Friday, July 1, 2011

An Hour is a Minute

Why is it that days goes by so fast?  I guess when school is very busy, time is simply a relative thing.  Between the deadlines and the group work, things tend to pass by extremely fast, and before you know it, a whole week has passed from the first time I step foot on this campus; nearly two weeks since we set off on our journey.

But the point is, time goes by relatively fast.

The 4th of July weekend is interesting because we Hotelies will not be partaking in too many festivities around the campus, due to a group presentation on the 4th of July  Thus, the rest of the weekend will be a bit booked with project work.  Of course, it is never really a bad thing -- Hotel Management has by far proven to be enthralling, though difficult.

Mark addressing the class.
Today however, was nothing too strenuous in terms of lessons -- a short video detailing the meaning of running an effective group and an exercise based on it was rather simple.  Following that, all of the Hotelies were sent to the computer labs to work on our memos and after, our group presentations.

Group 9B of the Hotel Operations Management course.
This is where the real work begins.  Even though PowerPoints are very simple to create, making it good is another story entirely.  Thus, we spent close to three hours trying to figure out how to properly organize our presentation.  On the bright side, our group has actually been working on it, so we are not too far behind.  One more meeting tomorrow and I think we will be finished with the physical component.  The verbal part, I think, we will have to deal with soon.

Of course, even the most packed of schedules have to have room open for free time.  Today was Genevieve's birthday, and I hope our group managed to make it a good one.  We even had an ice cream cake ready for a group lunch and managed to get the entire hall to sing along to "Happy Birthday."  I like moments like those, they make me smile.

In the evening, a few of us visited the Commons in Ithaca.  It was very nice to get away from the campus for a little bit and enjoy the local sites.  There were several shops in the area that we looked through, including a great used books store and of course, Collegetown Bagels.
With Kevin and fellow Hotelie Dylan in front of a giant caterpillar at the Ithaca Commons.
It is always nice to balance work with a little bit of fun, if only a bit.  I guess it was just nice that there was enough time at the end to relax.

I believe that this first week has been very educational, not to be cliche.  There were routines that were worked out, connections made and smoothed out, and of course, tabs that were used and not used appropriately in Microsoft Word.  It is a bit exciting to know that there is so much more to learn in the coming weeks, as well as so much more to do.

However, at the moment, I am exhausted by the long day, and there is still work to do tomorrow.  So until next time, adieu.

Out of the Cave and Into the Ithaca Commons

The majority of class time today was dedicated to editing and re-editing our business memos. Our wonderful TAs patiently read over our memos and made suggestions and answered questions. I personally got mine looked over from three different TAs before I turned it in. After this, I worked with my group on our class project for a few hours, and then I actually had free time! Jobel and Dylan, our Hotelie friend from Ohio, taught me how to play Banana Grams. After a few rounds, the Hercules Hotelies and Dylan took a bus to the Ithaca Commons for dinner.

Me playing Banana Grams with Dylan
We walked up and down streets lined with artsy shops. There was a barefoot harp player and a cross-legged woman wearing a multi-colored turban. We made our way to a used book store, where I bought a Paul Gauguin art book. Taylor, Joe, Nick, Vivi, and some of their other friends met up with us and headed over to a pizzeria with Kelly, but Kevin, Jobel, Dylan and I wanted anything but pizza, so we ate at the famous Collegetown Bagels instead.
My Cayuga Croissant
Collegetown Bagels was very impressive. The croissant I ordered was delicious, and the eatery is also very environmentally conscious. There were separate containers for trash, compostables, and recyclables, just like there are at the Trillium dining hall at Cornell. I want to set up this kind of waste system at Hercules High School. There was also a book swap in the back of the store. The sense of community here is just so very strong.

