Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wording is Everything

So it turns out that the real homework lesson began today. I had over 100 pages to read from Plato's Republic...I'm almost done though.

Anyways, today was kind of a long, drawn out day. I woke up a little later because I went to bed a little later, but I still managed to make it down to the dining hall for a quick breakfast. After that was class of course, where we received a lecture on the contradictions of the New Testament, and how great thinkers like St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, who have nearly opposite views on humanity, can use different passages from the same text to prove their points. Being a Christian, this was all very interesting to me, especially when the two philosophers began to touch on human nature and whether or not we are born with sin or acquire it through vice.

Later in the day, we had our writing workshop where we got our papers on Freedom back. Mine was mostly marked up with "Why?" and "How?" but there were also a lot of arrows pointing to specific areas with only the word "Right" written there, which made me feel pretty good. However, I still wanted to talk to my TA before I revised the paper, just so I could be sure of what he was looking for, and so Taylor and I went to go see him around 4:30PM during his office hours.

He told me that my paper was pretty good, and that most of my arguments were solid, but that I did need to be careful with my wording. Apparently, when it comes to philosophy, wording is everything. He told me to give another example to help prove my point and also to provide my thoughts on the whole concept at the end. With these specific guidelines, finishing my revisions before Friday should be a piece of cake.

The rest of the night was really just reading and note-taking, so there's not much more to report on, unless of course, you would all like to hear about Plato's ideas on perfect society and philosopher kings... Assuming that is not the case, however, I believe I will get myself some sleep. Good night!


The fact that most hospitality students stick to some form of hospitality for their career is a bit discouraging for someone like me who feels intimidated in a completely different world. However, I knew when I signed up for the ILC that many of the skills I will pick up in Ithaca will certainly be valuable for any other career.

The main focus of today’s lesson was refining how we present ourselves in a professional manner through PowerPoint, Word, and actual presentations themselves. After sharpening our Word skills even further, the class and I actually managed to learn how to make our very own memo template. From my understanding, memos are very short and blunt messages which are normally used as a form of internal communication. Step-by-step, we learned what goes into a memo, how it is broken down, how everything goes into place, and how you are actually supposed to write one. After practicing on our own, we were assigned to make a personally customized memo template for ourselves.

Afterwards, we all watched a video on the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York. I knew that hotels in NYC were grand and large, but the sheer scale of the Waldorf was absolutely ridiculous! From the thousands of staff to the scale of their rooms and facilities, it was fairly crazy that people could manage this well-oiled machine. It was really interesting to see the nuts and bolts of how a hotel operates behind the scenes. From operators to concierges, there is a large network of employees that work like it is the only thing they know how to do. For many employees, they have worked for more than a decade that it is perhaps one of the few things they know how to do like experts.

In the final hour of class, we were finally able to open the CHESS hotel simulation and I was finally able to put my plan into execution. I expected to either crash & burn poorly or to exceed very well, but it seemed as if I was average compared to other peers. Like many have said before me, just seeing occupancy levels and tweaking prices and expenses was really fun. I actually stayed in the computer lab after class just to try and perfect my small 250-room hotel in downtown Syracuse. Throughout the night, I tried to write down and record my planned expenses and rules for rate-selling. While trying it again didn’t work out as much as I thought, it was nice to dig deep and experiment to find the winning combinations to make the perfect hotel.

A Game of CHESS

It was another demanding day in the Hotel Operations Management course, but I'm adjusting. I find my self dozing off less in the middle of the day, so I guess the five hour sleep schedule is working for me. Goodbye jetlag!

It's so difficult for me to register that it was only a week ago that we left California. This has been the longest week of my life. I miss Chicago, I miss hanging out with the ILC Cornell Wolfpack, but oddly enough, I'm not a bit homesick. The summer has kept me busy, even if it's only been a week. I feel like, now that we're on Cornell Time, the days are going to pass much more quickly. But I don't want to wallow in how soon it'll all be over, when I have projects and presentations due left and right. I'm being challenged to new levels, learning about all this mind-boggling stuff, discussing them with people from around the world, and for the most part, I'm having the time of my life.

Today, I picked up a pair of Branta canadensis goslings grazing on the quad green. I finally had the opportunity to try perogies for the first time,after years of my Polish friend, Miranda's insistence. I made $8,190 in virtual hotel simulation money.

CHESS is quite a piece of sofware. I spent a good chunk of the past few days reading about it and taking notes, but experiencing it first-hand and being able to play around with the program is the best teaching tool. The goal is to get the highest occupancy, while making the most RevPAR by manipulating variables to change the success of a bankrupting mid-size limited service hotel in downtown Syracuse. On a side note, I wonder why Cornell has cancelled its use in the actual undergrad Hotel School.

There is so much of CHESS for me to discover and personalize, but I promise to write all about it as soon as I master it.

