Wednesday, June 27, 2012

I knew It! Reality Television is Educational!

Today Frank and I began to settle into our routine. We get up at 6:30 AM, meet at room at 7 AM to go to the RPCC for breakfast. We leave at 7:30AM to find a different way to class. On average, we arrive in class  at 8:10AM with time to cool down a bit before class begins. Today was a bit unusual in that we didn't begin class with a lecture. Instead, we began class by watching an episode of "Hotel Impossible". During the show, Anthony Revamps, a very successful general manager of several hotels, is called in to turn struggling hotels around. The episode today was about Penguin Hotels in South Beach, Miami.  While the show is about what Revamps does to fix a struggling hotel, it is also littered with facts about the hotel industry such as that clients spend more time in the lobby relaxing than they do in their rooms.

After our lectures today, my group went to the computer lab to play CHESS for an hour and a half. It's amazing how fast that hour and a half went by. We then went to lunch and we class reconvened, Mark taught us even more about Word as he walked us though creating a business memo. 

Mark then spoke about the ins and outs about giving a PowerPoint presentation which has made me more excited about my group presentation on Monday! There's a lot to keep in mind when it comes to preparing. Not only do we have to have our material down, we have to make sure our presentation skills are on point. We have to  have smooth transitions between speakers, speak confidently, know where we're going to stand, where we're going to put our hands, and where we're going to look, just to name a few. I really can't wait to get to go and practice and practice our presentation so that we can have a very good presentation.

Right now, I'm listening to Calvin going crazy playing 'A Thousand Miles' on the piano. It's an awesome way to relax and blog after a long day.

Peanut Butter Saves the Day

I knew today was going to be really good when I finally found the peanut butter in the cafeteria this morning. I had been looking for four mornings for something to put on those gluten-free bagels that have been tempting me; so of course, this was a good omen.

Sure enough, it was my best day so far. We watched a show about amazingly dirty hotel rooms for the first twenty minutes of class before moving on to a lecture, which I had no trouble following (finally). During the computer lab, we expanded on how to create our memo templates, as well as going over a soon-due business letter template. I was able to take notes this time while getting hands-on experience. I walked with Eric and Frank to lunch, and we even managed to beat the unending lines of people inside the too-small space. I got to have a burger finally instead of salad! I had some extra time before class, so I took a walk and discovered the small quad surrounded by the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. It was a great place to hang out before going back to work; the walkway was cobbled, and the chairs, benches, and tables were all made of a finished wood. This, surrounded by the stone building with modern architectural design, created a suiting professional yet tranquil mood.

Back in the computer labs, we this time got to actually run the CHESS game. I decided to focus on empowering my labor forces and increasing amenities for business and leisure guest segments. To even out my expenditures though, I sacrificed the group segment because they buy the cheapest rooms and they don't make reservations as frequently. According to Reneta, the average occupancy percentage in the U.S. is about 60%, and my hotel is currently averaging 75% - I think my strategy is working.

At our last evening session, I finished my memo template with much help from Ryan (one of my group members) - computers are not always my friends - and was able to use my extra time to do extra research for our upcoming presentation. Although everyone in my group is a different kind of personality (which often conflicts with the other types in our group), we are surprisingly functional, and so far we have gotten along well. We all come from different backgrounds, and probably find each other strange, but everyone is determined to learn and succeed. That is our unifying factor; it's something that can't be found in high school where people with different motivation and interest levels are thrown together at random, or where friends stick together for convenience. It is a new, exciting experience, because for once I feel that I have actual support and we are truly collaborating.

Even these last two hours have been excellent. I discovered my mom sent me a care package today containing more professional clothes for class, home-made trail mix (we have to buy ingredients individually to avoid gluten contamination), dried mangos, corn chips, Glutino crackers (a special gluten-free brand that are similar to Ritz crackers) , and chocolate chips. My dad also shortened the amount of research that I had to do by about two hours with just a ten-minute conversation about how stocks work. Just now, about 7 Chinese students who were visiting my roommate just left my room; I think I will take advantage of the quiet now to continue my research.

I am really glad that I found that peanut butter today. Who knows, perhaps tomorrow I can find some gluten-free pasta?

Reality TV and CHESS

To begin the day, I met up with Eric and ate breakfast. We got ready and started walking at around 7:30 AM. It took 15 minutes to walk to our building, so once we were there, we had some free time before class started.

To start off this class, Mrs. McCarthy played a reality show called "Hotel Impossible." It was about a man named Anthony Revamps remodeling struggling hotel businesses. This episode featured the Penguin Hotel in Miami, and Revamps described how the problems, like the unsanitary bathrooms, was from the hotel manager, even though the house keepers are the ones that make up the rooms. The movie was a great beginning to entertain our class before those very long lectures.

After the lunch break, I finally started actually trying CHESS. It was like a video game, except much more complicated. There are three types of customers: business, leisure, and groups, and I tried to not use my money on groups and focus more on business customers. I did fairly well, as my first time. My final profit per day average was around $8,400. It was very fun to use this program, and on the plus side, it helps teach us about what hotel managers have to do. The advantage of this program is that there aren't any real life affects from my decisions to, for example, raise or lower the expenses on amenities for the leisure customers.

Finishing up class, I met with my ILC cohorts at Bailey Hall. Mr. Chan-Law was there discussing what we were going to do on the weekends. We were all discussing about visiting the baseball hall of fame and smaller events, like watching Spider Man. After our group meeting, we went to buy our Cornell sweaters. When we finished paying, then walked to to dinner, and later, Eric and I finished off our day in our office hours from 7-9 PM.

