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Lake Bafa

Mass tourism might work for some. But it’s not really my cup of tea. I don’t like to visit crowded, overrated and overpriced places, full with tourists, their cameras and their…peculiar behaviour. To really discover a country, one must go off the commonly known roads. Visit the land and the people.

And off the road we went! During our tour of the Turkish west coast we discovered hidden gem after hidden gem. One of these gems was Lake Bafa.

Lake Bafa is on the eastern coast of Turkey, about 2 hours from Izmir, and 1 hour from Aydin. Hidden between mountains, forrests, and little Turkish villages, it is still untouched by industrialization and tourism. The road leading up to the lake is easy to find, but the closer one gets, the more off road one has to go. We actually missed the direct road to the lake and went to a closeby village and a road hugging a mountain and overlooking the lake. The sign leading to the lake looked like out of an old western movie, so of course we missed it and went the other way around the lake.

Tugged between mountains, surrounded by forrests, many little Turkish villages are around Lake Bafa. Unfortunately nobody on the Turkish countryside speaks English, but if you know even a few words of Turkish, those villagers will love you. If you have the opportunity to make friends with them, do it, because those will be some of the nicest and most gentle people you have ever met!

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When we finally got to the lake, we were welcome by Turkish fisherboats. For some of the people living in the area fishing is the only way with which they can support their families. The landscape, the heat and the boats reminded me of an Indiana Jones movie so bad!

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Lake Bafa is a huge lake and national conservation site, with thousands of rare species forming a unique eco system. Surprisingly, it has not been discovered by many tourists. On the main (asphalted) road around the lake are several little restaurants and villages. All villages have little cafes with awesome local food for very economic prices.

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We drove up a road hugging a nearby mountain, it was kind of bumpy but nothing our little jeep couldn’t handle. To our left and right the mountain got really steep as we were climbing up the road, revealing a marvelous view onto the lake.

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The trouble was worth it. We were seeing stone formations to our left and our right, and in front of us was great Lake Bafa. This is how pioneers and adventurers must have felt!

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On our way back we were surprised by a heard of mountain cows! At first there were just a few. As you can see, they are rather skinny. No wonder looking at the “lush” veggetation all around.

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But they got more and more! For a second or two we were scared the cows wanted to eat us and overtake the world…but we realized that only happens in bad horror movies or equally bad parodies.

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After this unplanned hike into the woods, we also got a look at Lake Bafa from a more…fortified position.

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After enjoying a few teas and a great meal at one of the villages around Lake Bafa, we called  it a day and headed home.

When you are new to programming and want to start learning, it is very hard to find a good introductory book. Most books are either too simple, just teaching a few routines, and not the underlying way of how to think as a programmer. Others are way too complicated and abstract, bombarding the reader with hard-to-grasp concepts. Common Lisp: A Gentle Introduction to Symbolic Programming by David S. Touretzky is a nice little exception to that rule. Mr. Touretzky is a researcher at Carnegie Mellon University and a champion of free speech, and it is reflected in his book: even though it was published in the 90s it is available for free and legally on the internet.

Lisp is an old programming language, that has some unique characteristics and will be very different at first look. It has a unique style, that will make you fall in love with it. You can read more about Lisp

Common Lisp begins with a gentle introduction into programming in general and Lisp in particular. The difference between functions and data, number types and some basic programming concepts are explained. He then moves on to explain lists, the basic building blocks of Lisp. The relationship between lists and  elements of lists is explained in a very clear and concise manner. Some basic list operations are introduced. After explaining the eval notation, a special type of notation to describe Lisp functions, Touretzky then moves on to explain conditionals, like the if- and when- functions. Before you know it, you can do some pretty crazy things with Lisp, and this is just the beginning! Chapter 5 is all about variables, their scopes and their effects.

All in all, there are 14 chapters, totaling more than 500 pages. Every chapter is divided into an introductory section, which explains new functions and gives examples, exercises which really enforce what has just been learnt, and an advanced topics section. Solutions for the exercises are not given, which some might see as a drawback, but I think it is really well thought out like that! Because when you are working on real world problems you don’t have the solutions at the end of the book. You have to find your own ways to make things work, and this book does a great job in forcing you to think hard!

