Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The Big Over Easy: Review in a Haiku

The Big Over Easy: A Nursery Crime
by Jasper Fforde
2005 Viking 400 pages

"Jack Spratt and Mary
solve painfully contrived crime.
Jasper let me down."

To flesh that out just a little: As a huge fan of Fforde's Thursday Next Literary Detective Series, I felt compelled to read Fforde's most recently published novel, The Big Over Easy. (Although I am rather disappointed that he seems to be taking a hiatus from continuing the adventures of Next.) I say most recently published, because it's actually the first book he ever wrote. Unfortunately, you can tell.

The puns and randomness and literary allusions that I've come to appreciate from Jasper are all there, but whereas the main storyline of Thursday Next novels seems to float along on these clever devices, The Big Over Easy is bogged down by them. In the end, the mystery of who killed Humpty Dumpty is not all it's cracked up to be. (Sorry, I couldn't resist.) It's one of those novels where you're expecting--hoping, even--that the ending will inspire that age-old forehead slap accompanied by an exclamation of, "How did I not see that coming?!" Instead, when everything was "resolved" at the end I was left scratching my head and muttering, "Where in the world did that come from...?"

I don't know, maybe I've watched too many episodes of CSI to possess the patience necessary to watch a nursery crime investigation unfold over 400 pages and a few too many children's story asides. If you want to read some riveting and quirky literary investigating, stick with Jasper Fforde, but start with The Eyre Affair, the first in the Thursday Next series. Pick up this tale of the shady egg's demise only if you find yourself with a LOT of spare time.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


A friend mentioned to me on Sunday that she's tried to comment on this blog but hasn't been able to. If your attempts to comment have also been thwarted, please shoot me an e-mail so I know how prevalent the problem is and I'll try to figure out what's causing the problem. Thanks!

cheeks a flappin'

So, I finally got the roll of film developed from my recent skydiving adventure (the one taken by the guy who jumped simultaneously and filmed me on the way down) and I can't resist posting one more pic.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Cross-Cultural Connections: Review

Please note: This is another book that I read and subsequently reviewed for work, hence the formal tone. It's really a good book, though, despite the absence of effusiveness in my review of it!

Cross-Cultural Connections: Stepping Out and Fitting In Around the World
by Duane Elmer
2002 InterVarsity Press 215 pages

The author opens with the story of a monkey and a fish:

“A typhoon had temporarily stranded a monkey on an island. In a secure, protected place, while waiting for the raging waters to recede, he spotted a fish swimming against the current. It seemed obvious to the monkey that the fish was struggling and in need of assistance. Being of kind heart, the monkey resolved to help the fish.

“A tree precariously dangled over the very spot where the fish seemed to be struggling. At considerable risk to himself, the monkey moved out far on a limb, reached down and snatched the fish from the threatening waters. Immediately scurrying back to the safety of his shelter, he carefully laid the fish on dry ground. For a few moments the fish showed excitement, but soon settled into a peaceful rest. Joy and satisfaction swelled inside the monkey. He had successfully helped another creature.”

Despite our best intentions, we often behave like the monkey when we interact with members of cultures. Our natural inclination is to do what seems right from our own frame of reference, although it might be inappropriate, ridiculous, or offensive in the context of the other person’s culture. A little education and preparation can go a long way when it comes to crossing cultures, and this book is a great place to start if you or someone you know is preparing to travel, do business, or minister cross-culturally. As I read, I wished I had been armed with the tools and strategies presented in this book before my semester abroad…or my last dating relationship, for that matter. I am sure both would have been even more satisfying (and less frustrating) had I been more aware of and prepared to deal with cultural differences.

This book is divided into 4 sections. In the first, the author helps the reader gain a perspective of culture and the concept of right, wrong, and different. In Section 2, Elmer addresses dealing with the new and different and the “shock” that often—if not always—accompanies life in a new and different culture. He then presents a map that illustrates both the high and the low road in dealing with the new and different, allowing that most spend time on both, but suggesting that proper awareness can help a person spend most of their time on the high road. Section 3 provides attitudes and skills for cultural adjustment, which include openness, acceptance, and trust. Section 4 sheds light on differences that confuse, including time and event, individualism and collectivism, straight and curved logic, and guilt and shame. Finally, Section 5 addresses the complexities of returning home after various lengths of time in another culture.

