Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Welcome to the Projects

If we really are going home soon, it certainly, definitely, does not seem anything like it.  The fact of the matter is that class does not seem to be winding down, or well, if it is, I must be thicker than anybody because I have not noticed it at all.  The content is still complicated and rigorous, the lessons are still fast-paced and a bit on the exhausting side.  Even though office hours seems to have lightened up over the past few days, it does not give any indication that things are coming to a close.

In fact, I think today has been too busy of a day to see things coming to a close.  Because today, there were two very long, very tiring lessons that came our way:  one on overbooking and one on creating a payoff matrix.

First off, Reneta gave us a lecture on overbooking.  This was more or less the easier part of the day, since the concept of overbooking is simple to understand.  It is a technique where a hotel may cautiously book more than it's occupied rooms in order to maximize occupancy and profit.   We went over the specifics, such as how to predict whether or not it is profitable to overbook and whether or not it is ethical to overbook a hotel.

After that, we went to the Binenkorp Computer Lab, where Mark gave us a very speedy lesson (well, in terms of the pace he was going) on creating a payoff matrix, a graph on Excel that would allow me to predict how much I can make through overbooking by way of predicting how many people would not show up at the hotel.

Mark also gave us a crash course of what we have done over the past three weeks.  That did not turn out as well as we had hoped.  While we did know the answers, it took us a little while to figure them out.

To be honest, I am rather tired and a bit worried about our final project.  Our group had a few issues when we ran the CHESS simulation and now we are rerunning it, which will not bode well for the amount of time we have used.  Tomorrow, I plan to get most if not all of it done, so I can do not have to worry about much for the rest of the week.

These last few days are starting to get to me, as three weeks of endless late nights in order finish up work is starting to catch up to me.  But I will be fine I think, at least I would get as much as I can done.  It makes me feel a little accomplished, if only a little.

On a more interesting note, I found a really peculiar-shaped leaf.  I thought it was rather interesting and I wrote a little on it.  That was fun.

Enter the Matrix

The main emphasis today was understanding what it takes to overbook a hotel and how to handle it well. The main thing that happens when you overbook and you don't have any more rooms to support reservations, you make guests "walk out" as opposed to check in.

Walking a guest out simply means that you are instead having them book into a similar hotel in the area. We covered a lot of the fundamentals including how walk-outs can severely damage guest relations. Because of that, hotels follow revenue management strategy and give higher priority to business guests to have a held reservation until they arrive. This means that leisure guests are the ones who are walked out more often as business guests on average pay more for their room and any other services and facilities the property provides.

And while the hospitality industry is still a capitalist competition, special agreement "walk-out" rates are settled between hotels in the event that one has guests being walked out to the other. Reneta explained that this was one instance of good relations between hotels in the same market.

We also got into the more financial and technical part of overbooking and how much potential revenue can be lost by either overbooking or underbooking and how patrons that do not follow through with their own reservations affect this. To help explain how this all works, we were introduced to the payoff matrix. At first site, it made some sense as there is a strong component in the probability of a certain amount of "no-show" guests for any specific day. I could easily tell where numbers came from and how to get the numbers.

But when we arrived in the lab with Mark to make our own payoff matrix, I was absolutely befuddled at times. While for the most of the lab, I easily comprehended what was thrown at us, the near-endpoint was like a race between a bike and a jet-plane. Thankfully enough, the exercises he taught were accessible in a file and I copied that onto my flash drive in a heartbeat so I can better analyze what I did wrong.

At the end of the day, we broke into our groups and actually put our CHESS Hotel strategies and expenses to the final test. Fortunately, we managed to reach our goal of over $70,000 for weekly income! While many of our expense strategies made a major role in our success, it is fairly difficult to pinpoint how one expense affected our profit more than any other expense. We can only hypothesize at this point, but I believe that our past experiences with the program and the many strategies and lessons Reneta has taught us in the past two weeks have made a huge difference. In particular, I was really aggressive with my high-priced room rates in my individual report, but after consulting with Reneta, I decided that there is no need to focus on higher rates unless you can actually get a high occupancy rate. I put it to the test, leaving my lower-priced rates open more than I have done in the past, and we managed to get a great stream of customers into our virtual property.

I knew from the beginning that trying to reach that profit goal would be difficult, and when we found out we hit it nicely, I felt proud, happy, and excited. It's as if I accomplished the impossible, and from my view, it almost did feel like the impossible.

A Taste of Marx

Each day we get one day closer to Friday’s final, and each day that thought adds more and more stress to an already stressful class. Not that class isn’t fun, it really is just this last week that is far and away one of the most stressful weeks I’ve ever had academically. I know it might sound odd to some for me to be complaining about one essay and one test, but since the test and essay make up more than half of my grade, I think it’s worth worrying about, to say the least. Not that I don’t think I’m prepared, quite the contrary, I feel that I really understand all these philosophers’ main concepts. It’s just after hearing just how few people were able to get As or A-s on their mid-term, I’ve realized that this is going to be the hardest I will ever have had to work to make sure I get the A or at least A- that I know I am capable of receiving.

