Sunday, February 24, 2013

International Adventures: Back in the Saddle, Again.

I'm not a big one for titles. Currently, my title is learning management system specialist. When people ask me what I do, I usually answer, "I'm a teacher."

I graduated from UConn in June 1974 and because I didn't have a full time position (not for lack of trying, I applied to 40 school systems and got only 2 interviews) I moved back home. I substitute taught during the day at middle schools and high schools in Meriden and Middletown and then drove a cab at night. I met my wife-to-be in Cab #15 while I was driving for Meriden Yellow Cab, but that's a story for another day.

During that year I was offered a position at Star of the Sea School in Astoria, Oregon. For 12 of the next 13 years I taught school there, only taking one year off to get a Masters in Elementary Education at UConn during the 1978-79 school year. (That was a busy year and a half. Diane and I got married in Astoria on May 3, 1978, we moved back to Connecticut and began our first year of marriage. I completed a 45-credit Masters between Sept 78 and August 79, I was working 40 hours a week at a small high-speed metal stamping shop and Francis was born July 9, 1979.)

After moving back to Astoria in 1979, I taught at Star of the Sea unitl June 1988. It was shortly after that that I moved into the technical world, working for hardware and software companies for the next 23 years. All of the work, except for a few stints, revolved around training; materials development, delivery of trainng, running a training department, assessment test and certification test development mostly.

For the past 5 or 6 years I've been riding a desk doing assessment test and certification test development.

During the last couple of weeks, though, I got back into the classroom. As the learning management system specialist, it is my job to help the academic faculty at American University of Madaba learn to make good use of our LMS, Moodle. The first thing I did when getting here in October was to teach myself to use Moodle by building an eLearning course. I called the course Building an eLearning Course. As my delightful daughters said, "Oh Dad, how meta."

Once I finished designing and building that course, I was encouraged to make an instructor-led version of it. I did that just before I left for the Christmas/New Years break. When I got back in early January I began preparing all of the handouts and built myself a detailed script of how the class would go. I was ready.

As so often seems to be the case here in the Middle East, there was then a period of waiting were nothing appeared to be happening. Actually, a bunch of stuff was happening in the background. I was invited to a meeting of the full academic faculty on Monday, February 4 where my course was introduced and the assembled professors were informed that they would all be taking that course. Then Dr. Munir turned to me and said, " Can you start tomorrow and do the class in 4 sessions?" Well, I'm glad I had prepared everything including my scripting. In working out the details of class groupings, getting a room, etc, we decided to start on Wednesday, February 6.

We decided to do the class in 6 sessions for a number of practical reasons. We knew we had to have 3 groups of faculty; there are 59 and I didn't want more than 20 in a group. The class totalled 11 hours; so making it less than 6 sessions would mean long class periods for them and a brutally long day for me. I don't care how smart those guys are (and they are), no-one likes classes of 3 hours, at least not here.We finally settled on three sections of the same class each day; 9 - 11; 12 - 2, and  3 - 5 with a one hour break between each class. Six classes in a row; Wednesday and Thursday, Feb 6 & 7 and then Monday through Thursday Feb 10 - 14. I was up for it and I was pumped.

By the end of the first day of class I was as high as a kite. The interactions in the class had been fabulous and I had been reminded of just how much I loved the non-stop interaction of teaching an engaged group of students. When I came back for the second day, I was just as ready to go. By the end of the day, however, my body was telling me that it had been a looong time since I had spent 2 consecutive days on my feet and moving (I rarely stand still in a classroom; I'm always moving around, both to give the students a different place to focus and so that I can be closer to any conversations that are a part of the class). My feet and lower legs protested mightily and I spent the evening with my feet up.My dogs were howlin' and just wanted a rest. I would have until Monday to recover, so that was good.

The next four days of the class went very well, passing in a blur of activity. Little by little I was getting to know the faculty members as people; fascinating people with plenty of life experience in a wide variety of settings. That, for me, has been one of the unexpected bonuses of the class. Before this, when I would walk around campus I'd see lots of people. Now I see lots of people that I know by name and have begun forming what I hope will be long-lasting relationships with.

One tangible result of the class is this: in Moodle there is a panel on the side of the screen that shows who has been on line using the system in the last 10 minutes. Before the class, the only ones I'd ever see there were myself, Hatem and Rania (LMS admin and Help Desk, respectively). When I go on now, it is rare if I don't see a couple of faculty members on the system. Yay, it worked, at least for the start. There's lots more to do to get them using it effectively in their courses, but we have begun and that is good. Next up on the LMS front is to start a user's group so faculty can get together, share war stories, talk about what's working and what's not. A support group of sorts.

