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Hi everybody!

The last few weeks I have done some heavy thinking about where this blog should go. I realized that I needed some kind of focus, a specialization in a certain direction.I figured I should seperate the lifestyle, motivation and language learning part from the engineering part.

So Quest for Epicness was born. I will post all my awesome non-engineering related posts.

This blog will stay as my engineering home base.

Go check it out!

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Image: Ian Kahn / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

At some point in time, we all try (more or less successfully) to learn a foreign language. A lot of people, I’d even say the majority, tragically fail. What are the reasons for that? In several years of language  learning (I learned English mostly by myself, as well as French and Spanish) I have seen how people make the same mistakes over and over again. Still, these mistakes seem to be so ingrained into our language learning culture, that people all over the world make them, and that major policy makers and changers in the area of language learning are not undertaking any steps to do something against the repition of them. What are these mistakes?

Taking Classes

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Image: Hal Brindley / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

One of the biggest mistakes people make while learning a foreign language is taking classes. You sit in a class for 2 hours a week with a whole bunch of gals and guys, the teacher is talking and most of the time you are listening to your own language, not the one you want to learn! One of the most ineffective ways of learning. You cannot learn in your own speed, as the teacher has to keep all students in mind, there is too much talking in the original language going on and student interaction with the target language is kept to a minimum. Basically, a private tutor, self study, a tandem partner…anything else is a better investment of time than taking classes. This is such a big thing that even Tim Ferriss, Mr.Productivity himself, posted something about it right here. Khatzumoto from All Japanese All The Time has some pretty strong opinions on classes, too. You can read his article right over here.

No realistic exposure

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Image: imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There are some pretty cool textbooks out there. They are good at explaining the key points of the target language. What most textbooks lack, though, are realistic conversations. Most conversations are just too basic and/or follow an unrealistic setting. But learners still stick with them as their only source. They don’t go out of the bubble, grap a book that was written in the target language, watch a movie or listen to original music, no…they stick with the dull dialogues. Come on, who cares about the family father who is visiting long lost relatives in Colombia (of course, if that description fits you I apologize)? This is irrelevant to 99% of language learners! I want to have some real world dialogues. So even if it is hard at the beginning, it is paramount to get some real world exposure to the target language. Again, Khatzumoto has a pretty cool technique, where you are supposed to “harvest” (so to say) whole sentences and dialogues from books in the target language and learn them. Here, the method is explained, and right over here you can read what the best sources for sentence harvesting are.

Not enough exposure

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Image: KROMKRATHOG / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Grammar and background information about the target language is important stuff. But so is enough exposure to the target language. We all know that reading three sentences in the target language once a day is not going to cut it. Now I know that people are busy, everybody is. But there are possibilities to bump up the amount of exposure you get in a day. Listen to music in the target language while you drive your car, read a book in the target language while you ride the bus to work, watch your favorite movies in the target language (without native language subtitles, though, as that would destroy the learning effect). If you are serious about learning a language, you will find a way to get creative. Khatzumoto at has taken that exposure thing to a new dimension, and you can read about it at All Japanese All The Time.

Wrong materials

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Image: scottchan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Some books are just not good for learning languages. Their conversations are way too basic, they waste pages over pages for simple concepts and miss the deeper knowledge. But they have flashy pages. They are in full color. They have pictures. Basically, they don’t look boring, they look interesting and fun. But they won’t do the job! What should a good language learning book have? Each chapter should be clearly separated in different sections. If there are fill-in-the-gap exercises dispersed throughout the chapter, this is a no-go! There should be lots of dialogues, a lot of vocabulary and clear grammar explanations. Grammar, vocabulary and dialogues should be clearly divided so that it is immediately obvious what is what. A great example of a good textbook is “Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian, a Textbook” by Ronelle Alexander.

In coming blog posts we will look at different learning styles and analyze their pro’s and con’s. Stay tuned!

