Wednesday, 8 April 2009


I am going to the Nürburgring in Germany! The local group of Advanced Motorcyclists is organizing the trip in October, and there will be about 110 of us. We have hired the track for a whole day, so it will be members only, and motorcycles only, rather than the usual mayhem where anyone who turns up can drive anything they want around the course. Apparently, the usual thing is to have bikes, cars, vans, all sorts, racing around together and getting in each others' way. So this will be nice way to get introduced to perhaps the world's most dangerous and difficult race track. Never having been near a race track before, I think I'll have to do some preparation!

Political leaders from construction professions

In the Co-operative Network for Building Researchers, an international e-mail list of people in the same field as me, a question was raised by Leonhard Bernold: "...our profession lacks direct connections into the political sphere, despite our crucial roles everywhere you look. How many politicians are there in the country you live with an engineering education?"

That got me thinking, and I started to make a list, to which others then added, so (probably a pointless exercise) this is a place where I can maintain and edit a list of construction professionals who achieved political influence:

  • Boris Yeltsin, became president of Russia

  • Osama bin Laden is sometimes said to be have qualified as a civil engineer, but it is not too clear

  • Yasser Arafat (1929-2004), Palestinian Leader

  • Heberto Castillo Martinez, 68, Leftist Political Leader in Mexico

  • Ismail Abu Shanab: prominent leader, co-founder of Hamas

  • Hundreds of engineers and architects are challenging the official 9/11 Commission Report

  • Herbert Macaulay (1864-1945) was a Nigerian political leader. One of the first leaders of the Nigerian opposition to British colonial rule, he was also a civil engineer, journalist, and accomplished musician.

  • Mohamed Ahmad Mahgoub, Sudanese political leader, very interesting life. A poet, a lawyer, and a very active politician at the centre of the Suez crisis in 1956.

  • Robert Stephenson (1803-1859) Conservative Member of Parliament for Whitby 1847-59

  • Lee Myung-bak (b1941) President of South Korea since 2008. Although he ran Hyundai Construction, his University education was Business Administration, so maybe this does not count.

  • Ernest Marples, UK Minister of Transport

  • Sir Keith Joseph, Director of Bovis, UK Member of Parliament 1956-87, Secretary of State for Social Services 1970-4, Secretary of State for Industry 1979-81, Secretary of State for Education and Science 1981-6.

  • Paul Channon, UK Member of Parliament 1959-97,Minister for the Arts 1981-3, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry 1986–7, Secretary of State for Transport 1987–9.

  • Nick Ridley (1929-93), UK Member of Parliament 1959-92, Financial Secretary to the Treasury 1981–3, Secretary of State for Transport 1983–6, Secretary of State for the Environment 1986–9, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry 1989–90.

  • John Gilbert (b1927), UK Member of Parliament 1970-97, Financial Secretary to the Treasury 1974-5, Minister for Transport 1975-6, Minister of State for Defence 1976-9

  • Nasir El Rufai (b.1960) Director General of The Bureau of Public Enterprises, and former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja from 16 July 2003 to 29 May 2007. Member of the ruling People's Democratic Party.

  • President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of Iran - A civil engineer with a PhD in civil engineering and traffic transportation planning. Also a lecturer and member of faculty at Iran University of Science and Technology.

We could go on and on with this, but I think the point is made that there are senior politicians all over the place who are engineers! What I don't understand is why people jump to conclusions like this without attempting to find out the truth of the matter first.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009


In trying to work together with Sam Laryea today, I wanted to work on a spreadsheet together with him, because he had listed items from several documents alongside each other, and I wanted to show him how I intended to line things up so that we could use this as a basis for a paper we are working on. Normally, we would just sit together at the computer, but today we were in different locations. After a bit of browsing around the internet, I found this free software solution called Crossloop, which has to be installed on both machines. Then one person can invite the other to view their computer. Sam invited me in and straight away I could open Excel (on his machine and open the document he'd saved (because it was listed in recent documents). I could then move things around while talking with him through Skype, and we got to where we needed to be.

Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal explains it all very clearly from here.

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Reading, Berkshire, United Kingdom

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