The Contradictions of the Saints

Statue of Ezra Cornell located
 right outside our discussion room

Our class today addressed Saint Augustine and Saint Aquinas. They were two religious authorities who, in their separate times, created very different theories on human nature and what the government's role should be. The lecture was very interesting, and the discussion even more so. If I have learned anything so far it is that political theory, and especially the Bible, is full of contradictions. After lunch we had writing workshop in which Ulas gave us back our first drafts of our papers from Monday. His comments were very helpful and made me think in a whole different way about my essay and its content. Then we rewrote our essays in a final draft. I really enjoy the dynamic of our discussion section and writing workshops. Ulas acts as a discussion leaders and guides the conversations as opposed to controlling it. It makes me feel very comfortable and is much more engaging.

We had a meeting with Mr. Chan-Law today in which we discussed our out-of-school plans for the rest of the 3 weeks. We decided that next Friday (which Freedom and Justice has off instead of The 4th of July)  we would go and visit Colgate University then see the new Spiderman movie. We also decided to visit Cooperstown on Saturday the 7th. Then we went and got our ILC supplied Cornell University sweaters. I got a black and red Underarmor sweater which I am very happy with. It is way too hot here, but I am very excited to wear it when I get home.

After dinner we hung out in the tv lounge in Donlon Hall. We watched tv and blogged. Then we went outside and played frisbee for a little while. The rest of the night I spent relaxing at a various areas around Donlon Hall until I went to sleep. I am falling in to a consistent rhythm here at Cornell, and feel very at place. I miss my family and friends, but experiencing being away is great.

Ahead of the Game

Every morning, I seem to do the same thing. At 6:45, my roommate wakes up and I go back to sleep. At 7:15, I wake up and my roommate heads out for breakfast. I wash up and always receive the reassuring text that Eric is headed to the dining hall. At 7:45, I head up to breakfast; then minutes later, Alex arrives. At 8:30, we go to class. You can pretty much count that this will be my daily routine.

During our lecture, Professor Kramnick went over our readings and compared the explanations of Christianity by Saint Augustine versus Thomas Aquinas. It was interesting seeing their opposing viewpoints: Saint Augustine who thinks men are naturally evil, and Thomas Aquinas who thinks men are naturally rational. Later, we broke into our discussion group where we discussed the two in further detail. Once lunch had come and gone, we went had to our group for a writing workshop where we revised the essays we wrote on the first day. Everyday, it seems that the class gets more and more engaging and interesting.

Since Eric, Alex, and I had finished reading Plato's Republic prior to the start of the program, we went to the library just to discuss the main themes of our reading. It's great that we got the books early since I now get to enjoy this scarce free-time.

At 4:30, we checked-up with Mr. Chan-Law who told us (the F&J group) that we will be going to tour Colgate University next Friday and visit Cooperstown the following day. After going over the same logistics with the Hotelies that got out of class late, we headed to The Cornell Store to purchase our Cornell Hoodies. Mr. Chan-Law, Eric Wilson, and I chose the same jersey. We all, except Rachel, got UnderArmour hoodies, which I found quite comical. After we purchased them we had to go to dinner while Mr. Chan-Law returned back to the Statler Hotel (so jealous). 

Now I get to relax and enjoy the rest of my day. It seems like I've been here for a while, but I'm enjoying every minute of it.  

When the Saints Go Marching In

After performing our normal breakfast routine, we took a new a new route to class, which appeared to be a five minutes shorter, and was a lot more scenic, crossing the East Avenue bridge across the gorge.  Today we talked about the philosophy of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, analyzing their conflicting thoughts and recognizing the religious influence in their theory. Last night the readings of St. Augustine were particularly lengthy and difficult, but this morning Professor Kramnick went into greater depth, dissecting the text until all of my previous questions were answered.

In the discussion section today with Ulas we discussed the differences between the views of St. Augustine and St. Aquinas.  About 900 years separated the lives of these two philosophers, and we observed the cultural and social changes that occurred that separated the ideas these two theorists, Augustine more pessimistic and disciplinary, and Aquinas more rational and accepting to the societal evolution.  We noticed in particular that the role of Jesus Christ in Augustine’s time period has a larger role than in Aquinas, where God as the dominant leader, with representatives on Earth, influenced the people.  I have realized in class, as we are becoming more comfortable with each other in our discussion group, more people have been participating and the conversations have become more intricate.  

After lunch we returned to McGraw Hall to begin our second day of writer’s workshop, where we received our essays about freedom back with revisions.  We buddied up to exchange essays and ideas and tried to help each other enhance our writing.  We spent the rest of the class rewriting our essay. 

Near McGraw Hall, our discussion building
Tomorrow we will start learning about Plato, so after class we went to the Uris Library to review Plato's The Republic.  I feel like it helped that we had read the book prior to our trip, so we all feel well-prepared for tomorrow’s class.  Personally, I like the teachings of Plato the most because of the organization of the text and the logic he uses in his simulation of an ideal community explained in the given selections.  I cannot wait for Professor Kramnick as well as Ulas to further analyze the literature so as for me to gain a full understanding of the teachings of Plato. 

After gathering at Bailey Hall for a meeting with Mr. Chan-Law, we planned out a day trip a day trip to Cooperstown and then a college tour at Colgate University for next Friday, where the Freedom and Justice students do not have school (to make up for having class on July 4th, where we will have of Preliminary Exam.)  Later we walked down to the Cornell Store to choose our sweatshirts; Eric Wilson, Calvin, and Mr. Chan-Law all bought the same sweatshirt. 

We ate an early dinner with Frank and Eric as usual before they ran down to office hours. Matt broke out the bagpipes when we got back to the Mary Donlon before settling down to study, and later going to bed.