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Even though Turkey is a beautiful country with a great landscape, a rich culture and probably the best hosts in the world, it gets overlooked a lot of times. Most of the time it is identified with off the shelf, boring tour travel.
But it can be more than that! Discover how you can get the best out of your trip

1) Be careful with your flight
Good care must be taken for the planing of the flight. Depending on from where you want to fly in, tickets can be very cheap. Berlin has a huge Turkish community (the biggest in the world, to be precise) so there are several flights to and from Turkey every day, and they are rather cheap. Other major German cities are not as blessed, but compared to other countries you can still get a good deal. The picture is, of course, different in other countries. For example, going to or coming from France is substantially more expensive.

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At the end it really depends on how thorough you search and a little bit of luck. Use all the major search engines to find the best flight for yourself.
A word of caution: try flying with Turkish Airways if you can. They have the best service, airplanes in good shape and great pilots, a lot of them former air force officers. They are a little more expensive, but they are a star alliance member, so you can earn points if you have a frequent flyer card.

2) Plan your transportation
If you are from Europe or America, Turkey is a really cheap country. It has a good transportation system between cities that is also very cheap, but there is one problem. Information is a scarce resource in Turkey. In cities it is really hard to find out which bus goes where! There are no printed plans on bus stations and the guys sitting in the tourist office have no idea. The best way is to ask around. And who needs buses anyway? It is was cooler to walk around, you get to see a lot more! When I was in Istanbul the last time I was constantly walking, discovering new sights and just enjoying the city.
If you want to stay in the city where your plane lands, try to find out how to get to your place from the main bus station of the city. At the airport there are always little buses (called Havas) that go to the main bus station and sometimes they even stop at the major places of the city. No need for a taxi! If you are staying out of town there are buses to all major cities and if you don’t arrive at an odd time, like 3 in the morning, you will find a bus. Try getting on one of Metro’s buses, their service is the best and their buses are the most comfortable.
To go to small towns and little villages in the area you can hop on one of Turkey’s famous Dolmus. Dolmus means” full” in Turkish, which is a very fitting name because the driver takes as many people as he can. These Dolmus are small buses that offer very cheap fares between cities. You can get on and off wherever you want. Don’t be scared, they might look old and worn and a little bit unsafe, but accidents involving Dolmus are very rare.

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3) Ask questions
You will find out that Turkey has some of the nicest people around. They love foreigners that come to discover their country, and they will love to help you and give you directions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! The older generations don’t know any English though, so if you are not willing to learn a few words and phrases you will have a hard time communicating. If you ask locals what sights are around that are worth visiting, you will get to know a ton of locations that are not crowded by tourists. When we went to rent a car we asked about cool places in the area and ended up visiting two ancient Greek settlings (Priene and Millet) that were devoid of tourists (compare this to Ephesus where you can’t walk without stepping on a tourist) and an awesome Natural Park (Lake Bafa) with literally no person around! Don’t be afraid, ask questions!

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4) Be careful with alcohol
This is an important one. Every year many tourists get alcohol poisoning and every few years people die because of this! Do NOT, I repeat, NOT drink alcohol of whichs origin you are not sure! The tax for alcohol is very high in Turkey, so there is a high demand for illegally produced (and therefore cheaper) liquor. Sometimes restaurants and tour operators are so greedy they take the risk.
Whenever you buy alcohol, check if the bottle has not been opened and there is a security holograph. Avoid drinking alcohol when you go on boat tours and in restaurants. Play safe.

5) Don’t get ripped off
Like in every touristic and poor country (compared to central Europe), people will try to rip you off. Turkey has some of the nicest, and some of the worst people. Always be cautious and use common sense. Don’t get in cars of people you don’t know, if you are a woman try not to go in bars or cars where there are only men.
If you want to buy something anywhere except a supermarket, don’t pay the price they tell you. Vendors always have a trade margin, and since they see you are foreign they will double (and sometimes even triple!) the price. So you wanna buy something? Good, find out how much it really costs, do some research and try to talk the guy down! Your first offer should always be half or third of the first offer of the vendor. Be hard, and be ready to walk away! You will find it somewhere else, and you can use your first encouter as a leverage to get a better price.

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6) Watch your stuff

Touristic places everywhere around the world are unfortunately filled with scum…people who will try to still your stuff. Carry your important belongings on your body, always have an eye on your backpack and luggage and treat other people with a grain of common sense and suspicion.

