Cruising the Danube with Viking River Cruises

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Uta and I took a Viking River Cruise down the Danube from October 31 to November 7. Everyone from my doctor to our airport driver had seen Viking ads on Public Television and wanted to hear how it went. Here goes.

Would we do it again? Absolutely — if the locations were desirable. Our cruise started in Nürnberg, and stopped in Regensberg, Passau, Melk, and Vienna before ending in Budapest. (Itinerary.) We’d been to Nürnberg, Regensberg, and Passau before, but that was more than 40 years ago. We’d spent a week in Vienna last year. Budapest was a new one for us. All of these are beautiful, intriguing places to wander around. (Our photos start here.)

Here’s the drill. At each stop, Viking provides a half-day tour and lets you explore on your own for the remainder of the day. There’s often an optional, extra-cost tour available. For example, most passengers went to a concert in Vienna. All meals are provided on the ship although we generally chose to lunch in town.

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The great thing is that you visit half a dozen cities without having to check in and out of hotels. Your stateroom floats to your next destination during the evening.

Our stateroom had a “French balcony.” That’s a shelf perhaps two feet wide with a couple of chairs. It makes the otherwise tiny room feel larger. The bathroom is minuscule but serviceable.

Food on the ship was excellent, as was service in the restaurant and bar. Smiling, friendly staff. An enthusiastic maitre’d insured that the kitchen provided vegetarian meals for Uta. Bartenders remembered our preferences. Overall, we felt pampered.

Beer and wine flow freely at mealtimes, but we bought the optional Silver Service package which prepays for unlimited cocktails and premium wines. At $210, our consumption of house brand champagne, among other libations, put us ahead on the deal.

Our fellow passengers were primarily American retirees. Those PBS ads apparently work. By and large, the passengers were cordial, outgoing, nice people. A few were loud, look-at-me boors. Particularly memorable was the asshole who wore his black Stetson even when visiting a cathedral.

Every day featured a PowerPoint presentation in the lounge on a topic such as the EU, how canal locks work, and the life of Mozart. Viking is really missing the boat here. The presentations should provide the foundation for the tours on shore. Now, they are banal, poorly organized time-wasters.

I’m going to get on the soapbox for a moment, for this is the realm of my expertise as a learning professional. First off, the presentations need a purpose, e.g. conveying the history of the Holy Roman Empire, the Habsburgs, the Romans, or the Reformation. This would lay the foundation for the guided tours. Second, the presentations should be designed in a compelling fashion (see Presentation Zen, Nancy Duarte, Cliff Atkinson). Third, the on-shore tours should draw on the presentations.

The on-shore tours were led by well-meaning locals who seemed to think we were interested in dates and names (that no one would remember five minutes later) instead of stories and the big picture. The guides made up their own content; a well-crafted outline would guide the guides to become better at what they do.

We didn’t want to fly to Europe to spend a mere six days, so we flew to Nürnberg a week early and later spent a few extras days in Budapest before coming home. Pre-cruise, we visited the medieval walled city of Rothenberg, spent three days pigging out in Alsace, and wandered around Bamberg for a couple of days.

Post-cruise we spent two extra days in Budapest on an extension offered through Viking. Were we to do this again, we’d save money by making our own arrangements in Budapest. In fact, we’d have opted to book our own flights and just buy the cruise package.

As it happened, Viking arranged our flights. We flew out on United cattle class. I detest United. No individualized entertainment, bad attitude, and they always seem to have their hand in your pocket. (Although the Japanese hostess who checked us in at SFO was the friendliest agent I’ve ever encountered). We flew back Lufthansa, middle seats in one of the last rows on the plane. 

Our total tab for Viking, including airfare, drinks, tips, and the two days at the Budapest Marriott came to $8,447, about $1000 day. This is an expensive way to travel.

