Thursday, June 28, 2012

Another Lesson in Culture

It was a PowerPoint day in class. Mark got all the cool details of the program - from master slides to inserting other presentations, and from how to present to the difference between builds and transitions. Unfortunately, I did not understand everything he did; he goes very fast, and doesn't wait for simultaneous note-takers. I think I got the important information though.

At lunch, I sat with some of my new friends. I did not talk much with them though, because they were all speaking in Chinese. On my way back to class, one of my group members (Alva) walked with me, questioning me about the top colleges in America. It was hard to answer some of his questions because most colleges claim that they are in the top, somewhere. So I asked him instead what his SAT scores were; let's just say he has nothing to worry about, and I should probably study harder if he applies to the same schools as me! Although he has amazing scores and grades, he told me that in China, he is below average. It is also very competitive: "Did you get an 800 on your math section," I asked.

"Of course! Every student has to get that, or else they will not be accepted by other students!"

"Wait, so if I went to China, I wouldn't be accepted because I got lower than 800 on the math section?"

"Oh, no," he replied, laughing. "You are American, so that's expected."

With that nice boost of self-esteem, I walked back to class with him. Reneta continued to coach us on our hotel company presentations (due Monday), but we took an early break when everyone noticed the smell of burning rubber coming from the vents. They are doing construction in the building, and the welding smell had permeated the ventilation system. We left the doors open, and continued with class. There was even a guest speaker at the end who gave up some tips on how to write a memo. It seemed a little repetitve, since we had already covered everything in class; but it was a nice break from the lesson.

During office hours, I managed to finish my memo for my expense strategy early for the CHESS memo (I named the hotel Ted E. Bair Inn), and finished typing up my part of Monday's presentation. Now all that's left is to put it together.

Our First Guest Speaker

The fourth day of class included going in depth with the letter template on Microsoft Word,earning about PowerPoint, and having lectures on a successful business memo. It was a very long day. Luckily though, Mr. McCarthy promised that after Monday, everything else would be easier. I hope he was serious and that he wasn't playing jokes on the class.

In the computer room, I learned about PowerPoint in detail. We learned about grouping and ungrouping images, and how to use the slideshow master. It was fun, but it was a little confusing in the end of class. It was hard to follow because Mr. McCarthy was going a little too fast. That last part was about themes and animations and graphs, so it shouldn't be too hard to figure out.

Later in class, my group went back to the classroom to go over our business memo and our hotel presentations on Monday with Mrs. McCarthy. She helped clarify the hotel presentations, while answering any questions. She would assist us by going on our company website and showing us the facts we could use. In he middle of  class however, there was a sudden burning smell. It took class time as we had to walk out of the classroom and into the hall. Mrs. McCarthy took it very seriously, and called the maintenance crew. This wait lasted for about 15 minutes, and we eventually learned it was only the smell of the welders on the lower floor.

In the last 30 minutes of class, we had a guest speaker. She was a friend of Mrs. McCarthy, and helped us students with the upcoming homework assignment. The memo due on Friday shouldn't be too bad after she explained to us how to write a right memo. It included the principles of business writing: audience focus, formatting, organization, and conciseness. We were told to know who we had to address, as well as using the active voice as much as possible. Finishing off the class, our guest speaker explained the importance of dividing the memos into logical sections, and most importantly, revising memos to focus on key points. 

In the end of class, Eric and I hurried to the dining hall to eat. We wanted to have extra time to start the business memo, partly because we had to research on our hotels for the presentation on Monday, but mainly, we just didn't want to take too long on it and then blog.We went to the Statler Hotel to try to finish our business memo and then left to office hours.

We finished our business memos in the computer class, and the only thing we had left was this blog. I finally could get a good nights rest today.

PowerPoint 101

I'm going to keep this blog brief because there is so much to learn and do. Today's schedule included learning how to be successful as a group, go over our CHESS business memo, go over our group presentation, listen to a guest lecture on how to write business memo, go more in depth about Word, and do a crash course on PowerPoint. Oh, and we have to write our business memo and be researching and making our group presentation. Talk about an easy day. All the information is incredibly interesting and useful, but it is a lot to absorb. I really can't wait to get into the computer lab to finish some work and and practice using PowerPoint, a program I've never used before.

Mark began class by acknowledging that there is a lot of work to do, but he reassured us that after four o'clock in the afternoon Monday, we'll still be busy, just not as busy as we are now. He tried to calm all 80 students by saying that this is the hardest part of our class and that of we can survive past Monday, we'll be fine.

PowerPoint is extremely difficult to learn, at least for me. I knew that id have a bar time with PowerPoint, so I tried to take really good notes about how to perform actions, but we were pressed for time and Mark was racing through the material so we could finish on time for our guest lecturer. I tried my best to switch back and forth between taking notes and  clicking around on PowerPoint but what ended up happening was I either didn't finish my notes for a section so it would be difficult to go back and have to repeat the action, or I'd end trying to copy step by step notes which left me a little behind Mark which then led to me missing a step or two.

I really need to practice using PowerPoint or it is going to take a really long time to make slides for my group presentation and so I can pass this quiz Mark kept dropping hints about.

A Plate Full of Plato

I was excited about going to class today knowing that there was going to be a guest speaker in the afternoon. So we finally started on Plato's Republic today during our lecture and discussion group. It was amazing learning about the inner meanings of Plato's work. Our TA told us a quote that said, "Plato is really easy to read, but extremely difficult to understand." I could not have said it any better. The reading was also very difficult to focus on due to the repetitive text and the jumping around of topics. However, the book as a whole was very enjoyable and insightful in explaining a utopia. It was very interesting when Professor Kramnick compared the ancient fundamentals of politics to our modern fundamentals. 

