Welcome to 2015 and Sorry

Welcome to 2015 and first let me apologise. It has been a long time since last blogging. The chief reason has been I have been working on finishing another Masters degree, this one in higher education, however the slog toward the end just took out too much of my time for other activities.

In good news however, there have been lots of different little restaurants I have visiting and filing away reviews and photo’s. I have started on a new beer tasting review project with my wife that I will have to share this year. There are already some amazing beers to share!

There will also be a little more disposable time for the great books project, and other reading in 2015, now the Masters is completed.

Looking forward to 2015.

THE IDEAL OF THE EDUCATED PERSON – A side bar Nankervis 2014

photo-4This week “The ends of education” and the “Ideal of the educated person”, from the perspective of the ‘Great Books of the Western World’, should be leaving the Roman period and moving to the Early Modern. However today we jump both era and canon to consider the new Nankervis, et al. 2014 8th edition of “Human Resource Management: Strategy and Practice”

This may seem strange but following on from Marcus Aurelius but there is a distinct connection, or at least a disconnection, seen clearly in the relationship between the segment dealing with the HRM community, its competencies and the role of HR professional associations, and the later section in the same chapter Ethics and HRM.

Having studied HRM as part of an MBA major some 5 years ago, it is interesting to return to the discipline’s literature to see what has transpired in that period. Half a decade ago HRM specialists were arguing for a seat at the executive table along side finance and marketing. They pined for a strategic role in the organizations’ management, convinced of the strategic centrality of HRM in delivering that, and it seems they got it.

The Nankervis et al. text indicates there has been growth in HR representation on boards, increasing from 17% in 1995 to 25% in 2005.  However the Nankervis et al. text also notes the collapse of middle management with the approach of new HRM on HR architecture or macro level, leaving traditional HR process to either line managers or external consultants.

The desire to get to the boardroom table has come at the cost of an abdication of leadership of HR processes.

In regard to “The ends of education” or “graduate outcomes”, the focus of this series, it is interesting comparing the ‘domains’ of the HR professional outlined in Nankervis et al, and the list of Marcus Aurelius, https://thebookandspoon.wordpress.com/2014/02/28/marcus-aurelius-on-the-ideal-of-the-educated-person/ There is a profound distinction with external skills or tasks on one hand and internal values or virtues on the other.

The domains of the HR professional are listed as ‘strategic positioner’, ‘credible activist’, capacity builder’, ‘change champion’, ‘HR innovator and integrator’ and ‘technology proponent’.  With the exception of ‘credible activist’ the remainder are clearly external skills, and reviewing the definition of credible activist as connected to developing excellence in people management as way of achieving business driven objectives, the ascribing of an internal value is scuttled.

Much is made of ethics in the opening chapter of Nankervis et al., however two distinct aspects must be noted. First it seems that ethics is an element that is bolted onto the other more strategic domains of the HRM specialist as an afterthought and comes as a response to the “..increasing ‘re-moralization of business…”. Second, as if to underline the first, a credit is attached at the end of the ethics section thanking a group of authors for contributing it that were not part of the primary team of authors for the text.

The separation of the professional and the private, skill and ethic, has come at a significant cost. Virtue and values have to be integrated at core levels if they are to be achieved not as elements added and subtracted on the vicissitudes of fashion.

Alignment is required between vision, values, and actions. The domains of every profession must be grounded in internal values and virtues with skills and competencies integrated, rather than from a skills and competency base with external values or temporary virtues attached.

Nankervis, N., Baird, M., Coffey, J., Shields, J. (2014) Human Resource Management Strategy and Practice, South Melbourne, Victoria: Cengage Learning Australia.

Rain makes for a great food find Lorenzo’s of Crows Nest

photo-2A weekend with our daughter away led to some serious strategic thinking about where we might go for dinner.

Friday night my wife had to head out so that was a scratch. I cooked before she had to go. Pan seared halloumi, nectarines, and green beans on wilted spinach with fig and toasted pine nut dressing.

Saturday night we had planned to head to the Blue Ducks in Bronte, young chefs, interesting cuisine, great atmosphere, and featured in Monocles book “Guide to Better Living”. However Sydney decided to say goodbye to Summer by getting very wet, and as the Ducks would be a bit of a drive we decided on something a little closer.