Most of the stores were independent and the people were very warm. A man on the bus kindly corrected us when he overheard us talking about getting off at the wrong stop, and a family whose car was being ticketed by an officer let me hold and play with their dog Tickles.
Me, Kelly, and Tickles
Kevin, Jobel, Dylan, and me in front of the Cornell Daily Sun Headquarters

Tomorrow we won’t have class, which will probably be very disorienting for me. I will, however, be meeting with my group to work on our PowerPoint presentation on Starwood Hotels and Resorts. In five days, I have learned:
· how to make memo and letter templates on Microsoft Word
· how to make Power Point templates
· how to identify different types of business models
· hotel managing strategies
· public speaking skills
· how to write an effective business memo
· how to calculate occupancy rates, average daily rates, and revenue per available room
· different types of hotels
· how an effective team functions
· how the Waldorf=Astoria employees contribute to their hotel
· the benefits and shortcomings of franchising, managing or owning hotels
· what different types of guests (business, leisure, and group) tend to expect from hotels and why they expect what they do

This is just what I remember learning off of the top of my head. We definitely have learned more than this. Talk about making the most of one’s week.

In addition to these academic lessons, I have also learned to set two alarms in the morning just in case one fails to wake me up, to shower in the afternoon because that’s when no one else showers, to check for important items (keys, ID, money, cellphone) every time I leave to go to a new place, to properly balance my meals and to effectively and openly talk about problems within a group.

I am having a blast, and I feel guilty for saying this, but today I don't really want to go home.

It’s Friday

For those of you who are fortunate enough to not have heard the song Friday by Rebecca Black you might not understand my title in short it is a reference to her song.

I don’t know where to begin. Today was a great day all in all. I must start by shouting out my very amazing cohort Genevieve Simmons…HAPPY SWEET SIXTEEN!!!!!!!!! For everyone back home I would like to take a minute to explain what we did for our amazing friend. A birthday wouldn’t be a birthday without a card, so that was the first thing we made. Next we decided we wanted to surprise her but hiding in the laundry room while I called her saying I was dealing with some guy issues; she was so completely scared it was great. Then today at lunch we had the lunch lady (for lack of better terms) bring out a cake and got most of the lunch ‘room’ to sing to her. I think it was a pretty well done birthday.

As for the academic side of my day: Fridays are our short days meaning we have lecture and section. Today our TA Simon was not there because he went off to England to accept an award for an essay he wrote, all of which he failed to tell us because he is amazingly modest person and felt no desire to brag about his accomplishment. Since we were missing our TA; Professor Kramnick took over our class. The way the class was run today in a very different way. Instead of being given a handout, Professor Kramnick proposed a ‘new’ way of democracy. I say ‘new’ because it isn’t truly new; it would only be new to Americans because we think that democracy means we elect our officials rather then have them selected at random. Kramnick suggests that our system promotes a gross system of making decision based on the people who raise money for them. So instead a system based on selection would ‘eliminate money from our economy”. His ideas were shot down by the class because we all agreed that to be in charge of out nation the leader must have some knowledge of worldly issues and domestic ones as well. At the end of class Kramanick stated that he might not truly believe the selection idea but that he had turned us into Platoist at the end of class.

And that was my day. Until Tomorrow, Over and Out blog readers.

Birthday Bash

Now I’m back on the wrong kind of sleeping streak, but at least I don’t have class tomorrow! Don’t get me wrong, class has been great, but 6 hours a day for the same class does get pretty intense. 

Anyway, back to my lack of sleep, last night at midnight Genevieve turned 16! We all had a nice little surprise party of sorts in the laundry room, so I didn’t get to go to sleep until around 2.

We had a relatively relaxed day in Freedom and Justice where our class consisted only of lecture and discussion, so we were actually done with class by noon. I took advantage of this extra free time and took one of the most refreshing naps of my life, a nice two-hour relaxation session.

But back to the class, today we continued our Plato lesson, and delved deeper into his most well-known analogies, such as the ship (in which all sailors believe they have enough education to properly steer the ship, but really only the captain does, basically an anti-democracy allegory). Another of these well-known allegories is that of the cave, a very long and complex way Plato explains the two realms of reality. The one realm that the masses can see is the realm of things themselves, but the essence of things, the realm which philosophers can see, is the true realm. It is this realm that gives them superiority over the masses, since they can see the essence of justice and goodness.

But after those complex ideas, my brain needs to rest, and I can’t wait to sleep in tomorrow!

Happy Birthday To Me!

