Sunday, August 31, 2008

Who is This Team?! And Where Have They Been Hiding?!

George and I spent last evening on the Duke campus, mostly in Wallace Wade Stadium, for Duke's footbal home opener against James Madision University. Duke's football program has been pretty lackluster for too many years, but with the hiring of new head coach David Cutliffe from the University of Tennessee and the University of Mississippi (between those two football programs, he coached both Manning brothers), we Duke football fans have been hopeful.

Before the game, George and I went to an employee appreciation picnic (which included free football game tickets for up to six people to encourage families to come, face painting and a few other things for kids), which had a great turnout. The food was standard picnic fare--cole slaw, potato salad, hot dogs, bar-b-que, and what I heard were veggie burgers (no more left when I got up to the front, so I had cole slaw and potato salad for supper, not the healthiest, but oh well! It was still fun!).

We also got to watch the football team's new tradition of marching from the Chapel to the football building, amidst a good crowd of fans. (We were near the football area, so I don't know what it was like between the Chapel and the area near Cameron Indoor Stadium and Wallace Wade Stadium, where we were.) They were led by Coach Cutliffe, and followed by members of the marching band and the cheerleaders. What impressed me most about this new tradition is that Cutliffe and the players were all dressed in suits and looked very classy! They were holding their shoulders high, most with big grins but a few with their game faces on already. Many shook hands with or gave high fives to fans in the front of the crowd. It looked like a team with a different attitude!

George and I ended up inside the stadium way early, but just relaxed and enjoyed watching the stadium slowly but surely fill with fans. It turned out to be one of the best crowds I've seen for a football game at Duke in a long, long time! The players came out for some pregame warm ups, and it was impressive to see everyone out there. About an hour before the game was supposed to start, two parachute jumpers landed on the football field. We were impressed, but wondered why they were jumping in the middle of warmups by both teams. It turns out that they landed in the wrong field! They were supposed to land at the UNC-McNeese St. game a few miles away--it happened to start an hour before our game (was supposed to start)! Oops! Read more about the wayward parachute jump here.

The game started about an hour and a half late due to weather, but we were relieved that it wasn't cancelled. (George and I bought ponchos to wait out the rain.) The players and football staff came through the tunnel flanked by fireworks (see left), but the big inflated football helmet they used to run through onto the field was gone. (Now that I think about it, that big helmet thing was a little cheesy!)

Here's a sampling of the home crowd--lots of Duke blue! It looked like a big crowd of ticket purchasers, in addition to the relocated student section on the west side of the stadium (about time!), and the general admission section which included all the employees who came out. They offered prizes for student living groups with the best attendance, as well as raffle prizes for grad students and employees who swiped their IDs to register.
Before the game started, Coach Cutliffe came over to the student section, I guess to thank them for coming out in such great numbers. Nice gesture. He seems to have worked on (and gotten) their support. The game finally started around 8:30, and here are the Duke and James Madison teams about to start the first play of the new season.

Duke made the first touch down of the game, was ahead at the half, and won the game 31-7! (Left is the final scoreboard.) I really enjoyed watching them play, and even George (not a sports fan in general) had a good time. They ran the ball well, started getting their passing game together, kicked very well, snagged some interceptions, and made several fourth down conversions. The total package was impressive for the Duke football program.

At the end of the game, many of the players came over in front of the student section to high five and cheer with the students. Nice, very different from many previous games of late, where the players have walked dejectedly toward the locker rooms after a loss. In the background, the goal post was brought down with long pole thingies by staff members (same with the other end). Cutliffe had asked that students not storm the field for the goal posts this time, since he wants everyone to start expecting Duke wins. Goal post hopping, he said, could wait for a bigger game.

After the victorious game, fireworks ensued.

Saturday, August 30, 2008


On my long run at Shelley Lake this morning, I was able to catch up on several podcasts, including one called Fat2Fit Radio, hosted by Russ Turley and Jeff Ansley. I subscribe to this podcast through iTunes, and have been enjoying it for quite a while. I've been putting off listening to a particular episode for a while, thinking I might not enjoy it as much, as it's about geocaching. I decided to listen to it today, and honestly, it sounds like a lot of fun now. From what I gather, you use a GPS to find geocaches by going to the geocaching website here. I haven't signed up for a free account yet, but apparently you can enter a zip code, find lists of geocaches in the area, plug in the coordinates into a GPS device, and go find it. Usually, there's a container at that spot with some little treasures in it, and maybe a paper log to record that you were there. The guys on the podcast mentioned taking some little something to drop into the container, in exchange for the trinket you take back with you. Once home, you record your geocache find on the site.

This sounds like it could be a fun hobby, and a neat way to learn the area even better. I don't have a GPS device, though, other than my Garmin Forerunner 205, and I can't put coordinates in it, I don't think. Any recommendations on GPS devices? Anyone reading this into geocaching? If so, I'd love to hear more!

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Eyes Have It

Lately I've been noticing the lack (most of the time) of eye contact by people in the service industry. Part of it, I think, comes with experience and training. But some people have learned it somewhere else, perhaps from a family member or mentor.

At the grocery store I ususally go to, I tend to gravitate toward this one cashier, a high school teenager with a winsome grin AND good eye contact. I'll get at the end of a longer line for her to ring up my groceries. I don't remember the name on her nametag, but I really appreciate her demeanor. The good eye contact was what impressed me first. When she's not there, I give other cashiers a try, thanking each one (as well as the bagger) for their service. This one girl is the only one who consistently gives good eye contact and a smile. She often asks me how I'm doing (again, with good eye contact), and occasionally will comment on something I'm purchasing to spark a short conversation, something like, "Mmm, that looks good. Have you tried it before?"

Over the weekend, I was included for dinner with George's family at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse. Several people in service roles there gave us good eye contact (as well as great service!). I would wager that good eye contact is either part of the training at Ruth's Chris, or people working with customers there already have that skill down pat. It's probably part of what got them to that level of restaurant service.

During college, I worked as a waitress, and come to think of it, I can't remember if the importance of eye contact was taught there or not. I'm sure my high school debate coach brought it up during debate class in the early 80's. I can't remember where else I learned it, perhaps from my parents, who are both great conversationalists.
After I'd been on the Rice Diet for several months, one of my coworkers at Duke and I were talking about the weight loss, and she commented that she could see my eyes better since I'd lost so much weight. That's one of the best compliments she could've given me, and she probably didn't know it!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

MoonPies and Mama Dip's

As a Worship Associate at Eno River Unitarian Universalist Fellowship this morning, I delivered a 5-minute (or so) reflection on the meaning of membership at ERUUF to me, to go along with the theme of the service. I compared membership to MoonPies! I enjoyed being part of this morning's service. It was my third time as a worship associate, and I think it was my favorite experience so far. Although I continue to be a little nervous when I do it, it's getting more natural to me, and I enjoy interacting with the congregation. I got some chuckles from the congregation over my MoonPie analogy, and some people said nice things afterwards, which was encouraging.

Part of what made this morning's service special was that my parents and sister, who were in town already, came to listen! It was fun to have them there, the first time they'd been to ERUUF.

Afterward, we went to eat lunch at Mama Dip's, a restaurant in Chapel Hill, joined by my sister's husband and two daughters. Although the service was slow, we had a good time catching up. They all spent last week together in Pine Knoll Shores, a town on the North Carolina coast. I didn't go because my department was in the throws of settling into a new building. So, it meant a lot that they came to support me this morning, and lunch at Mama Dip's was a lot of fun! (This particular picture includes my mom, sister, brother-in-law, and nieces.)