought I had lost my credit card and immediately cancelled it by telephone only to be told a few days later by my friend about the switched jacket. So the whole thing made quite a disturbance in my trip. Lesson: Keep your credit card always together with your other important cards in your most internal pocket.

Airlines: Stick to major (Not smaller affiliates like Germanwings of Lufthansa) western country (Includes Japan) airlines and avoid country with political unrest, or major terrorists threat. Avoid Malaysia, Egypt and Indonesia Airlines above all! Japanese airlines give best service for price but may cost a little more than US Airlines.

If you travel with companions be sure of agreement on purpose and conditions of travel before you make the reservation. In general do not bring children. Traveling especially with close companions like husband or wife or child should ideally be, each one, in separate aircraft and each companion should get air-crash life insurance. I know that this advice is unpopular and usually is not followed but why would you want your whole family wiped out in one crash? Of course, with a large family it could be impractical, i.e., each of the 6 children on a separate flight, but you should get the idea and try to use it in a practical way when you can.

EAJ; Travel Insurance: For overseas trips get a travel insurance for each trip that will cover your medical rescue in case you get major illness on a foreign trip. Without such insurance, medical rescue may cost US$100,000 or more. For details contact EAJ, Emergency Assistance Japan, Mr Ii at  Note that travel insurance for persons over age 60 does not usually include a death payment. That, you must buy at the airport.

Travel light! Travel light! Travel light! Carry-on with wheels. Max size for UAL or Delta carry-on is centimeter, 55 height x 35 width x 23 thickness. (in inches, 21 x 13 x 9; and it can change so check before you trip). Mostly there is no carry-on luggage weight limit but a few airports limit to a max 7 to 10 kg (16 to 22 lbs) and readers should use 10 kg as upper limit. This size gives max capacity for traveling light and such a piece of rolling luggage fits into international airline overhead and, in the airport, should be usable as a seat when no chair or bench available. It should have a telescoped handle that can disappear when you need to carry. (Important because some airport lounges exclude travelers with rolling luggage). If you will use a hand-carry case for immediately available needed stuff, the max measurements that will fit under your forward seat are 43x32x10 cm but best not to have a separate bag because a hand-carry extra case is easily lost. What you might lug as too much baggage, you may better buy at destination. For clothes, just what you wear and one change. Keep in mind your jet aircraft will be too cool for short sleeve and short pants.
   Cell phones or iPads have built-in photo, video and clock, so no need for unattached cameras or time pieces. A mobile local smart phone is very, very useful in foreign country; with international phone the roaming charge can be very high.

Setting out for airport, be sure you know the terminal, the time for check-in, and go over all documents. Especially passport should be in accessible pocket and secured from dropping-out loss. Check well before departure date, your passport expiration date and visa stamps. As tickets are electronic, all you need is passport for check-in. Be sure not to forget your important plastic cards.

X-ray and Body Imaging Security Scans at Airport: Just after ticketing (or if you have boarding pass already) you must get security body check that in U.S. airports may include x-ray (Each x-ray increases risk of leukemia 10 to 20 years later) or millimeter radio wave body scan. How do you know which is which? The harmless body scans are in semi-open (glass) booths and you are asked to do a right body turn and extend both arms above head. You may avoid the x-ray by telling the TSA who checks your passport and boarding pass, after he has checked them, "I want to opt out of the x-ray."  Say it in a low voice and a friendly manner. He should reply "No problem" and refer you for full body pat down, which is done right away in public or private (Your option) and takes about 1 to 2 minutes and is not bad. The radio wave scans are harmless and not worth the effort to avoid.

Always keep in mind we are now in the surveillance age. You could be stopped and questioned for hours at the airport and your electronics confiscated and data copied. In individual case it is unlikely but be prepared for the possibility and do not carry anything you do not wish copied or confiscated.

Train yourself not to buy food or drink at the airport. If hungry before leaving, have breakfast or lunch at home and eat light. If you have lounge-privilege, keep it light and stock up on lounge foods to eat later. On aircraft, consider not eating every snack as it is set before you. I save the rolls, candies, salads or even main course in the discard bag to enjoy later on the ground. And before eating any airline foods I inspect what is in them. I do not eat mid-flight snack. I refuse the ice cream cup and save the sandwich. And with the pre-arrival snack I save for eating later. On drinks, stick to water and tea instead of sodas and juices because these latter are loaded with salt and sugars or artificial sweetener. Do not waste money or expose credit card for in-flight alcohol drinks or other in-flight buys.