We’ve been to Europe thirty or forty times, generally renting a car and following our own itinerary. I wasn’t confident we would enjoy the regimentation of a managed tour, too reminiscent of If it’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium, but we encountered enough variety that this was not a problem.

Overall, I’ll give our Viking experience four stars out of five. Please leave comments on my Flickr site or Google Groups. starz

Top Ten Articles on Working Smarter

Ten important posts on working smarter. Our algorithms highlighted them as the most popular this year. Find the most important articles daily at http://workingsmarterdaily.com.

Find out what’s going on beyond your borders

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If you want to learn what’s going on in learning and development worldwide, join me in Berlin this December for Online Educa.

You’ll connect with colleagues from a hundred countries!

This is the 20th anniversary of this forum of thought leaders in business, education, and government.

Is it worth it? I certainly think so. This will be my tenth Educa.

 

 

#ITASHARE

Tyramine Diet

Ah, the joys of modern medicine.

I’ve begun taking a drug that requires me to restrict my diet severely. I’m not allowed to eat aged cheese, sausage, draft beer, sourdough bread, or anything else that contains significant amounts of tyramine, an amino acid that helps regulate blood pressure.

Eating the forbidden fruit can cause severe headache, nausea, stiff neck, vomiting, a fast or slow heartbeat, tight chest pain, a lot of sweating, confusion, dilated pupils, and sensitivity to light. People have died after bingeing on cheese.

So many foods are restricted (sauerkraut, bacon, caviar, peanuts, vermouth!) that I need a way to remind myself of what to avoid. I hope visualization can prop up my memory.

If pictures aren’t your thing, here’s a good list from the National Headache Foundation. (Tyramine can cause migraine headaches in people who are sensitive to it.)

Foods to Avoid on a Tyramine-Restricted Diet

krautcaviar fish4 fish3 fish2 fish herring duckliver2 duckliver cornedbeef bacon hotdog sausage3 choucroute sausage2 sausage cheese5 cheese4 cheese3 cheese2 cheese

sherryribsporkagedsteakairdriedbeefpickleonionsokrasoybeansmisomiso2soysauceshrimppasteteriyakisaucetempehkimchifavabeansromanobeanssnowpeaspeanutspeanutbutterbrazilnutscoconutsprocessedmeatprocssedmeat2yeastsourdougholives

 

 

walnuts

nutsbouillonbeefstewbeefsaucebeefgravydraftbeerkoreanbeervermouthliqueurschartreusechianti

 

The following foods have limited amounts of tyramine. It’s okay to consume up to 1/2 a cup daily.

citrus

pineapple

sourcreamyoghurt

eggplant

raspberries

redplums

figs

avocado

bananas

driedfruit

raisins

I assembled the list from Wikipedia and a dozen medical sites. None of the sites list all of these items. The list on the Mayo Clinic site is typical:

“Tyramine is naturally found in small amounts in protein-containing foods. As these foods age, the tyramine level increases. Some foods high in tyramine include:

  • Aged cheeses, such as aged cheddar and Swiss; blue cheeses such as Stilton and Gorgonzola; and Camembert. Cheeses made from pasteurized milk are less likely to contain high levels of tyramine, including American cheese, cottage cheese, ricotta, farm cheese and cream cheese.
  • Cured meats, which are meats treated with salt and nitrate or nitrite, such as dry-type summer sausages, pepperoni and salami.
  • Fermented cabbage, such as sauerkraut and kimchee.
  • Soy sauce, fish sauce and shrimp sauce.
  • Yeast-extract spreads, such as Marmite.
  • Improperly stored foods or spoiled foods.
  • Broad bean pods, such as fava beans.”

The amount of tyramine depends on how the food was processed and how old it is. Tyramine increases as a food ages. Pickled, smoked, fermented, or marinated meats are generally high in tyramine. Fresh produce is okay if you eat it within 48 hours of purchase. Nuts are never okay. A draft beer contains 25 times as much tyramine as a can of beer.