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Now, negative G’s are o fun. If you pull too many negative G’s, you might red out because all the blood in your body shoots into your brain and eyes, which could cause blood vessels in your head and eyes to explode.

But sometimes they can be funny, too. Check out the video below.

Negative G’s

Computers are taking over the world. What was once a nice to have has become crucial. The good aerospace engineer should know at least a little bit of programming in order to be able to write programs for automation, for control and to understand how computers work and interact, so he can design his airplanes in a way that makes it more suitable for computerized or remote control.

Programming

The Python Tutorial – Python is a nice little programming language and one of the best languages to get started in programming. The great thing about Python is the fact that it is easy and powerful. It is an object-oriented programming language, but fairly high level, which means the programmer doesn’t have to worry about every tidbid in order to get working code. Great for beginners! The Python Tutorial is a pretty good introduction to programming with Python for the beginner.

Google’s Python Class – Google has a lean and mean introduction to Python. It is more of a weekend Python crash course. The cool thing about this class is the fact that there is text, exercises and video lectures! One should have a little experience with another programming language though.

Rapid GUI Programming with Python and Qt (Summerfield) – After learning the basics of Python programming, it’s time to get serious. Nobody wants to program command-line programs all their life, most people want a nice and crisp user interface every now and then. There are several ways to do that, one of them is with PyQt. Qt is a cross-platform toolkit for user interface design, and a very powerful one. Summerfield does a great job of teaching how to use PyQt.

Beginning C (Horton) – C is a good language to use if time-critical execution is important. An experienced programmer can write highly efficient code with C. It is also very low level and therefore used  to program microcontrollers and has all kinds of applications in engineering. Plus it is a nice basis for C++. In his book Horton takes you from beginner to intermediate user, and that in a very easy going and comfortable way.

Common Lisp: A Gentle Introduction to Symbolic Programming (Touretzky) – I love Lisp, it’s so different than any other programming language! It is what you can call an old language and has been around for a long time. The structure is very different from other programming languages and will be confusing at first. But once you get used to it, you will love it! Touretzky’s book is an eye opener. Programming concepts are introduced and explained in a clear and concise manner. It really is the total beginners guide to learning Lisp and programming and as an added bonus is freely and legally available on the internet.

The last post was about general engineering books. They are important, but aerospace engineers need specialized knowledge about fluid dynamics, thermodynamics, and airplanes (duh). Let’s check out some of the cooler books for aerospace engineering students.

Aerospace Engineering

Introduction to Flight (Anderson) – This is THE introduction to aerospace engineering. Anderson covers all necessary basics to understand airplanes and flight. He starts by explaining basic fluid dynamics and thermodynamics. But he doesn’t stick with just the basics. Chapters about flight mechanics, performance and stability, propulsion and aircraft structures make up the bulk of the book. Another chapter about Astronautics completes the coherent presentation. If you are unsure which book to get, get this one! Actually, you should get this book as soon as you have decided on studying aerospace engineering, as it is the most essential introduction to the field!

Modern Combat Aircraft Design (Huenecke) – Modern Combat Aircraft Design is almost as well suited as an introduction as Introduction to Flight. Whereas Anderson’s book takes a more scientific approach, Huenecke’s book is more about the practical aspects of aircraft design in general and combat aircraft design in particular. You might have asked yourself “Why does the F-16/-15/-14… look the way it does?” Well, after reading this book you will understand. You will be able to look at any airplane and identify it’s unique characteristics and the reason why it looks the way it looks. I knew a little bit about airplanes, engineering and flight (just a little bit) and I read this book before I read Introduction to Flight. It was an eye opener for me and helped me understand the different aspects of an airplane a lot better.

Aerodynamics (Anderson) – This is another one of Anderson’s many masterpieces. Rather advanced topics of aerodynamics are discussed. Anderson lays out the scientific basics of aerospace engineering. It is another must read if one wants a good grounding in Aerodynamics, and who wouldn’t want that? At first, basic concepts of fluid dynamics are explained. Then Anderson proceeds with incompressible flow. He explains the basics of potential theory and modern methods of aerodynamic analysis. The book finishes with explaining the basic concepts of compressible flow, as they appear in flight faster than Mach 0.3 . Again, this is a must read for any aerospace major, as it is a very gently introduction into the rather complicated field of aerodynamics!