Urban spoon yielded the possibility of Lorenzo’s at Crows Nest. A read of reviews and a quick look through their menu was all we needed to know that we wanted to try there.

Parking at Crows Nest is a nightmare at the 7:30pm time slot. We had a 15 min walk from where we finally found a spot. However A quick call to say we were running late, and this became the start of a great night with quality service, nothing was too hard or a problem for them.

On arriving we at first wondered if we had made the right choice. It seemed a little more casual than the fine dinning we had searched for on urban spoon, but this is a restaurant with a secret! Like a speakeasy from the 1920s we were ushered through to a quiet candle lit back room.  And this is a totally different space, interesting, intimate, and with a story.

But atmosphere and setting is only one part of the mix, food and service are the other aspects that compete the picture.

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For entree I ordered the quail, while my wife the king prawns. Her prawns were both abundant and succulent. The quail was the highlight of the meal. Tender and moist, a dish that can be difficult was perfectly produced, a real delight. Yet it is in the detail that perfection comes, and this really has it. The dry rub utilized fennel and coriander to achieve a complex and perfectly balanced harmony of flavor.

While my wife was very content with the Linguine Pescatore for her main,  I had a more difficult choice between the Spatchcock and the Bistecca – a Hunter Valley grass fed scotch fillet. Having read other reviews about the fillet I was keen to try it and was certainly not disappointed. It was perfectly cooked to that difficult medium rare, not being too rare and still stopping short of medium.

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The deserts were made in house and the Panna Cotta was excellent and likewise the Gelato.

We matched the meal with a byo Re Serve McLaren Vale 2011 Shiraz, a stunning wine in any setting but well suited to our fare at Lorenzo’s.

The service was among the best I have experienced, efficient and friendly without cloying. The wait staff was well versed in the menu, specials, and details of the food, and was more than happy to follow up on questions.

The team at Lorenzo’s is committed to good food, and good service, and it shows in every aspect of their approach. Fine dinning with out pretention.

See other reviews at

http://chopinandmysaucepan.com/lorenzos-crows-nest

Lorenzos-Italian-Eatery-Crows-Nest

Lorenzo's Italian Eatery on Urbanspoon

thebookandspoon Sydney restaurants

MARCUS AURELIUS ON THE IDEAL OF THE EDUCATED PERSON

MarcusAgain we continue the series “The ends of education” and the “Ideal of the educated person”, from the perspective of the ‘Great Books of the Western World’, staying within the Roman period and Marcus Aurelius, who for my money can claim the title of father of graduate outcomes.

Roman Period – Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius possibly excuses the intolerably long lists of graduate outcomes favored by Universities when in his opening chapter he cites some 16 individuals, family, friends, and teachers who all through their engagement with him have taught certain life lessons and imparted certain qualities that he holds dear.  And the 17th group he thanks is the gods, for having made provision of the other 16.

“To the gods I am indebted for having good grandfathers, good parents, a good sister, good teachers, good associates, good kinsmen and friends, nearly everything good.” P 241 (Book 11) second edition GBWW

The graduate outcomes he lists, or lessons that he has learned from significant individuals, include a cavalcade of virtues attained and vices avoided, together with a listing of sound choices.  What is interesting however is it in not just this list of attributes but also the people responsible for imparting those attributes to him. It reads like an Oscar night thank you list that does not get edited short in any way.

For a contemporary consideration of graduate outcomes the interesting thing might be to note this attribution of who is responsible for what particular graduate outcome. For example, in terms of application in contemporary higher education does this mean that we expect certain faculties, and certain units to impart particular aspects of the list of graduate outcomes, or rather do we pretend that somehow they will all be covered in some way by every element of the university experience?

The ignorance that expects all things to do all element runs the risk of the old adage that gets posted up in communal kitchens in relation to dishes, “If every body thinks that it is somebodies job, nobody will do it.” Let me say too, if there are problems in the communal kitchen with dishes, there are certainly problems with graduate outcomes in our communal learning institutions.