Waiting to Go Back to Class

Today as Mark demonstrated how to make a memo template on Microsoft Word, I frantically scribbled notes and attempted to actually physically follow through the process at the same time. I made my very own template for “Teril Inn Hospitality,” complete with a seahorse silhouette logo.

We also played the CHESS simulation for the very first time today. The virtual Teril Inn started out with an occupancy rate of 79% but over the course of one virtual week, that number dropped to somewhere in the fifties. Don’t worry- that was just a trial run. Tomorrow the Teril Inn will be much more successful. :)

Before we played CHESS, we watched a video about what goes on behind-the-scenes at the Waldorf=Astoria Hotel in New York City. The video followed various employees (a concierge, a runner, a wedding planner, etc.) in the hotel for one work day. It was actually so captivating that I forgot where I was. When the video ended, I looked around and for a second, was surprised that I wasn’t following around the Housekeeping Manager or the general manager of the Waldorf.

So far, every single thing we have learned in this class has been interesting. Mark and Reneta are already right up there on my “Favorite Teachers” list. Not only are they scarily brilliant and incredibly savvy about the hotel industry, but they are also warm and funny and super enthusiastic about teaching.

Yesterday, Reneta encouraged the class to hang on because students had confessed to feeling overwhelmed after her lecture. The following is almost exactly quoted. She said, “It gets easier. You’re going to do fine. We’re here with you. Don’t freak out. You’ll do fine.” It was the way she said it that did it. I teared up. I really did.

Mark makes the class laugh every other minute, but today he made me tear up too. He also said that students had gone up to him and expressed concern about the rigor of the class. Mark basically told us that we are here to learn, and that there is nothing to be ashamed about. All we have to do is ask for help when we need it.

I am making Reneta and Mark sound a LOT less interesting than they really are. I know people have said these things before, but when Reneta and Mark talk to us, their eyes light up and I know I have never seen such genuine people. I don’t even think it would matter what they were saying because they are so amazing. (Except everything they happen to say is amazing also.)

Anyways, the third day of class is over. Today went by way too fast, but I loved every minute of it. Tomorrow I have class again. I am so excited! I feel like a little kid waiting for the first day of school, except tomorrow isn't the first day of class. It's just another "regular" day of class, but I'm just so excited! I am very happy right now. I am looking forward to sleeping for seven hours, and I am also looking forward to waking up after that so I can go to class. I love this. :)

It's Wrong To Steal Right...? Not In A Perfect Society

Back-to-back nights of good sleep!!! Although my high school half is telling me that that alone was the highlight of my day, my newfound college side is telling me that it was hearing about St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas’ views on politics, more specifically one point St. Aquinas made. But to jump to that would be a bit off timeline, so back to the beginning of class.

Professor Kramnick started off the day as usual (feels a bit weird to be saying that on the third day of class but it’s true) with a lecture about last night’s readings, which were written by St. Thomas and St. Augustine. Kramnick spoke with his usual passion about the conflicting teachings of the two, which was easily explained by the difference in periods of time in which they wrote. While Augustine was in general a complete pessimist about human nature, saying everyone was forever sinful because of the original sin and that only the city of God could save them, he did make a few excellent points about the need of laws to control our animalistic nature, and to keep a check on the “city of flesh,” or of earthly desires.

Aquinas on the other hand, was very positive, and even proposed one of the most interesting ideas of society I have ever read about (although I have been reading Plato tonight so that might not seem so interesting in comparison), when he proposed a society in which everyone grew and harvested or made whatever supplies they were best at making. This may sound a bit like Communism, but the truly fascinating bit about his idea was that he maintained that these specialists should own all their surpluses as their own private property, and to store it to aid the poor when they’re in need. A telling quote about this belief was shown when he quoted Ambrose from the Decretals, “It is the hungry man’s bread you withhold, the naked man’s cloak that you store away, the money that you bury in the earth is the price of the poor man’s ransom and freedom.” At first glance it may seem like St. Aquinas was a terrible person letting the poor starve and freeze to death, if you interpreted withhold to mean kept away from, rather than held onto for. Since he did mean it as held onto, he made a later point that if those who stockpiled these goods didn’t come to the aid of the poor, the poor had the right to steal what they needed to sustain themselves. This immediately drew a lot of argument from quite a few of my fellow students, who thought of stealing not in this scenario but in our normal capitalist lives today. While I agreed that in today’s society it would be wrong to steal no matter the circumstances, I argued that since the only reason those who had had what they did was to help those that had not, those that had not had the right to take what should have been held for them, since that was the original purpose of the stockpiling. I would never have come to this conclusion before this class, and can already feel my mind starting to open up to new ideas. Off to Plato!

A Journey Through Word Processing

Yes, that title is right, as the main focus of my day became formatting a memo within Microsoft Word, through the many useful lessons that Hotel School professor Mark McCarthy have given us.  But, strangely enough, this whole experience was the result of strange circumstances.