During our group discussion, we discussed about the 3 traits of human nature: intellect, courage, and appetite. We went into deeper detail about what would make our society a utopia. We referred to books such as 1984 and A Brave New World. It was very interesting when we were asked how we would prevent corruption and monopolization.  

Our guest lecturer this afternoon was Professor Ross Brann who teaches Middle Eastern studies at Cornell. He discussed the relationship between the Middle East and the uprising of the people in the Middle East due to injustices and the suppression of their freedom. He went into a deep lecture about the logistics of Egypt, Syria, and Tunisia. After the guest lecturer, we stayed after class to attend Professor Kramnick's discussion session. He talked about his ideal democracy: all political figures are selected, not elected. He told us that choosing presidents would be like a lottery. Professor Kramnick's session was extremely engaging and entertaining.

After class, we hung out at Risley Hall and watched the Euro Cup, the Wimbleton Final, and the Olympic Trials. Tomorrow, I am looking forward to having the afternoon off and going to the gym (I have to burn off all the food I eat here!).

Plato's "Republic"

After 6 days of eating at Cornell and specifically at the buffet, my eating habits are changing. The unlimited food and drink is not as appealing and I am beginning to move towards the healthier options. This morning I had a bowl of cereal, water, and a generous portion of fruit salad. Luckily soda is beginning to lose it's appeal. Ice cream, on the other hand, is just as appealing as ever. I doubt that will ever change.

Last night our assigned reading was The Republic by Plato, and was the most pages which will be assigned in one night for the whole class. Luckily for us we had the reading assignments early, so I had a serious head start on the 110 pages. After reading The Republic it was interesting to learn that Plato's ideal government was not a republic and the title was instead derived from latin for public business, res publica. Professor Kramnick's lecture started with a background of Greece's history and political system, then moved on to Plato. He talked about Plato's ideas of morals and justice.

Our discussion session was a lot of fun. We delved further in to the intricacies of Plato's ideas and explored his concept of the ideal community. Everyone had good things to add to our discussion. I really like my discussion group. We walked to lunch with our TA and got a chance to talk with him in an out-of-class context.

After lunch our second guest speaker lectured us issues of freedom and justice in the Middle East. The speaker was a Cornell professor of Middle Eastern studies named Ross Brann. He discussed the general issues of externally determined borders, and more specific issues within Egypt, Syria, and Tunisia. I hear so much about these issues in the Middle East on the news, it was interesting and enlightening to hear a true expert talk about it. After the guest lecture we had our first chance to have a discussion with Professor. We spent most of the discussion talking about Kramnick's radical idea for a direct democracy in the U.S.

In the afternoon I watched the Italy vs. Germany Eurocup game. Then the Nadal vs. Rosol tennis game. I fell asleep during the Swimming Olympic Qualifiers and woke up just in time for dinner. After dinner (and of course ice cream) I spent the rest if the night watching sports, the new show featuring Charlie Sheen, Anger Management, socializing, and reading Plato. I am excited for tomorrow. We have a short day of classes, and Calvin and I are planning on checking out the gym.

Day One of Plato

After meeting the guys for breakfast we headed to class, looking forward to exploring and analyzing the philosophy of Plato.  We started with reviewing of the reading, which the three of us had reviewed after class yesterday.  I felt well-prepared starting school today, but still organized a list of questions and concepts to go over in the discussion section.  Professor Kramnick spent most of the lecture explaining the basic theories of Plato, as we will spend tomorrow learning more about the messages and lasting influence of the text.

In the discussion section we mostly spent the time asking questions about the information Professor Kramnick shared with us today.  We further explored messages in Plato’s political concepts, especially his thoughts on an ideal community.  Basically, Plato believes that the ideal society has an essentially concrete social structure, where everyone, whether a laborer, soldier, or philosopher, is bound in their class and specializes in their task to serve the good of the community.  He also believes that the philosophers, the best of the people, should rule and that democracy is the most dangerous way of overturning his self-made aristocracy.  One of the most satisfying parts of the day was when Professor Kramnick referred to what he said was the most important message in the text, which I had already underlined during my independent reading. We later made comparisons from Plato’s ideal society to ours today and how much we differ with our opinions of democracy.  Before lunch, a few of us stayed to speak to Ulas in greater depth about Plato’s philosophy before heading toward the Trillium Dining Hall. 

After lunch, Ross Brann, a professor of Middle Eastern studies at Cornell, came to speak to us about the importance of Freedom and Justice in Middle Eastern as well as international affairs.  Of course, with the enduring involvement of fossil fuels in Middle Eastern matters, our conversation focused more in that matter.  One thing that I didn’t know was that in Egypt, the recently elected president as supported by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party. 

Some days Professor Kramnick is willing to stay after class to have an open discussion about anything related to the class.  With the election coming up later in the year, we talked about Professor Kramnick’s opinion of politics and the election process.  He believes, while including his humorous personality in his explanation, that the admittance of the president into office should be based on a lottery system. His thoughts are that few people want to be president, and that those who campaign are doing it primarily for attention and personal benefit.  Appointing a president at random will not only erase any competition for the spot, but will eliminate all the financial association that is involved in each election, something that can arguably go against the philosophy of freedom. 

The afternoon was hot, but still not at all humid.  We sought refuge in Risley Lounge with a friend to watch the Germany vs. Italy soccer match and later study for tomorrow.  As the week approaches its end I cannot believe that we have almost spent a whole week in Freedom and Justice.  This experience has truly been enlightening and I an so grateful for this opportunity.