A day or two after the class ended, I was asked to teach an English conversation and writing class for the administrative staff at AUM. Talk about a return to my roots! When I graduated UConn in 1974 it was with a B.S in Secondary Education - English. I was certified to teach middle and high school English in Connecticut. That class will begin the week of March 11, so I've got to get busy getting it designed and planned out. This will give me an up close and personal experience with a large cross section of the administrative staff. As at any institution, the admin folks are the ones who get a large measure of the work done (and can grant or deny access to their bosses), so it will be good to build solid relationships with them. That class is scheduled to last the rest of the Spring semester, so I'm going to be teaching until June.

Back in the saddle, again.

International Adventures: Coming Attractions

Ladies and gentlemen, madames et meseiurs, boys and girls! Diane is coming to visit me on Friday, March 1. On March 2, we pick up two friends at their hotel in Amman and then will head south to Petra!!!! I am so excited I can hardly stand it.

I'm glad that Diane will get a chance to see the world I live in. I'm also totally pumped about going to Petra. We're going to spend Saturday and Sunday night there and then I'll take the other three travelers to the Allenby Bridge border crossing . They'll head back into Israel and I'll return to Madaba and work.

I will definitely take my camera and post as many good shots as I get.

Friday, February 8, 2013

International Adventures: The Royal Automobile Museum in Amman, Jordan

On Sunday, February 3, I drove from Madaba to Amman to visit the Royal Automobile Museum. Driving from here to there is about the same distance I cover when driving from our house in Lake Forest Park to Tom's house in Burien, so it may seem far, but really isn't. It takes 30-40 minutes depending on traffic.

The museum houses the car collection of the late King Hussein (yesterday was the 14th anniversary of his death) and was built by his son, King Abdullah II as a memorial to his father's life with vehicles. King Hussein was a car guy in the Jay Leno tradition. He amassed a truly massive and eclectic collection of cars, motorcycles, bikes and memorabilia over a lifetime. He was a racer when time permitted, though, being king, that was tempered somewhat by his responsibilities.

 I think you could break his collection into two basic groups. Cars that got used in his position as head of state and cars that he enjoyed personally. To say that he enjoyed cars personally is quite an understatement.

.He had quite a collection of Roll Royces and Bentleys. They were among those used on state occasions., though one is a fairly old one that was rebodied in armor (!) and had a gun mounted on the top. That one was used during the Arab Revolt. Here's a selection of them:

 I love the details of this particular Rolls. I like the way they used those two strips of brightwork (probably stainless steel) to accentuate the step from the body to the fender and the way that step is echoed between the body and the trunk.

 This cream and grey Roll has a particularly attractive color scheme in my eye.

Look at how deep the wool carpeting is in the passenger compartment of this Rolls. It must be 2 -3" thick.

Among his cars of state was a group that I'd classify broadly as 'sleds'; big, mostly American iron. Take a look and you'll see what I mean.
 A 1958 Buick Roadmaster. My Aunt Jane had a smaller version of this (only three portholes) in black that I remember from the late '50s. It was the car she had before she bought her Ford Falcon.

 This cream-colored 1961 Lincoln Continental convertible with the tan interior is a beauty.

Of course, he had Caddilacs as well. This one is a beauty.
This is a Packard Dual-Cowl (the cowl is the body part just before the windshield and you can see this has two windshields, one for the driver and one for the passengers) Phaeton. What a gorgeous car.

King Hussein had another car in his collection that can only be described as the ultimate German sled. Mercedes custom built these 600 series limousines for heads of state for the most part. Idi Amin, Mao Tse-Tung, and many others had their own and they were all one of a kind. I was fascinated by the diamond plate running boards/fender skirts on Hussein's

Now for the personal side of his collection.

My favorite car in the whole exhibit is this next one. It is a 1936 Cord 810 Westchester coupe. Cord was an American manufacturer that built some of the most technologically advanced cars of its day. This one featured front wheel drive, retractable headlights, and an electrically pre-selected four speed transmission. It is also drop dead gorgeous in my humble opinion. In my younger days I built a plastic model of a Cord 812 and I've never forgotten how much I liked it. I was amazed that almost 50 years later I got to see a Cord in the flesh. First time!

You may have noticed in previous photographs that the walls of the museum are loaded with period photos of the cars in their element. The one on the right taken in a courtyard with a horse just behind it is pretty cool and shows the lines of the car well.