 

 

#ITASHARE

 

 

Science of Happiness MOOC

Along with 100,000 other people, I’ve enrolled in a free MOOC on The Science of Happiness.

UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, is producing the course. It’s being administered on the EdX platform

Week 1: Introduction to the Science of Happiness
Will be available starting on September 9 

Week 2: Happiness & Human Connection
Will be available starting on September 16 

Week 3: Kindness & Compassion
Will be available starting on September 23 

Week 4: Cooperation & Forgiveness
Will be available starting on September 30 

Week 5: Midterm Exam (and time to catch up on course material)
Will be available starting on October 7. Must be completed by November 18. 

Week 6: Mindfulness, Attention, and Focus
Will be available starting on October 14 

Week 7: Mental Habits of Happiness: Self-Compassion, Flow, and Optimism
Will be available starting on October 21 

Week 8: Gratitude
Will be available starting on October 28 

Week 9: Finding Your Happiness Fit and the New Frontiers
Will be available starting on November 4 

Final Exam
Will be available starting on November 4. Must be completed by November 18.

I’ll post about my experiences as we march through the material.

“The Science of Happiness” is being produced by the Greater Good Science Center (GGSC) at the University of California, Berkeley; course co-instructors Dacher Keltner and Emiliana Simon-Thomas are the GGSC’s founding director and science director, respectively. The GGSC is unique in its commitment to both science and practice: Not only does it sponsor groundbreaking scientific research into social and emotional well-being, it also helps people apply this research to their personal and professional lives. “The Science of Happiness” is a prime example of the GGSC’s work.

 

#ITASHARE

“It was the happiest day of my life!”

So said John G. Sperling of the day his brutish father died.

Until age 15, John was dirt poor, sickly, severely dyslexic, and frequently beaten. He rose to become the most successful education entrepreneur in history. I worked for John in the mid-seventies, before the meteoric rise of the University of Phoenix. He was an amazing man.

sperling

John died last week at the age of 93. The New York Times has a thoughtful obituary.

This was a man who was obsessed with doing whatever he thought was right, regardless of prevailing opinion. Overcompensating for his miserable beginnings, John became an audacious visionary with the wherewithal to take action.

A good place to find out more about John is his autobiography, Rebel With A Cause:

I did not become an entrepreneur until the age of 52. I created my first company with no thought for building a business, per se, but merely as a way to preserve an educational innovation from being destroyed by a small-minded bureaucracy. I had designed a program specifically for working adults that would allow them to earn a degree in the same amount of time it took full-time students on campus. Because this challenged many of the sacred tenets of academe, it was met with hostility bordering on rage.

My involvement was to develop John’s first business degree program during those indeed hostile times.

John told me he wanted our graduates to be able to talk like business people. It was a Turing test — Can you tell the accomplished business person from the recent winner of an accelerated degree? Our performance objectives were rather thin. The subject matter bore a suspicious resemblance to my first year courses at Harvard Business School.

While still in the midst of development, I hired and managed the sales force to sell it. Commission only. John was adamant that we were a profit-making business venture and needed to pay our bills as they came due.

sperling_lunch]

More of the story from The Arizona Republic. My lunch with John about ten years back.

The Missyplicity Project was a project devoted to cloning Joan Hawthorne and John Sperling’s dog, a border collie and husky mix. More on Missyplicity.

 

#ITASHARE

Future of Talent Weekend — Join me?

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Gather talent executives from two dozen Fortune 500’s for a long weekend of conversations about what matters most. Meet in an inspirational spot on the Northern California coast.  trends

What do people talk about? The future, mainly. We talk through the trends that are likely to persist. Kevin Wheeler‘s annual forecast lights the fire. Back and forth discussion draws everyone in. why

Kevin started Future of Talent ten years ago, and I’ve attended every one! This one weekend per year has profoundly shaped how I think about learning, talent, and the future of HR.

Late September’s session has a few more openings.