But I am getting ahead of myself, so I will start at the beginning.  Today began like any other day at Cornell Summer College (I cannot but help to laugh at the fact that this sentence sounds like I have been here for an extended period of time even though it was only a week ago that I was at Chicago).  Breakfast with friends and roommates, then a nice, brisk walk to Statler Hall.

Once we arrived at the classroom, I reserved seats for the rest of my team, as per our recent agreements that the first one to arrive would do so.  Nothing seemed off.

However, when class started, we found out what had happened -- the program we were supposed to be doing, the CHESS simulation, had mysteriously disappeared from several of the computers in the lab.  So, we were given an extensive lesson on how Microsoft Word works.

Mark gave us a short quiz about formatting, followed by a tutorial on how to properly format a menu, with several colors, borders, tabs and styles.  The lesson turned out to be really interesting, if a little difficult.  However, most of the students got through it fine.  After, we watched a video on the famous Waldorf Astoria.  Video programs such as these usually make me sleepy, but this one was actually really great.

During lunch, we met up with Joe for the first time in days (which actually felt like weeks, to be honest).  It was nice discussing what was going on with each others' classes and planning to meet up soon.

Once we got back to class, Mark gave a very funny PowerPoint to illustrate what makes or break a presenatation.  Then, the computers were loaded with CHESS, and I began to simulate hotel management.  It ended quite badly for me, as the charts showed eventual lack of growth.

Till tomorrow all.

It's 60 Degrees?

Today was actually a cool one- respectively for Ithaca that is. Only 65 degrees at the day's peak, I could actually wear the awesome sweatshirt comfortably that I got courtesy of the wonderful ILC at the Cornell bookstore. I had my usual after-class routine of going to the gym, having a late dinner, and now blogging, but there was a slight difference.

Since we have a class assignment of writing an essay about Freedom, I was struggling with that. I went to my TA's "office", for in fact it is an old freshman girls' dorm room, to discuss a few passages from St. Augustine and get help with my writing. Unfortunately, I'm still having a bit of writer's block, especially in accordance to a specific part of freedom, being as its definition is so broad and can be interpreted in so many different ways.

Professor Kramnick's lectures are great. He really gets into them and tries to keep students interested. I'm looking forward to getting to have lunch with him as Taylor and Joe have had the pleasure of having.

In our discussion group we talked the difference between St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, and what alot of their writings actually mean as some of the language and religious references can be hard to understand. One large topic was whether private property is good, and whether it can ever be moral to steal in any situation. Another is what rulers are really needed for as intermediates of God. Goodnight for now, off to read some Plato.

Two more days until my birthday!


I was at a loss for a creative title, this does not; however, mean my day was not creative or interesting. In fact my day today was extremely interesting.

Lecture today was about Augustine and Aquinas and their theories on political, naturally since it is a political thought or theory course; however I had never, before this course, heard of either of those men in my life so for me reading about them and hearing Professor Kramnick’s thoughts on what their text meant was very eye opening for me. Learning about the religious ideals of the time and their influence on the writings of intellectuals impressed me and challenged me to think about the major influences driving writings and politics today. I realize that the main major influence is in fact the ‘Old’ and ‘New” testaments. These ageless classics, more or less, carrying values that are desired and required (in a way) in today’s society. The two writers also have varying view on government and the purpose of government with respect to a community and also with respect to individuals.

In our discussion group we made comparisons between the Augustine and Aquinas’ thoughts on government and looked at how the ‘Old’ testament played a strong role in Augustine’s beliefs, while the ‘New’ testament played a strong role in Aquinas’ beliefs.

Then came lunch, which is a story in itself today. There are 60 students in the Freedom and Justice course; therefore Professor Kramnick has decided to eat lunch with 6 students each day. Today was my day. After finding and saving a table for the seven of us I ran to get in line for my burrito. I have gotten a burrito for lunch the three days we have had lunch here and now the lady knows me and knows exactly what I am getting when she sees me in line, it is wonderful. I was the first one back to the table but once we all were seated Professor Kramnick explained the drill; it ran like this: You had to introduce yourself, tell how you heard about the program, tell where you were from, where you wanted to go to college, and what you wanted to be when you ‘grow up’. After everyone had gone Professor Kramnick asked us what we thought about President Obama. To my surprise only two of the six said they would not vote for him if the election was tomorrow.

I began to realize today in class, during my lunch with Professor Kramnick, and again after I read Melissa Arciniega’s comment on my blog that I am so lucky to be here. I don’t want this portion to sound like I am sucking up, but I am realizing that this is an opportunity not offered to many. In my writing class today my TA talked about the difference between freedom and opportunity. In my mind I think of freedom (even though I have already mentioned I am not a real freedom believer) is the possibility to do something whereas opportunity is the ability to do it. I realize that everyone has the freedom to attend a summer college, but not everyone has the opportunity to be in a program like the ILC, which showcases our district’s many talents.

Time to meet with my TA to go over my paper. Until tomorrow, Over and Out blog readers.