You need to fail in order to succeed

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Image: Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I hate failure. I want to do everything perfect from the beginning. No matter what I do, it has to be successful, or else I will doubt myself, my skills and my worth. I am not alone with this problem. Most people think like that. We hear stories of amazing success, people getting rich over night, breaking ideas…we are bombarded with stories of success, but we don’t really get the full story. So we end up thinking that these people must be some kind of genius! See, the path for success is marked by failure. In fact, failure is the key ingredient o success!

Maneesh Sethi has a great post about the correlation between success and failure right over here.

There is also a great article over at the Art of Manliness about Andrew Carnegie, the archtype of the American Dream here

Exam time!

Hi everybody!

In Munich we are having exams now, and the last few weeks have been very stressful. I’ll have an exam today and three the next week, so I am pretty stressed out. That’s there reason for the recent low activity on the blog. But exam time will soon be over! Stay tuned for a few new posts!

I (heart) Malaga

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I don’t know why, but I just love Spain. I love the hot climate, the awesome countryside, ranging from wild mountains and deserts to lush forest and the beautiful Medditerranean and Atlantic coasts. One of the cities I love most is Malaga. Malaga is in Andalusia, right on the Medditerranean Sea. But lo and behold, it is not a tourist trap, this ancient city! Once ruled by Phonecians, Romans, Arabs and finally the Spaniards, the city looks and feels like a mix of different styles of architecture and cultures. The weight of its history is prevailing in almost every corner. It was also birthplace and home to the one and only Picasso. The city is well aware of its heritage, as there are several historic museums, one Picasso museum and the house of his birth.

So loaded up, we first went to our resting place ( camping site), that was about 20 minutes from the center of Malaga and not that expensive at all. What I did not expect of Spain before actually going there was how well its infrastructure is developed. There is very cheap train service everywhere and busses are even cheaper!

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Going on a tour at our new “home”, we discovered an awesome beach (unfortunately no photo), with palm trees next to it. I love palm trees!

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When we finally made it to Malaga (not because it is so far, but because we were very busy discovering our locality), it was already night. I don’t know what is more impressive, Malaga at night or Malaga at day, but I have to say both are pretty freaking impressive!

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Another great thing about Spain is the food. The cuisine is of high quality and very tasty, and it is not even that expensive. Tapas are great for every opportunity and paellas are just tasty!

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Of course, we are missing something here, or are we? No, because the Turkish Donerman is everywhere!

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And once you are done with sightseeing, you can go get your culture fix (or take a picture in front of a museum to tell your parents you educate yourself), visiting one of the many museums or historic churches.

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I like the architecture of the buildings in the city center, the city council seems to be doing a good job maintaining everything.

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And for some relaxation there are plenty of little parks scattered throughout the city.

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Why do we procrastinate?

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Image: healingdream / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We all have this problem. We want to finish a job, we have to do something, but we just cannot get around. We might get distracted very easily, or just look for an excuse not to do our work. But why do we procrastinate? Let’s take a look!

The Reward

A lot of times procrastination is rewarding. You know the situation, a tough decision has to be made, and you are the one who has to make it. But you don’t know what to do. You wait and you wait, claiming you need more time or some other lame excuse, until it is too late to make a decision, the decision has been made for you, or the situation has totally changed, allowing an easier decision to be made.

Resentment

Sometimes procrastination is the only possible way of showing resentment or disagreement. One might be forced to comply with a boss, or have to do some “stupid” homework for a professor. Open “rebellion” or disagreement might not be possible (or you just don’t have the balls…). So we resort to procrastination! Everybody has experienced this type of procrastination, like when preparing for an exams that seemed not to be of value.

Fear of Failure

We are our own worst critic. Usually, we expect way more of ourselves than we do of others and than others do of us. Sometimes we don’t want to disappoint others around us. Whatever it is, we are scared of failing. This fear leads to procrastination, sometimes in the hope that the situation will disappear by itself, and sometimes it is so crippling that it leads to the cancellation of the whole job/project.