Anyway, venting aside, today’s class was one of the more interesting classes these last few weeks, although there still hasn’t been a single boring one. We started off the day with a lecture on Marx, but didn’t really delve into his better known writings, known as the Communist Manifesto. We did get to hear about his basic ideas on labor and how if one has to give away that which he labored on, he will become estranged from that very labor, and eventually all mankind.

After our discussion, we went back to Goldwin Smith for our last guest lecture, from a lawyer who worked on the Haagen Dazs v. Frusen Gladje case in the 1980s, and it was very interesting to hear about the case from someone who was actually there.

Making the Best of Things

Today was a bit stressful for me... The day started out well with a nice breakfast and a nice walk to class, and even a great lecture, but during section we got our second draft of our Plato papers back. I think there were more comments than actual essay on mine.

Simon said that he had written instructions on most people's papers to come and see him during office hours. He said that it was nothing to worry about and that he just thought it would be easier to express his critiques in person, but never-the-less, it was a little disappointing to see that instruction on my paper.

I went to see him and there was a line that stretched all the way down the hallway (At least I wasn't the only one). I waited for about an hour outside of his door when he finally told us that if we were more than two people behind in line then we could go to dinner and come back. As the third person in line, I was actually extremely relieved just to get out of there for a minute. I had a nice dinner with my friends which definitely calmed me down a bit, but soon afterwards, it was time to head back to the dreaded room.

It actually didn't go too badly though. He gave me a few tips on how to improve my points, and told me that one of my paragraphs was actually really good. He said that I should use that paragraph as a structural model for the rest of them, and see where that took me. He pretty much mapped out my essay for me and so all that's left to do really is write it.

After that, the day got much more leisurely though. Today happened to be Carrie's birthday (Taylor's friend from middle school that happened to be taking Psychology here) and so we got her a cake and ate it in front of the dorm room. Afterwards, I hung out with my roommate and some of our friends who I finally have some pictures of!!!

Matt O'Reilly: My Roommate

Nick Protan: Friend

Carle Wirshba: Friend

Deedee and Oliver: Two random kids who saw me taking pictures and wanted to be on the blog.......why not.

Overall, today was another good day I guess, but just a little more stressful than usual. I suppose it's that our crazy trip is finally starting to come to a close... Oh well. Looks like I'll have to make the best of my next 3 days here at Cornell University.

Until tomorrow readers. Good night!

Karl Marx Makes His Mark

Marxism is the topic today and I must start off by saying I was not looking forward to today’s lecture because I didn’t fully understand socialism or communism. But after today, and tomorrow as well, I am pretty sure I will be able to say I know the difference and what Marx wanted and then what was actually put in place and why we may use the words in the wrong context.

I must say I had never really heard about Marx, oh block system. Anyway, today was a great history lesson for me. I felt like I really understood the time period that Marx was writing in and thus could understand where he was coming from. I will not say that I fully agree with him, but I agree that the factory and industrial revolution alienated the workers from everything (more or less). I have to say that I find the way in which Marx gives his opinions and thoughts a little hard to follow. This confuse might come from never reading him before, but my TA agreed with me on the fact that Marx doesn’t really express himself in the most straight forward or in the best way possible, which makes it really difficult to follow his train of thought.

Today in our lecture and discussion we cover the alienation problem Marx had with the industrial revolution. As I mentioned before I agree with Marx, I think that taking the work out of the home and depersonalizing it made the work and the workers strangers to one another. I also think it created a very distinct set of classes: the rich corporation owners, the employers, the bosses, and then the workers. And I don’t think that is right or just at all. I know we live in a capitalistic society and that these classes are still in effect today, but I just feel like there has got to be a better way to do business and to compete. Don’t get me wrong I love competition you can ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you that I am very competitive and maybe sometimes too competitive, but I really think I agree with Marx on this one.

I did not, surprise surprise, spend my entire day debating Marx’s philosophy, and in fact today was my friend from JMSG’s birthday!!!! Carrie turned the big one seven today. It was great to spend the day with her. I also had my last intramural soccer game, which was a little bit sad because I have made some really great friends playing soccer here.

However, after soccer my day did take a turn back towards academic because I met with my TA. I had originally planned to talk to him about my essay and a couple questions I had, but I our conversation took a different path. After getting my questions answered my TA and I had a lovely little chat about college and my plans for the future. It was refreshing to hear someone new talk about college.

Until tomorrow, Over and Out blog readers

And tomorrow?