Moving back to the text in regard to the 16 points they are in an abridged summary as follows:

1. Good morals and government of temper – Learnt from his grandfather.

2. Modesty and a manly character – Learnt from his father.

3. Piety, and abstinence from evil deeds and thoughts, and simple living – Learnt from his mother.

4. To spend well on education – Leant from his great grandfather.

5.Not to align with a party, to work hard, not to meddle and to avoid slander – Learnt from his governor.

6. To not be superstitious, harbor bitterness, be too passionate, to respect freedom of speech, value philosophy, and follow Grecian discipline – Learnt from Diognetus.

7. To be humble and learn, improving character and discipline, not to be speculative, nor to make a show of ones knowledge, or a show of ones benevolent acts. To have good manners and think deeply about matters, avoiding being too quick to support a position or determine the meaning of a book. – Learnt from Rusticus

8. The importance of free will and a steady purpose, and that reason is the primary faculty, as well as the importance of consistency in behavior and thought, and graciousness. – Learnt from Apollonius.

9. The need for a benevolent disposition and to govern ones family in a fatherly manner, having gravity with out affectation. Tolerating the ignorant, caring for friends, being free from passion and, noisy display or ostentation. – Learnt from Sextus.

10. To not be a faultfinder, and to be tolerant of those who are different in speech, (possibly foreigners in context and so this may be understood as a support for multi racial tolerance.). – Learnt from Alexander

11. To see duplicity and hypocrisy for what they are in fellow leaders. – Learnt from Fronto

12. Not to be to busy, pretend to be to busy, or say that I am too busy to others as an excuse. – Learnt from Alexander the Platonic.

13. To restore relationship with friends that I have a disagreement with, to speak well of my teachers, and to love my children. Learnt from Catulus.

14. To love my family, love truth and justice, to respect all, consider the rights of all as equal. To support freedom of speech and to respect and support government that works toward this. – Learnt from my brother Severus.

15. Self-government, focus, and cheerfulness in all circumstances – Learnt from Maximus

16. Mildness of temper and an unchangeable resolution in those things that have been determined, an avoidance of vainglory, a love of hard work and perseverance and a willingness to listen to those who want the common good. Firmness in fairness, self-control and a humility in regard to ones true place in the world, and a wiliness to forgive the failings of others. (The list continues substantially and is the longest entry, well worth reading in full.) – Learnt from his father

P 239-241 (Book 11) second edition GBWW

This is indeed a substantial list I will comment no further but leave space to reflect, and recommend reading this in the text directly.

EPICTETUS ON THE IDEAL OF THE EDUCATED PERSON

Epictetus3We continue again the series on “The ends of education” and the “Ideal of the educated person”, from the perspective of the ‘Great Books of the Western World’, however today we move from the Classical to the Roman period with today’s writer Epictetus. A great book – never written by its author.

Roman Period – Epictetus

As an interesting aside, the works of Epictetus collected here in the ‘Great Books of the Western World’ were never written by him, but only presented as verbal teaching. Epictetus never wrote his philosophies, but rather gained a reputation as a teacher. It is from the notes of Flavius Arrian a student of Epictetus that we have records of his teachings. Epictetus’ student attempted to preserve the directness, and where possible the actual language used by his master.  We have then a great book, never written by its author.

It is conceivably foundational to begin the Roman period with Epictetus, following on from last weeks post, as his influence is clearly present later in the writing of Marcus Aurelius.

In relation to “the ends of education” and the “ideal of the educated person” Epictetus places the responsibility for graduate outcomes firmly on the shoulders of the teacher, indicating if the student fails it is really the teacher that has failed; it is worth noting that the example Epictetus uses of a failed teacher is one who is a particularly bad teacher that laughs at a pupils failings.

“When Epictetus had reproved the person who was reading the hypothetical arguments, and the teacher who had suggested the reading was laughing at the reader, Epictetus said to the teacher: “You are laughing at yourself; you did not prepare the young man nor did you ascertain whether he was able to understand these matters; …” p124. (Book 11) second edition GBWW

Graduate outcomes for Epictetus revolve around discernment as to the true nature of things, and then when discerning those issues that require remedy capacity and courage to address it.