Fear of Success

Ironically enough, people fear success as much as they fear failure. Success means that people will be expecting this kind of performance more often and will judge you by this success. It means higher and higher expectations. Many people are scared of that, so they sabotage their success by procrastinating. Other times success puts you into a new environment (like a promotion), and now you are the underdog, the newcomer, you have to prove yourself once more.

The Mountain

The first moments of tackling what seems to be a big project or a huge task are very scary. The job looks like a mountain, impossible to pass. Sometimes just thinking about the amount of work that has to be done makes people dizzy! So again we procrastinate, because we don’t know what to do and we feel overwhelmed. We don’t realize that as long as we keep starting, as long as we keep taking small baby steps, things will eventually come to a finish, and once monumental tasks will seem like baby games.

More Info

I have experienced all the aforementioned reasons for procrastination. But on my quest to lead a more productive and stress-free life I wasn’t alone. The market is basically overflooding with self-help literature of self-proclaimed experts (who most of the time are not experts at all), so it is very hard to find books that actually have some essence. Fortunately, not all this self-help stuff is voodoo-boggus! Neil Fiore, Ph.D. has identified many hidden reasons why people procrastinate and gives valuable tips on how to avoid procrastination and overpower the urge, in his book The Now Habit. Contrary to most ot the literature out there, he does not give stupid and superficial tips (“Make a list and prioritize”…duh, I know that, if it worked I’d be doing it, right?), he goes to the root of the problem. Check it out, it’s well worth a read!

Dissecting the F-15

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Welcome everybody to our new series, “Dissecting the X”. In this series, we will take a closer look at different types of airplanes, be it military or civil. We will discuss the characteristics of this type of airplane, what makes it special and different in regards to aerodynamics, mission and equipment. I will try to be thorough but not lost in the detail, so you can get an overview of how each component plays its role as part of the airplane. At the end of each post I’d appreciate it if you could leave a little comment, telling me what you liked or didn’t like, and which airplane you’d like to see next time.

We’ll start this series with the F-15. The McDonell Douglas F-15 Eagle entered service in 1976 and has been in service since. It is expected to stay in service well beyond 2025. This has several reasons. First of all, the F-15 airframe is a true powerhouse. It has been very well designed and several service updates have kept it…well, up to date. It can stil compete with newer generation aircraft, like the Eurofighter (the Eurofighter has the advantage though, as it is a newer design). Another reason is the fact that due to current budget restraints the US government (the main operator of the F-15) cannot afford to field a large number of more modern aircraft (like the F-22) and therefore has to rely on the F-15.
The following video is a pretty impressive proof of the F-15’s capabilities.

Let me recap this: the F-115 in this video flew with only one wing! The other one was missing, it was torn off during a maneuver accident! Now, how could the F-15 do that? Let’s find out!

Fuslage – The F-15 has a very thin fuselage (compared to other aircraft) that also generates lift. See, a special form is not the only way of generating lift for a body. If you stick your hand out of the window of a car in motion and there is an angle between your hand and the wind, you will feel a lifting force on your hand. The same goes with all kinds of bodies. Even a flat board will generate lift if it has been angled relative to the wind. Now, why go through all the trouble of manufacturing and designing wings, if flat boards would do the job, too, you might ask. A relevant question. The reason for the use of special wing “forms” (called wing sections), is the fact that the bigger the angle gets, the harder it is for the air to follow the board. Eventually the flow seperates from the surface of the board, which leads to a dead area downstream of the seperation point and leads to lower lift, and higher drag (the force acting in the opposite direction of motion…which means drag is bad!).
The F-15 has a high wing configuration. One advantage is that a shorter landing gear can be used. But the flow over the wing can also negatively influence the vertical stabilizers, as there is not the fuselage inbetween to prevent this.