Check for Flight Delay Constantly: Upon entering the airport for your flight, make it a rule to check the overhead flight schedules and keep tab on your flight's status. Especially if you have a close-interval connecting flight, an announcement of your flight's delay that may cause you to be late for your connection should immediately trigger a call to your airline for emergency rescheduling. Good service airlines have backup contingency plans for just this event and the sooner you discover the delay the easier it will be to remedy it.

If before boarding, they announce your flight is overbooked and ask for volunteers to do later flight, grab the chance unless good reason not to. Overbooked flights are high risk. Do not rush to get anywhere. Airlines should put you up in a nice motel for the night or reward you monetarily (or both). Never become obnoxious over being kicked off a flight.

If you are at airport at boarding gate and your flight gets cancelled just before a storm, stay in the boarding gate area and try to get on a flight to another large hub airport out of the storm's way and from there get reservation to your final destination. In worst case, stay in boarding area even overnights because when flights start re-booking, you'll have first access after the storm. Conditions are best in boarding area. Do not motel overnight.

Wheelchair Service through the Airport can be arranged if over age 65 or with even fairly minor disabilities. Even if you do not need it physically, it can be a great advantage when you need to speedily get through an international arrival after debarking your plane. Also in wheelchair your body and document inspection is minimal and fast. Check with your airline ahead of arrival; often you may arrange it when you buy your ticket by phone.

Sit in non premium economy class unless you need extra space for medical reason. Not just too expensive but in the upper class seats the food and drink is less healthy than in the economy because they overfeed with gourmet snacks and free alcohol. Also on some airlines, the upper class seat entertainment is not convenient and the strolling space is too limiting compared to economy.
  Select an aisle seat if you wish ease for getting up to stroll or to WC.

Do many-minute stroll on aisle at convenient times, several times during intercontinental flight. Sitting for many hours increases risk of blood clot in leg that may travel to lung and kill and also ups rate of attacks of leg and foot joint acute arthritis such as gout of big toe. (A single aspirin taken before flight will prevent both if you are high risk for blood clot)

  On stowing your luggage in overhead compartment on aircraft, be sure it will not fall out and injure someone on opening the compartment or that it is not so heavy it will harm your back or cause an accident lifting into overhead bin. And on opening an overhead bin, do it very slowly. And check in the overhead that you do not lose anything from the luggage. 

 Important health notes based on recent observations: High altitude intercontinental flight increases edema (swellings). The ankles swelling at the end of a long flight is the most frequent sign and should warn a traveler of possible weakened heart. Also the high altitude pressurized cabin air reduces your blood oxygen saturation to 90% or lower from its normal above 97%, not noticeable for a healthy young person but possibly provoking coronary heart pain or even infarction or brain stroke in traveler with coronary heart or cerebral artery disease. Be sure of your heart before flying, especially if over age 50, and do not overeat or over drink. If you can get a finger oxygen pulse oximeter,  measure your oxygen saturation of blood (SaO2) during the flight. If  it drops below 85%, notify air attendant at once; it could mean a leak in aircraft air seal and portend crash or it could mean your own problem with heart or lung that might require mask oxygen.
  We have seen an attack of multiple sclerosis provoked by an intercontinental flight that caused an MS lesion to swell up and affect speech, breathing and swallowing within hours after take off. If you have multiple sclerosis (or a question of it), take a single high-dose oral corticosteroid dose under medical advice just before setting out on the flight. Also if you recently (few weeks before) had minor surgery like hemorrhoids, in vagina, tonsils, do not fly because of risk of hemorrhage in flight. Especially take care of bleeding risk if you take aspirin or are on other anticoagulant (Coumadin, heparins) to prevent blood clot.

Before you leave aircraft, check seat area carefully for forgotten item and as you walk forward to debark scan other area for forgotten valuables.

TSA Lock: All luggage you check in on a flight in the U.S.A. May be opened and inspected after you have given it for the flight. Unless you have a TSA Lock, the lock you use will be broken beyond repair in order to inspect. The TSA locks can be purchased at any U.S. airport. I use no locks and carry nothing of real value in luggage.