“In theory it is easy to convince an ignorant person; but in the affairs of real life no one offers himself to be convinced, and we hate the man who has convinced us. But Socrates advised us not to live a life which is not subject to examination. Appearances are to us in four ways: for either things appear as they are; or they are not, and do not even appear to be; or they are, and do not appear to be; or they are not, and yet appear to be. Further, in all these cases to form a right judgement is the office of an educated man.” p124. (Book 11) second edition GBWW

Epictetus also shifts to a metaphysical level when arguing that ‘arrogance’, which he defines as the belief that you need nothing more, and ‘distrust’, where too many possibilities create restlessness and a lack of happiness, are two things that must be shed in the process of education.

“You must root out of men these two things, arrogance and distrust. Arrogance, then, is the opinion that you want nothing: but distrust is the opinion that you cannot be happy when so many circumstances surround you. Arrogance is removed by confutation; and Socrates was the first who practiced this. And, that the thing is not impossible, inquire and seek. This search will do you no harm; and in a manner this is philosophizing, to seek how it is possible to employ desire and aversion without impediment.” p179. (Book 11) second edition GBWW

The quote continues and it is well worth the read, as he basically concludes by calling such thinking the “act of an ass.”, however I won’t spoil it for you and it is well worth concluding the read.

One final thing that is of value to note, Epictetus differs from Aristotle when he supports the dedication of specialization as appropriate. After and excellent outline of the dedication and discipline required to compete in the Olympic games, Epictetus continues;

If you do not recon them, observe you will behave like children who at one time play as wrestlers, then as gladiators, then blow a trumpet, then act a tragedy, when they have seen and admired such things. So you also do: you are at one time a wrestler, then a gladiator, then a philosopher, then a rhetorician; but with your whole soul you are nothing: like the ape, you imitate all that you see…” p179. (Book 11) second edition GBWW

Epictetus moves from this Olympic metaphor to consider the need for a person to focus on their chosen field of endeavor and the importance of choosing that field wisely.

“You must be one man either good or bad: you must either occupy the place of a philosopher or that of one of the vulgar.” p180. (Book 11) second edition GBWW

Valentines day a celebration of love and respect, breakfast in bed and beer

P1090100As I had not done a food post in a while I thought I should correct that, and with Valentines Day having been and gone I thought I could connect the two together, with a story of beer, breakfast in bed and how my family celebrates Valentines Day.

Valentines Day like most events finds itself in the over commercialised category. It also can be at best irrelevant and at worst alienating however it does not have to be so.

Valentines Day in my family has always been about a celebration of love and respect. One of my earliest memories of Valentines Day is my mum giving me a Valentines Day card as a child. I remember it had Superman on it and I remember it made me feel good.

This year for Valentines Day my wife made our daughter a home made card, and I prepared breakfast in bed for her, omelette with cheese on toast with bacon and cherry tomatoes, and hot chocolate, she did not have room for the crème caramel. She loved it all and was very happy. We got to let her know how much we valued her as a person.

2014-02-14 06.26.50While talking about breakfast in bed, a good tip is using antique entrée dishes to serve in. The silver plated ones with lids are often available in antique stores or opportunity shops relatively inexpensively, their rectangular shape make them excellent for placing on a breakfast tray. The key benefit however comes from keeping the food warm. I place hot water into the dish and put the lid on while I am preparing the food, and then pour out the water wipe with a tea towel, plate up the food, and pop on the lid. The warmth in the metal dish holds and keeps the food warm on the tray.

In regard to beer and Valentines day, this often means for us hard work as we home brew and one of the beers that we make is often put down on Valentines day.  Most years we make three brews and as we like ales, which require a warm but consistent temperature for brewing, we find here in Sydney Australia that Late January early February seems ideal.

We start on Australia day (26th of January) with our first beer which we call “Republics Chance” – this is for several reasons but possibly the least controversial is that it uses a Royal Oak stock in its base and the Royal Oak as the tree that Charles the first hid in when the Round Heads were searching for him. This produces an exceptional ale that peeks in quality between 12 and 18 months post bottling.

Utilising the sludge from the “Republics Chance” brew we produce our premier grand cru beer “Plato’s Love”.  This beer is generally laid down on Valentines Day it takes 18 months to mature and we have yet to find a point where it does not continue improving.  It is the beer all of our friends like best which is challenging as we always have to brew “Republics Chance” to get to it.