I was happy to find mail in my mailbox today. My friend Angelica had sent me a letter and both my mom and sister sent me letters. My mom also sent me two necklaces she had made- one with my puppy Basil's fur sewn onto it! (By the way, that's a candid picture taken by my friend Harley, who stole my camera.) It's nice to really enjoy living by myself, but it's also nice to still feel the connection between me and my family/friends.

Like usual, I got to class around 15 minutes early, so I took several pictures of people in the room.

This is Reneta, one of my professors. At the beginning of this course, everyone thought Mark was the carefree, laid-back professor and Reneta was the strict one. Slowly, their roles switched, even though Mark is still the one who makes funny jokes 20 times a day. Both of them are equally and very dedicated to hospitality and teaching hospitality.

This is our head TA, Gorka. He is an endless source of help everyday in class and during office/lab hours. Everyone in class loves him. People even made shirts with his name on it and everything- boys and girls alike.

This is my friend Margot, who was being silly and decided to come stand right in front of the camera.

In class, we learned about the payoff matrix for hotels. This is how hotels determine whether it is worthwhile for them to overbook or oversell rooms. (Overbooked refers to a hotel that has booked more reservations than there is room for, while oversold simply means that every guest who made a reservation actually showed up to the hotel.)

Hotel managers of front desk clerks who decide whether or not to walk a guest must take into consideration the revenue forgone by having rooms sit empty (calculated by average daily rate minus marginal costs), probabilities of no-shows, and the cost to the hotel because of overselling.

How much it would cost the hotel to walk a guest because of overbooking or overselling is determined by

a) the rate for the hotel that the guest is being sent to
b) transportation, severed possibility of future visit
c) hotel's reputation

We discussed whether or not intentionally overbooking a hotel is ethical, under what circumstances a hotel would intentionally overbook and the consequences that could come with overbooking. We also compared overbooking in the hotel industry to overbooking on airplanes, and learned how to calculate values needed for the payoff matrix on Excel.

It was a lecture of pretty dense material. I would have never thought of all the hard work and critical thinking that goes into overbooking and walking guests. It's really incredible.

During break, my classmates were too tired to even go buy coffee. Instead, everyone collapsed on the comfortable benches outside of the classroom:

I wonder what tomorrow's class will bring.

In Penultimate Peril

Time is of the essence. Now mid-week in the last stretch of our stay at Cornell, things are getting a little chaotic.

With report revisions, memos, Excel charts, readings, and CHESS runs due left and right, in addition to the Excel matrix-ing and hotel overbooking strategies we're learning in class, it's hard to manage personal-grade assignments with group projects. Of course, new on our list as of this week, is the Goliath class-concluding group CHESS report. I don't want to make it seem bigger than it is, but when it's worth 25% of my total grade, it's a behemoth.

It's a challenge partly because it's a project to be divvied up (hopefully not butchered) into sections assigned individually one to a single group member. While individuality is what makes us awesome, when everyone is so unique with his/her own style, viewpoints, and writing voice, it's hard to meet the expectation of a single, consistent, cohesive, and flowing voice, as if a report by one author rather than four. It's a tough job for the group with many decisions to make ASAP.

I loathe having to play bad cop. While it's viewed as necessary to keep the group on track, it's such a self-alienating experience. I'm feeling it's hard to mix business with friendship, but maybe it's because I'm a pessimist who takes things too seriously. There's just so much to do and my own assignments to fret about on the side.

I wonder how we'll manage to get everything together and presentable by early Friday, when we haven't started and I keep fighting myself to not be the horrible boss I've been my entire secondary school career. I'm not being true to myself. But, I trust my group mates to take their own initiative. It's a strange, unwelcome rush like being blindfolded and in a speeding car, but this time I'm in the backseat.

Haagen Do Or Don't?

A view on campus with beautiful East Coast clouds in the backround.

Today was a relatively overcast day for here in Ithaca, but that did not stop the sweltering heat. I cannot wait to be back in the Bay Area and wearing pants. It helps that we had an ice cream cake (see below) for my friend Carrie's birthday, and I took a picture so you could get an idea of what mine was like- delicious!

After lunch, we had a guest lecture with more of an economic focus. Alan Mittman talked with us about "free enterprise," and whether is really is free, due to restrictions such as government consent and zoning permits. The case he showed us was about infringment of patenting rights persay, when Haagen-Dasz thought another ice cream company was infringing on it's marketing appeal. It was interesting to think about how much packaging affects daily life.

Me posing by some Greek statues

Earlier in the lecture we discussed Karl Marx, today mostly focusing on his historical background and the times of industrialization he lived in. We also learned about his take on private property, and how the effect of labour in factories and such takes away a human's real self, leaving them commodities. They are not even paid enough, and this is where I can understand the basis on which he desired everyone to be economically equal as well as politically.

I'm very nervous for my final. I'm off to study right now acutally, and then participate in some intra-mural soccer. Ta-ta for now!