Airlines to Avoid: This is dealt with in the accident in transportation chapter and includes most smaller country airlines.  Specifically highlighted to avoid are Korean Airlines (Rowdy passengers, untrained crew; but we hear that recently things have improved), Malaysian and small German Wings Airlines (Suicidal pilots), Yemeni Airlines (Terrorists). Airlines of Mainland China and Russia are high risk for sabotage and poor training and equipment.  Best limit oneself to major western airlines and Japanese airlines.

Compare Delta with United Airlines on Tokyo-NY route 
We frequently fly between Tokyo and NY area and were able to compare its 2 main carriers, Delta and United Airlines: First, Delta does not have a direct flight between the 2 destinations while United does; second, Delta caused us multiple delays due to computer problems while United was perfect. So the advice for this route is: choose United
   Airports I have Known
  San Francisco International (SFO) Free WiFi and direct connection to the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit). Overnights at the airport without hotel easy and pleasant. If you want a good motel, check out the Dylan  in nearby Millbrae. Also note that trippers non stop from East Coast USA to Far East have one free stopover at SFO or other major airport on route if they so choose
  Vancouver International is a good airport to do overnights. It has free WiFi and the Canada Line transit into the Vancouver Area is just across the street and 22 minutes from the downtown convention center.
Final End Note: On all kinds of trips, during boring intervals (on train to airport, waiting for transport) make use of the time by reviewing what is in your pockets and bags and arranging and inventorying your possessions in convenient way.

Here is a report of a recent trip to Shanghai written by my assistant, which may be useful.

Shanghai Trip (Ed: Note this is a first trip to Shanghai for tourism)

On my trip to Shanghai, I used Delta/JAL/China Eastern code share flight. China Eastern has a strange policy of no-use of cellphones even on airplane modes. Since the flight was less than 3 hours, I wasn't frustrated as much but it can be a huge bother on far-distance flights especially for businessmen or people who need to text. 
In the planes, they do not have separate monitors, so to some (like me) the flight without entertainment can be a pure agony. Most of the people were sleeping, but some were trying to sneakingly use their phones. Of course, human life is most important, so I don't want to complain much, but this was inconvenient. (Ed: Note this was frequent flier freebie so she got a no frills flight)
Prices, I think are not expensive and you will get a nice meal as well. You can choose between chicken/noodles or rice and it comes with salads and desserts. Airport in Shanghai is fairly modernized but not too impressive. 
Boarding took much time both on my way to China and on my way back. We had to get on a bus to get closer to the airplane.

Trip from airport to hotel - From airport, you can either take a taxi, subway or Maglev. I took Maglev because that was very unique to me and you can take subways within the city anyway. Subway is cheaper but slower (c.60 minutes to central Shanghai cf. 8 minutes by Maglev).  Maglev is more expensive than Subway but way faster. 
From the last Maglev station, you can change to the major subways and get off at the closest station to the hotel. Transfer is very easy and no problem because everything is written in English.

People in Shanghai are generally nice. Some things I noticed were: they spit at every corner and they can be overly loud. 
Sightseeing is easy due to a developed subway system. All the major touristy spots could be googled. Be careful for pick-pocketing. Soliciting is not excessive so don't worry.

Language: I'd say it's 50:50. Hotels are good, but some personnel have difficulty with English and understanding them can come with difficulty. On streets, people will understand you if you talk very slowly using easy words. Some Chinese people do not understand English,and would still continue to talk in Chinese. 

Eating in Shanghai: There are a lot of local restaurants and also street food good too. My recommendations are Chinese cuisine at an authentic Chinese restaurant including egg tarts, dumplings, and other famous gourmet, probably best eaten within your hotel because of safety. Chinese traditional tea is a must gift and is good for souvenirs. 

Places to go from Shanghai: I would love to know the difference between Beijing/other cities and Shanghai, I can't say much about this because I've never been to other places…

Why Go?: To see the modernized, developed metropolis. It will exceed all the expectations you have. It is said to be very different from South East Asian cities and of course very different from European cities. If you live in Tokyo, you may not find it as different though. Three days are more than enough to tour around Shanghai. If you want to go farther, then I suggest having a tour package. 


           To read next now, click 1.4 Japan - C'mon a My House