We call our home brewery, “If Plato had a chair brewing group” and as such all of our labels have pictures of classic designer chairs on them. Those familiar with the concept of the Platonic ideal will understand the chair reference as a metaphor of Plato’s regarding attempting to achieve an image of something more perfect that we only see a shadow of.  Brewing then too becomes a task of both love and respect in regard to choice of ingredients, cleanliness and preparation, and to be honest hard work in the pursuit of an ideal.

The concept of Platonic love has come to be a form of friendship, or a non-physical relationship. I think however this misses some of the power in that term. Platonic love is love that seeks to be modelled on a more perfect unseen love, following the shadows of the wall of a cave metaphor used by Plato.

It is in this pursuit of the ideal in all our relationships that we might find a better way of engaging with Valentines Day. Sharing respect and care with all of those that we love.

Aristotle on the ideal of the educated person

P1090097Continuing on with our series on “The ends of education” and the “Ideal of the educated person”, from the perspective of the ‘Great Books of the Western World’ we still find ourselves in the Classical Period with today’s writer Aristotle.

The arrangement of the ‘Great Books of the Western World’ chronologically raises an interesting question, are later writers familiar with the work of earlier writers? Do they, as it were, stand on the shoulders of giants? And if so can we expect expansions and critiques in their work of those earlier greats?

As I am still working through Umberto Eco’s ‘Inventing the Enemy’, I read this last week in his chapter on Absolute and Relative how Lenin is essentially shares and builds upon the work, probably unknowingly, of Thomas Aquinas, in regard to the mind reflecting things, as they truly are if the mind works properly.  Indeed Eco’s tongue is firmly in his cheek at this point as he writes:

“…and since Aquinas could not have been a Leninist, it ought to follow that Lenin was a neo-Thomist – without, of course, realizing it.” p. 29

The point returns to our question, are our later classical writers cognisant of the work of the earlier ones? This is always a valuable question to ask and in some ways can become the basis of many ‘compare and contrast’ statements, however it cannot always be determined. We do not have such a problem answering that question with today’s writer, at least in regard to Plato, with Aristotle studying directly under Plato’s tutelage.

Classical Period – Aristotle

Aristotle argues for a graduate outcome for students that embraces both a breadth of knowledge, possibly what we might call a liberal education, and wisdom in regard to selecting the right knowledge and approach to apply to particular given challenges, which we might call wisdom, skill, or competency.

Aristotle illustrates his point referring to the knowledge that the physician must retain for diagnosing illness, and the specific application of that knowledge in terms of treatment options.

“We shall be in perfect possession of the way to proceed when we are in a position like that which we occupy in regard to rhetoric and medicine and faculties of that kind: this means the doing of that which we choose with the materials that are available. For it is not every method that the rhetorician will employ to persuade, or the doctor to heal; still, if he omits none of the available means, we shall say that his grasp of the science is adequate.” p144. (Book 7) second edition GBWW

For Aristotle the educated person will also be able to review and evaluate the legitimacy of newly acquired knowledge prior to assimilating by utilising their broader knowledge framework to evaluate new information. Aristotle even goes so far as to argue that the knowledgeable specialist that does not have the broader knowledge framework cannot be considered universally educated.

“Every systematic science, the humblest and the noblest alike, seems to admit of two distinct kinds of proficiency; one of which may be properly called scientific knowledge of the subject, while the other is a kind of educational acquaintance with it. For an educated man should be able to form a fair off-hand judgment to the goodness or badness of the method used by a professor in his exposition. To be educated is in fact to be able to do this; and even the man of universal education we deem to be such in virtue of having this ability. It will, however, of course, be understood that we only ascribe universal education to one who in his own individual person is thus critical in all or nearly all branches of knowledge, and not to one who has a like ability merely in some special subject. For it is possible for a man to have this competence in some one branch of knowledge without having it in all.” P161. (Book 7) second edition GBWW

For Aristotle then graduate outcomes must include the development of a breadth of knowledge, the ability to apply specific elements of that knowledge practically, and the ability to use that breadth of knowledge to evaluate the ongoing acquisition of further knowledge acquired in the process of learning.