Aircraft Design: A Conceptual Approach (Raymer) – This book is the bible of aircraft design. Raymer takes a practical approach and explains how every little part of an airplane is designed in the conceptual design phase. The first part of Aircraft Design is about getting the plane on the paper and the conceptual workflow. The second part is about analyzing designs. Suited for both the student and the practicing engineer, Aircraft Design does a very well job introducing basic and more advanced topics of aircraft design.

Theory of Wing Sections (Abbott, von Doenhoff) – Wings generate the necessary force to lift an airplane off the ground. They do this by changing the flow field around an airplane. They key parameter for creating a flow suitable for flight is the profile, or section, of the airplane. For this reason the NACA (National Advisory Comittee on Aeronautics, later to become NASA) conducted a lot of research into this particular area. The results of that research are compiled in this book. Theory of Wing Sections has the necessary data for the design of wings in a thorough and handy form.

Stay tuned for the next part in The Aerospace Engineer’s Library, where we will discover a few books for the digital world of the aerospace engineer!

As a first year aerospace (or mechanical) engineering student it is really hard to find out which books are really worth the money and which are not. Being almost done with my bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering, I have gone through a lot of books, some rather disappointing, others eye opening. I found out that it is hard to find god reviews and recommendations for books that could help one along the journey. Textbooks unfortunately are shamelessly overprized, reviews usually go to both extremes (ranging from “Oh my God this is the bible!!!” to “Worst book ever printed in human history”, I read it all). Most students have had bad experiences with textbooks early on, since scientists sometimes tend to boast and cherish a complex and hard to understand style of writing. Money beeing scarce, students oftentimes don’t want to take the risk. So here is my very special selection of books that will help anybody who is, or wants to, study aerospace (or mechanical) engineering. Beware, as some of the books I recommend will be in German.

In this first instalment of The Aerospace Engineer’s Library we will discuss books for mechanical engineering (of which aerospace engineering is a sub-field) in general.

General Mechanical Engineering

Technische Mechanik (Heinz Ulbrich) – Every mechanical engineer (and related) needs a thorough grounding in engineering mechanics. Paradoxically, this is one of the courses that students are most afraid of! The reason for this paradox is fairly easy; most mechanics professors (especially in Germany) suck at teaching and are proud if more than 40% of the students fail their class. How crazy is that! Heinz Ulbrich did a pretty good job with his book. There are no explanations, as this is left to other books, but instead worked problems. There are plenty of solved problems for all important fields of mechanics (statics, dynamics and mechanics of materials). This book is a real gem, because the solutions are very thorough. One can basically reach a working knowledge of engineering mechanics by knowing the basics and working through this little book.

Control Systems Engineering (Norman S. Nise) – Wow, this one is a real beauty. Partly in color, very complete. In this book one can find everything that is needed as an undergraduate mechanical engineer and more (I’d even theorize that it’s all you need to have as a graduate and doctoral student, depending on where you want to go)! The writing style is great, concepts and theories are very well explained and the text is enhanced with many diagrams, pictures, real world examples and sample problems. Problems can be found at the end of each chapter and solutions at the end of the book.

Maschinenelemente (Roloff/Matek) – Knowledge is nice to have. But if that knowledge cannot be transformed into practical value, it is worthless. This book helps to transform the theoretical knowledge one has learned in college into real-world problem solving. See, the theory you learn in college will not help you at all in dealing with the real world problems of a mechanical engineer. You need to know how things are done in the real world, and this book will show you. The Roloff/Matek, as it is affectionately called, is a textbook that shows how classic mechanical engineering tasks are solved. Almost everything you need to know is in here, from the design of specific mashines to the preliminary calculations. Emphasis is on how things are done, not so much the theory.

CATIA V5, Grundkurs für Maschinenbauer (Ronald List) – Back in the day mechanical engineers had to do everything by hand. There was no cool computer program that could help them. Now things have changed (though it is still not certain if the computerization of engineering has made the task easier or harder). CATIA is one of these programs, helping to shape an engineers ideas in a 3D instead of a 2D environment (pen&paper). Unfortunately somebody has done a very bad job writing a documentation and tutorial for CATIA. This book fills the niche. It is a coherent collection of more or less step by step tutorials that give you hands on practice. This makes it fantastic for learning the basics of CATIA. Of course there will be much more to learn but this book will teach you more than your college classes!

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series, where we will discover a few books specifically for aerospace engineering.