Carl, Matt, Nick, Joe, Taylor, Carrie, and I! On a bridge overlooking the gorges

Today I have alot to blog about, but not all of it has to do with Plato whether or not that be a good thing or not. I really do enjoy our discussions and lectures on him though. We finished going over all the material in "The Republic" that has been assigned to us, and now the paper we are writing during the course of the rest of the three weeks will be pertaining to him and his criticisms of democracy, which sounds simple but will be hard to pinpoint as he does not clearly state specific reasons. We discussed the Allegory of the Cave today in our group which is a very interesting idea posing how humans distinguish different ideas by just seeing or appearances or actually knowing the essence of objects that exist in a higher realm.

Academic things aside for the moment, I just wanted to take a moment to thank all of my friends and cohorts for all the wonderful things they surprised me with for my birthday and how amazing they all are. Joe already gave away many of the details, but can I just say both surprises, the card in the basement and cake, were entirely COMPLETE secrets from me and they were probably some of the best moments of my life. I don't know if they realize how much I appreciate it :) Thanks, too, to Ms. Neal for the journal! Oh and by the way Hotelies that cake was definitely to die for, one of the best I've ever had. Chocolate, ice cream, and raspberry swirl oh my! Haha. My parents called so I got to speak with them but it is so strange being away from home. However, it is a great experience to get under your belt before actually leaving for college.

Another ILC member, Erin Miller, also has a birthday today! I hope she had as good of one as I did. For dinner I got to explore the "Commons" for the first time and see what public transportation was like in upstate New York. Beforehand I had also stopped in the art quad to enjoy a free afro-reggae jazz concert in the beautiful evening air. This campus really does live up to it's name; the rolling green hills are ideal to sit upon and watch the sun set.

I'm off to bed now after this exhausting but unforgettable day. I'm sure my head will hit the pillow and already be asleep- good thing it's the weekend tomorrow! Sweet dreams everyone.

It's the Weekend!

Friday arrived on a cheerful note in the basement. After Genevieve's midnight laundromat birthday surprise, things went south as I attempted to rough out the early hours working on various projects. The first day this week I was supposed to sleep in was not what I had anticipated.

The next surprise came after yet another day in class (yes, after an arduous first week, it has become "yet another day"). Chocolate and Oregon blackberry cheesecake ice cream birthday cake that we ordered was the bomb. Having to return to class for another 3 hours afterwards while everyone else was done with the day at noon was a challenge. But, there were business memos and PowerPoint templates that were not going to create themselves.

Free at last in the evening, we enjoyed a nice stroll through the Commons. I had New York pizza for the first time and we explored the various little eateries and shops lining the avenue. The red-brick Commons lit by foliage-filtered sunlight in the late afternoon is a beautiful sight. Ithaca and College Town are quite quaint, and I'm so glad we finally took the opportunity to explore.

The First Curtain Never Closes

As the final "necessary" alarm rings for the morning, I was looking optimistic towards the weekend ahead of us. Throughout the day, many ideas popped up into my head as to what exciting opportunities await us for Independence Weekend. However, before we were actually able to indulge in these newfound experiences, we just had one more class for the week.

I think that if you ask anyone in the professional world whether teamwork is vital to success, everyone would instinctively say yes. I think that everyone in school takes teamwork for granted, and I am victim to that as well. We were presented a video on "Teams that Work" and how teams require six characteristics in order for them to function. The video stressed the point in that without any of the six listed characteristics, a team will just crumble in a matter of days. Specifically, the six characteristics are:
  1. A high level of trust.
  2. A high level of respect.
  3. Commitment to a clear and common purpose.
  4. A willingness and ability to resolve conflict.
  5. A focus on results.
  6. Mutual responsibility and accountability for outcomes.
While I have been influenced to believe that a succesful team requires an operating leader, a true, functioning team requires that everyone are, in a sense, the leaders of themselves and everyone of their cohorts.

In the computer lab, we all made finishing touches to our business memo laying out our individual strategies for our CHESS Simulation hotel. I am really looking forward to how my hospitality philosophy and plan will reflect on a hotel.

After turning in my first major assignment, we all took our own lunch break before returning at 1:30. As usual, we all ate at the Trilium Cafe and the ILC cohorts and I actually garnered up a little surprise for Genvieve. We ordered a birthday cake a few days ago and made sure that it was served as a surprise to her lunch table. As one of the employees brightfully brought the cake, not just the table, but the entire room surrounded us as everyone chanted "Happy birthday!" for Genvieve. Just seeing that friendly warmth and energy from the room actually gave me goosebumps on her birthday!

