Author: Bob Derham

Assessment by machine

We have ways of making you listen!

It is quite normal now to have diagnosis in hospital, by machine, the same as we have come to accept for cars and aircraft, but how about English Language Proficiency testing?

In aviation, the international language is English, and in 1997 the International Civil Aviation Organization recognised the need to establish a level of English Proficiency as it had been established that there had been numerous accidents and incidents as a result of a poor level of understanding between Pilots and Air Traffic controllers.

As of March 2008, a system of testing was introduced covering Comprehension, Pronunciation, Fluency, Structure, Vocabulary, and Interaction, with a rating of 1-6 where Level 4 is considered Operational. If of Level 5 you gain an extended period of 6 years between testing; and at Level 6 you are considered an expert, and the validity period is indefinite.

The method of testing is by an on-line computer voice activated exercise. You have a headset, and computer screen, and a keyboard, and a series of activities lasting around 30 minutes, and at the end you are marked by the machine and given your result.

The program is of American origin, my invigilator was from the Philippines, and the person in charge of the testing was German. Continue reading “Assessment by machine”

Reversing the trend

The amazing benefits of exercise

As a child I was given quite a reasonable amount of freedom, and so a bicycle was my mode of transport, I was quite fit, was good at running, and in both cases did well in competition. In fact my memory of man’s first landing on the moon in 1969, was as a result of a 100 mile cycle ride that day when I got sunburnt down one side!

Then came the middle years … Motorbikes, cars, some running now and then, but only modest use of the bike, perhaps more recently of late, so that I can go out with the children, and a regular daily walk with the dogs. Continue reading “Reversing the trend”

A Life Span

In the end, it really is a finite number of days!

Ever since I can remember, the biblical life span has always been three score years plus ten, and 70 sounds quite old to me !

Sometimes if people attempt to guess my age, older folks might be generous and say something kind with a built in feel good factor, children on the other hand will come up with huge numbers, which might be not so much of a joke !

In reality the above is just a simple sum of 365 x 70 = 25,550 plus some 15 to 19 days to cover leap years, lets say 25,570 days in all.

For me it is currently 365 x 12 plus the few days to my birthday, plus 3 leap year days, which if all goes well is 4,425 days left. This I have found to be somewhat sobering, but it has also helped me to become focused, something which until recently has never been the case. [Not as sobering as the 1,730 left for the editor!]

I try and make use of each day, being more careful to enjoy the time, exercise, keep up to date with tasks, and make headway with things that count. My priorities have changed, and now spending time with the family, and not wasting

No, not the author!

time with trivia has become my motivation.

This is not doom and gloom, it is reality, but it also helps me stick to the important things, rather than being side-tracked on something which is a waste of time.

The count down is on, and I am reminded of a little saying which used to be on the mantle piece of my Grand Parents home, which read.

Be Swift To Love.
Make Haste To Be Kind

By Bob Derham

Humour is alive and well!

The Toyota Prius recall gets a few laughs.

2010 model Prius

Most of the readers of Learning from Dogs will be aware of the global embarrassment that Toyota is facing as a result of the recall of the Toyota Prius model.  As described partly on the UK website of Toyota:

Toyota have announced a recall on the latest, third-generation Prius built before 27 January 2010. This will involve 8,500 cars in the UK.

To date, there have been no accidents linked to this issue reported in Europe. No other Toyota or Lexus models are affected by this latest recall action in Europe.

Toyota GB would like to apologise to its customers for any concern this issue has caused.

The recall is being taken in response to reports of inconsistent brake feel during slow and steady braking on bumpy or slick road surfaces when the anti-lock braking system (ABS) is actuated.

Well a few days ago, a friend of mine sent me a text message on my cell phone.  It read, “Just driving my new Toyota Prius. Chat later, Can’t stop.

And I see the Jeremy Clarkson/James May team from BBC’s Top Gear programme are also having a little poke at Toyota.  James May was reported to have said:

‘You have to laugh a bit don’t you,’

‘Maybe if you’re going to try to save the world through your car you have to accept that some sacrifices have to be made and one of them is stopping.’

James May

Brief encounter

A gift from one stranger to another

I was waiting for a flight to London one day in January, a spare seat opposite me at the table in the lounge.

A middle-aged German woman asked to sit down. She was she stopping briefly in Dubai on her way back from Australia and it seemed from the conversation that her month long trip had been some sort of possible life changing experience. By her simple back pack and even her shoes I could tell she was an individual with character.

In the minutes that passed by she talked about Tasmania and how different life was there from the one she knew at home.  I don’t recall exactly what I said to share the pleasure of her trip but did agree that it was possible to make major changes in one’s life; it obviously struck a chord.

Not so long after this brief meeting, I received an email.  She had made those big changes and she sent me a picture that she took in Tasmania as a thank you.

A Tasmanian bird greeting the morning sun

You never know how sometimes people just need someone who can see that their dreams are possible!

By Bob Derham

What a con!

How do young drivers afford the insurance?