King Hussein loved British cars and had many in his collection. He had several Aston Martins including a 1952 (the year I was born!) DB2

A Lagonda

And a particularly brutish looking 1985 DBS V8

He had several older British sports cars. I think this one is a Singer, but don't have any details. I just know I liked the look of it and its two-tone paint job.

Love the knockoffs and the black painted wire wheels.

He, of course, had Jags and this XK-140 was particularly nice.

The late king also had a number of modern exotic cars. Let's take a look.
 A BMW M1 looking somewhat innocuous in white.

 While not actually an 'exotic' car, the BMW Z1 is a favorite of mine and an antecedent to the M Roadster that sits in my garage at home. The doors that disappear into the wide sills are a somewhat exotic feature and must be a fabulous open air motoring experience.

 This little guy was at the museum with his dad and seemed fascinated with my picture taking. He came and stood directly in front of me, so, of course, I obliged him with a couple of pictures. As you can see, all of the cars in the museum are roped off, but directly after this picture he went under the rope and sat in the driver's seat of the Z1. Good taste, lad.

The king's collection afforded me the opportunity to see some cars in the sheetmetal that I had only ever seen in photographs in magazines or videos on websites. This is one of them, the technological tour-de-force that was the Porsche 959. I really like it in the dark green with the tan interior.

 A Porsche Carrera GT

Sometimes the details on the cars are as interesting as the whole car is. I was amazed at the center-lock hubs on the Carrera GT.

Now, I had seen examples of these next two cars before. I saw an F50 at Park Place Motors in Bellevue and an F40 on the street in New Orleans!, but these exotic stallions from Maranello are a visual treat any time.

The entire body of the F50 is done in carbon fiber, but the finish looks like liquid.

 Francis and I once built a model of an F40. What a brute of a car; all scoops, slats, wings, and NACA ducts finished in the only color for this brute.

 A plexiglass engine cover over a 400 hp twin-turbocharged V-8. Don't want to add any unnecessary weight that will slow this beast down.

Notice the family resemblance?

 The legendary Mercedes 300SL 'Gullwing'. First time I saw one in the sheet metal.

The king was a racer, so he had a fire suit and helmet. The helmet had the symbol for the Hashemite Kingdom front and center, just in case the visor was down and you didn't know who was in there!

King Hussein loved rally racing. Here are a couple shots of two of his rally cars. The first is the engine bay of a Renault R8 'Gordini" A small four banger, but with those dual Webers and headers I bet this baby just screamed!

 Another rally car, a Mercedes 190 E 2.3 -16, the Benz answer to the E30 M3.

Some of the details on the cars were just exquisite. I love this hood ornament.

The King had a huge collection of motorcycles which he loved to ride around Jordan. He seemed to be a particular fan of large American V-twins, but he had an amazing variety of bikes. I didn't concentrate on the bikes, but did take some shots to give an idea of the variety.

He loved Milwaukee's Finest in many varieties.

 This Indian was just gorgeous.

 A customized Harley; a Crocker Special.

 He had several bikes with sidecars attached. Must have been quite a ride with the King as your pilot.

He had a couple of unusual bikes in the collection as well. Bet you've never seen this particular BSA before. It is a folding bicycle made by Birmingham Small Arms (BSA) as a military application. It was meant to be used by paratroops as ground transport after they parachuted in. They'd strap it to their back and then jump out of the plane.

 This is what it looks like unfolded/assembled. I can't imagine riding this into battle!

 He also had a fairly futuristic bike in the collection as well. TRON anyone?

Outside the musuem there was a truck that had been painted in the Pakistani fashion on display. It was just too funky to resist a couple of pictures.

 The plaque on the grille explains the context of this display.

Almost every metal surface; grille, wheels, mirror housings, etc, is covered in paint and quite artistically at that. Don't know that I'd want it as my daily driver, but it sure is cool.

If it isn't glass or chrome, it got painted!

What a fabulous collection. I really enjoyed my visit.

These are the things that interest me. If any of them are of interest to you, great. Read along


About Me

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I'm currently 60 years old. I currently work as the learning management system specialist for American University of Madaba in Madaba, Jordan. I was originally certified as a high-school English teacher and taught school for 13 years (1 year of substituting, 1 year of 7th grade, 2 years of a combined 5th, 6th, 7th grade, 9 years of 8th grade). I've worked for hardware and software companies for the past 23 years doing training, training materials development, certification test development and other education related stuff. My wife and I have raised four children to adulthood; some of them live at home at the moment, but that won't last (they're too independent for that). We live at home with 2 Golden Retrievers, 2 black cats, a crazy cat, and, during the winter, 70,000 coho salmon.