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Control Augmentation System (CAS) – When the F-15 was designed, fly-by-wire technology (that is, electronic controls) were not in use. In fact, the F-16 was the first aircraft that relied solely on fly-by-wire. So at first the F-15 had mechanical control systems. Later it was upgraded with a so called Control Augmentation System (CAS). The CAS is an electronic control system that translates and coordinates the inputs of the pilot to achieve superb performance. The mechanical systems were still kept in the F-15, so it could still be flown in case the system went inoperable. How could this have contributed to flying the F-15 with only one wing? Well, the CAS saw that something was wrong with the missing wing (it was missing) and translated all the control inputs of the pilot in such a way that the airplane could still be flown.

Wing Configuration – The F-15 has a swept back wing, that somehow resembles a delta wing. To enable to F-15 to fly several times the speed of sounds without producing exessive drag, the sweep angle of the leading edge is very important. Also notice the big wing area of the F-15. The lift a wing can create is directly related to its’ wing area, the bigger the area, the more lift can be generated at a given speed. A high wing area means the F-15 can fly at lower speeds and have a smaller turn radius when maneuvering, which is very important for fighter planes.

Empennage – The empennage of an airplane is the sum of its vertical and horizontal stabilizers. As a fighter airplane, the F-15’s empennage needs to be as light as possible, but still generate enough force to make the F-15 highly dangerous in aerial combat. A big problem especially fighter planes have is the integration of the empennage and the engines with the fuselage (the body of the airplane) in such a way that the different parts influence each other as minimal as possible. The F-15 is a good example of this integration.
It has two vertical stabilizers as a result of this integration. Two vertical stabilizers mean that the area of each one can be smaller than the area of a single vertical stabilizer. That also means that each one of those two stabilizers doesn’t have to endure as much force as a single one and can therefore be built lighter. Everything has its drawbacks though. Two stabilizers means more interference between the different parts of the empennage and higher drag! An important thing to understand in aerospace engineering is the fact that it basically is a big game of trade-offs. There is nothing one can get without having to give up something else!

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The F-15’s horizontal stabilizers are all-moving. This gives the pilot more control over the aircraft, but it also means heavier and more complicated controls. An interesting thing to remark about the F-15’s horizontal stabilizer is the distinct sawtooth on the leading edge. This sawtooth is supposed to generate extra lift via vortices. It is usually used when late in the design phase experiments and calculations show that the body is not generating enough force, but a total redesign would be too expensive. It is sort of a quick and dirty fix.

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Variable geometry intake – The F-15 is supposed to fly at a speed higher than twice the speed of sound, which makes every aspect of its design more complicated. Everything has to be custom tailored for these special situations. For that reason the air intakes for the two turbines have variable geometry, to adapt to the changing conditions of supersonic flight. (In the following picture you can see the intake of the F-14, but the F-15’s intakes look pretty similar.)

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The intakes are positioned on the shoulders of the airplane. This is kind of unfortunate, because positioning the intakes under the center of the airplane leads to a better airflow into the intake at all angles of attack, in contrast to the position chosen for the F-15. Wind tunnel experiments and CFD calculations have shown that the two intakes, if centered side by side under the center of the fuselage would influence each other in an unacceptable way.

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Mission – The F-15 is a tactical fighter and was mainly designed to gain and mantain air superiority. Air superiority basically means controlling ones own aerial territory and having a distincting advantage over the opposing air force. So the F-15 was basically designed for air-to-air combat (also called dogfight). How do all the different components fit into this? Well, the powerful engines allow a very high thrust-to-weight ratio, that allows the F-15 to have a very high acceleration. Combined with the variable geometry air intakes, this allows the F-15 to reach supersonic speed. The big wing area and low wing loading (the ratio of the wing area to the weight of the aircraft) give it superb maneuverability and a small turn radius, which allows the F-15 to easily turn into an enemy airplanes turn.

Little Copyright Info:
Some of the pictures were taken by members of the US Armed Forces while on duty, so they are in the public domain. One schematic was taken from wwwf-15e.info, they have all the rights to that schematic. All other schematics were taken from Klaus Hünecke’s book “Modern Combat Aircraft Design”. I do not own those copyrights!

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