My daughter turned 17 years of age on 4th February, and has been excited about the possibility of being able to drive for some time, apart from a period of concern when the British Government hinted at raising the driving age to 18. Fortunately that passed.

I likewise always wanted to drive and at age 17 moved from two wheels to four and in 10 days had passed my test. The car insurance giving nearly minimum cover was £26 a year, my first car having a 2.6 litre engine. The next was a Jaguar 2.4, and the third, another Jag, this time a 3.8 XK 150S, for which I probably had to pay an extra £10 a year, all while I was 17. (1969 ) Continue reading “What a con!”

Irish humour

The Irish always see the world a little different to the rest of us!

During a recent PASSWORD AUDIT at the Bank of Ireland it was found that Paddy O’Toole was using the following password:


The Bank’s Customer Relationship Manager contacted Paddy and queried why he was using such a long password.

Paddy replied:

Bejazus! are yez feckin’ stupid? Shore oi was told me password had to be at least eight characters long and include one capital.

Sort of makes sense when you think about it!

By Bob Derham

The Old Jacket

The ways we remember those close to us that have died.

I saw our neighbour at school today, and was surprised the she was wearing an old faded jacket which was torn at the back, and the feathers from the lining were coming out.

One of the other Mums was also a little surprised perhaps because the lady is the wife of a Barrister.

Yes she said “It used to belong to my cousin that died. Every time a feather falls out I think of him!

I thought that was lovely, but we all laughed when the other parent quickly retorted.

You must think of him a lot” – as another feather fell out.

By Bob Derham

Time for a Review

What’s more common in business could/ought to apply to us.

I was very pleased to call by and have a chat with a very good friend and his wife recently because they are facing financial difficulties.

Slightly unusual in that he is a qualified Doctor and has a share in the practice and his wife is a music teacher. Why should they have problems?

They bought their house three years ago and, like so many others, took out a large mortgage.  Probably not the best deal available at the time but it allowed them to secure the house they wanted. Since they purchased the property, house prices have fallen so they have fallen straight into negative equity!

The house needed some work and they also carried out a loft conversion. To make this possible they arranged another loan, not at a very good rate, but at least they are working on the property, and the bits they have done look great.

Working hours and the need to keep up to date with patient notes and write appraisals means that there is almost no time for relaxation; to fall into bed at night is a welcome relief! But what of the financial situation?

To keep the show on the road there has been no time to review the arrangement of ‘bricks’ on which the financial blocks are built.  Now they facing a large tax bill, so another large loan is being proposed, just to keep the tax man quiet and keep the show on the road.

How many of us find ourselves in a similar situation? Yet industry has a business practice that can help us. Analyse, diagnose, correct – sort of based on the mantra that ‘You can’t manage what you can’t measure‘.

  • Review our situation and diagnose the problems.
  • Look at our options.
  • Decide what to do.
  • Action our decision
  • And lastly REVIEW progress.

How often are we likely to review our situation like this at home or even make basic changes.  Well perhaps we need to review more often than we think. Make it a regular weekly practice.

Look at being tax efficient, and in the case I am describing this was the major problem, so the cycle of worry is now being broken, and a new firm financial arrangement of blocks being put in place rather than the little boxes, which were piled high, and about to fall down.

Yes it takes time. No we don’t want to face it, but hey its like banging your head against a wall.

It is great when it stops.

Try it!

Bob Derham

“He Hamster”

For anyone lucky enough to be around in the 1970s, the British comedy program Fawlty Towers was a must to watch, and still today has a cult following.

In the last episode Manuel the waiter has a Siberian Hamster called Basil, which just happens to be the name of the hotel owner, who is convinced that the creature is a rat, and all this when the health inspector is due to arrive.

Fawlty Towers - Manuel on the right!

With this idea and memory firmly in my mind I would never have looked at getting a Hamster, but for some reason our middle daughter Stephanie wanted one, and kept up constant daily pressure to get one.

I knew something was happening, because there were phone and internet messages about cages, and finally Poppy arrived.

We now have the cage which because it is made of clear plastic means you can see the little creature all the time, and watch her activities. The children have learnt the meaning of being responsible; fresh water, buying food, and making sure the bowl is topped up have become part of the daily routine. Keeping the cage clean and making a warm comfortable nest are big things in a young persons life !

This is a very up-market cage, even the toilet area is a Harrods tea caddy laid on it’s side.

Poppy has become part of our lives, a lovely little animal, who we take with us in a special box sometimes when we go out. Stephanie picks her up first thing in the morning, and keeps her in the pocket of her dressing gown. We have a special exercise wheel which is set up in the lounge of an evening. The dogs lay and watch this spectacle but don’t touch!

We have had bits of fun, especially when Stephanie put Poppy in her dolls house while she was cleaning the cage, and Poppy got stuck up the chimney. Paul, her brother, has left the lid off the cage a couple of times, and learnt from Stephanie about the need to pay more attention to his role in all this. Poor chap !

The love and care for a little creature is very special, and the having Poppy is proving a great learning tool for the children, and even I have weakened and enjoy her being with us.

Funny what can happen in family life!

By Bob Derham