Call me if you’d like to know more. Disclaimer: Kevin is a personal friend, but I’m not on commission. I promote this event because I’m a true believer.

Three days a year helps keep sharp people sharp. Not a bad deal.

 

 

 

 

 

Big Data at Google

 

clojuneTo see Big Data at work, look to Google, where number-crunching on a massive scale has changed hiring and management practices. Measurements and analytics rule at Google. “All people decisions at Google are based on data and analytics,” according to Kathryn Dekas, a manager in Google’s “people analytics” team. Google’s conclusions have a bearing on where CLOs should be focusing their efforts.

If you interviewed for a job at Google several years ago, you might have been asked to answer questions like these:

  • You are shrunk to the height of a nickel and thrown into a blender. Your mass is reduced so that your density is the same as usual. The blades start moving in 60 seconds. What do you do?
  • What’s the next number in this sequence: 10, 9, 60, 90, 70, 66 … ? 
  • Using only a four-minute hourglass and a seven-minute hourglass, measure exactly nine minutes—without the process taking longer than nine minutes. 
  • A book has N pages, numbered the usual way, from 1 to N. The total number of digits in the page numbers is 1,095. How many pages does the book have? 
  • A man pushed his car to a hotel and lost his fortune. What happened? 

Your odds of getting an interview greatly improved if you had a high GPA, astronomical SATs, and graduated from an Ivy League college because the founders believed these things were important. 

No longer. Brainteaser questions have been banned, Google recruiters no longer ask about grades, and you don’t have to have a college degree to land a job. 

In an interview published in The New York Times last June, Lazslo Bock, Google’s SVP of People Operations said, “On the hiring side, we found that brainteasers are a complete waste of time. They don’t predict anything. They serve primarily to make the interviewer feel smart.”

College didn’t matter either. Statistics found that GPAs and SAT did not correlate to success on the job, so Google stopped using them. Even earning a college degree rarely seemed to make a difference in job performance, so Google no longer requires a degree to get hired. 

Students in school learn to give specific answers. They memorize and parrot back explicit information. In the workaday world, often there is no pat answer. The challenge is to formulate the questions as well as the answers. Google is seeking people who can solve problems that don’t have a clear answer.

The numbers told Google that its most innovative workers “are those who have a strong sense of mission about their work and who also feel that they have much personal autonomy.” Google looks to what people can become as they grow on the job, not where they come from.

Leadership. “We’ll want to know how you’ve flexed different muscles in different situations in order to mobilize a team.”

Role-Related Knowledge. “We’re looking for people who have a variety of strengths and passions, not just isolated skill sets. We also want to make sure that you have the experience and the background that will set you up for success in your role.” Technical hires — about half of new Googlers — must demonstrate their ability to code,

How You Think. “We’re less concerned about grades and transcripts and more interested in how you think. We’re likely to ask you some role-related questions that provide insight into how you solve problems.”

Googleyness. “We want to get a feel for what makes you, well, you. We also want to make sure this is a place you’ll thrive, so we’ll be looking for signs around your comfort with ambiguity, your bias to action and your collaborative nature.”

Bock says. “The No. 1 thing we look for is general cognitive ability, and it’s not IQ. It’s learning ability. It’s the ability to process on the fly. It’s the ability to pull together disparate bits of information.”

Google is more interested in who people are than what they know. Experience is the teacher, not the classroom. 

Your company’s situation may differ. Google is exceptional, an outlier, and it draws on an extraordinary talent pool. But all-in-all, Google’s findings bring into question training’s usual focus on knowledge over personal growth. 

How much of your organization’s investment in L&D centers on developing people rather than teaching skills? At Google, self-directed continuous learning is the norm. Job rotation is fluid. There’s little formal training.

If Google doesn’t value college credentials, it makes one wonder about the national drive for STEM education. 

I’ve posted answers to the brainteasers at http://internettime.com/google

This article appears in the June issue of CLO Magazine.