Genvieve trying to cut the ice-cold ice cream cake with a plastic knife.

After returning to Statler Hall, my group and I went underway in composing our group presentation on Best Western. Thanks to Mark McCarthy's hard-boiled tutorial on using PowerPoint, we were able to make a very sleek template that looks almost as if it came directly come the corporate office! I mainly focused my research on the CEO of Best Western, David Kong, and the individual brands of the company including Best Western, Best Western Plus, and Best Western Premier. The one issue I always seem to have with research projects is that it can be difficult to find a good starting point for that much-needed information. It was nice to be assured by the professors that if it is difficult to find information on a specific subject, it may mean that this isn't of much importance to the company and eventually the project. While it may seem like a sweet escape from doing more thorough research, hearing it from leading experts in the particular field gave much needed comfort. I agree that in can be discouraging when a teacher believes someone did poor work on an assignment because they did not provide enough info, and so this instance further reinforces the need that teachers are well-informed and not just a simple robot reading from a textbook or teaching guide.

A preview of our upcoming intro page for our group PowerPoint.

To celebrate Genvieve's birthday and the weekend, we all visited Ithaca Commons, which is located in the downtown district. Just walking through, what can be described as the town's most busiest area actually didn't seem that busy at all. All around us were local shops and it was fascinating to see not a single Walmart or McDonald's in the area. While the town has such a quiet charm to it, the trip made me further yearn the need for action and activity in a busy city. While I may not connect with the Ithaca area, it has surely helped me realize what kind of place I would love to reside both in college and further in my career. Like I said, everyday is always a learning experience.

Week One: Check

Well, it looks like I can check week one off of the calendar! It's a weird feeling to know that I am a third of the way through the course already, but it's also weird to think that I have only been here for a week! This place has become our home so quickly, that it's hard to believe that we really haven't been here for that long. Time flies I guess...

But ANYWAYS, class was definitely different today. Professor Kramnick's interpretation of the text was completely different than mine so the lecture was much more helpful than yesterday's. Also, our TA was away today, so Professor Kramnick filled in instead! We were all a little nervous at first, since we had no idea what to expect, but when he came in he began cracking jokes and acting like the jolly guy that he is. We actually discussed a political topic today in our discussion group, as opposed to the usual where we fill out a few worksheets and talk about our responses.

Today, however, Kramnick told us a slightly ridiculous political view that he has where the president is not ELECTED, but SELECTED. The president would be a random citizen whose name was pulled out of a hat and for the next four years, they would ultimately make all of our country's decisions, although they would have a few councils of advisors for nearly every political area. We all argued with him for the rest of the period, and at the end he made the point that whether he actually believed in his view or simply used it as a teaching method, he had proved to us that we all had platonic views on politics, because we had all argued the same thing that Plato would have.

Now, for the less academic aspects of the day: It's Genevieve's birthday today!! Haha

We decided to start out the day for her at midnight last night by calling her into the laundry room, which we knew would be empty. Taylor pretended to be having "boy-problems" and asked Vivi to come down and talk with her. When Vivi arrived though, expecting to find a hysterical Taylor, we Cornellians and a few of our new friends jumped out from behind the walls screaming, "SURPRISE!!!" and presented her with a giant, home-made card. We all laughed and talked for a short while longer, but eventually we decided that it was probably time to get some sleep.

But the festivities did not end there!!! Yesterday, our Hotel Management cohorts were so kind as to order a cake for Vivi from the local ice cream parlor/bakery, and during lunch today, a woman from the bakery walked up to our table with the cake in hand (Vivi didn't know that this was going to happen either). We all began to sing Happy Birthday as the woman approached us, and to our surprise, the rest of the Dining Hall joined in too! Needless to say, Vivi was a little embarrassed, but it was an awesome little event and she seemed to really appreciate it.

Our plans for the rest of the day consist of taking Vivi out to dinner in college-town and coming back to campus to see the free musical performance around 7:30PM. This day has been a lot of fun, and it has certainly been a great start to our three-day-weekend! (No class on the 4th of July!) It's the end of week one, but the beginning of a whole new chapter. Can't wait to see what's in store!