Activities are sprinkled throughout the book, and each chapter ends with a reflection exercise and discussion questions, making it an excellent book for a person to go through with his/her mentor, a couple to read and work through together, or a team to read and discuss together with their leaders or trainers. I believe this book would be a valuable tool for anyone preparing for or newly engaged in mid or long-term missions, international business, study abroad, local cross-cultural ministry, cross-cultural dating or marriage relationships, or anyone interested in improving the way they relate to and understand people of other cultures.

This book was recommended to me by Cheri Pierson, assistant professor in the Intercultural Studies Department at Wheaton College. The author, Duane Elmer, is professor of International Studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL.

One for the Townies


WHEATON – A local pedestrian noted yesterday that the women’s clothing boutique on the corner of Hale St and Wesley in downtown Wheaton appears to have closed its doors forever to the few women and misguided men who frequented the shop.

Though it has been quite some time since local citizens had taken any notice of the establishment, A Woman, Ltd. had long been a source of confusion for visitors of this moderate-sized suburb, who puzzled at the store’s odd name and its propensity for displaying flashy and outdated swimsuits in the store’s windows year-round.

Regarding this blow to the town's economy, one Wheaton resident commented, “A Woman, Ltd. will be missed. Not because I ever shopped there, or even felt an iota of curiosity that might have prompted me to cross its threshold, but because every struggling suburban downtown area needs a woman’s boutique that defies good business logic. Yes, this is a loss for the women, but thankfully the men still have Sandberg’s.”

Representatives of A Woman, Ltd. could not be reached for comment.

*Please note: This article is facetious, though the event reported here is sadly true.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Jumpsuits are for Jumping

It is a truth universally acknowledged that stupid questions elicit stupid answers, especially when a video camera is involved.

Boothey: "So Suzanne, it looks like you've got something on there."
Suz: "Yeah, a jumpsuit."
Boothey: "So what are you going to do?"
Suz: "Uh, jump out of a plane."

So begins the captivating 8-minute video that chronicles my most recent adventure--skydiving.

On Saturday morning I piled into Christina's convertible with 4 other girls and we were off to Wisconsin to go skydiving for Rachel's bachelorette party...only Rachel didn't know that yet. Most of her friends had heard her mention at least once that she'd love to go skydiving some day, so jumping out of a plane with the craziest of those friends seemed a fitting activity before she takes the plunge into matrimony next month. About 10 minutes before we got to the hangar we did a Chinese fire drill and made Rachel drive the rest of the way, telling her where to turn but still not revealing where we were going. Needless to say, she was very surprised and very excited.

After signing our waivers, we ended up sitting around the hangar for quite a while before we received a brief orientation and began to get suited up with our jumpsuits and harnesses...then we sat around some more. Finally it was our turn.

I met my tandem jumper, Bear, and climbed into the plane with the rest of the jumpers, tandems, and videographers on our flight--we squeezed in like sardines, and I tried to ignore the fact that I hard heard capacity was 10 and there were 11 people on board. I can honestly say that I was never really scared, but Bear was less communicative than the other instructors and so I didn't receive any reassurances either.

What I was about to do sunk in as the ground got further and further away and the hand on my altimeter spun higher and higher. I looked out the window and could see Milwaukee, gaze over the blue expanse of Lake Michigan, and just make out the Chicago skyline through the haze. At 14,000 feet it was time to jump. They opened the hatch and Trina's videographer climbed out and held on to the side of the plane while she moved into position. With a Ready, Set, Go she was gone with a large WHOOSH.

I didn't have time to think as Bear shoved me toward the door from behind. I bent down and crossed my arms across my chest as instructed. Cold wind stung my cheeks. I suppose someone counted down "Ready, Set, Go!" for me too, but I was completely oblivious, consumed by the realization that I too was about to be sucked out into the sky. With a push from Bear we were out the door and I was throwing back my arms and thrusting my pelvis forward and staring at the ground that was VERY far away. It took me a second to remember to look up at Boothey and smile for the camera. In retrospect I wish I would have done something more creative than wave, but plummeting toward the earth at approximately 180 feet per second, my creative thinking was a little stunted.

At 5,000 feet I pulled the rip cord and our rapid decent was slowed to a leisurely float. The roaring stopped and the silence was almost eerie. I would have enjoyed this segment very much had my harness not been secured much too tightly around my legs, restricting my movement, cutting off circulation, and causing immense pain. I tried to push past the real-time bruising as much as I could and enjoy the ride. I remember looking down at the cars on the highway, marveling at the number of backyard swimming pools, and trying to pick out the hanger on the landscape. I realized later that I didn't even notice the other people who had just jumped out of the plane with me and must have been floating not too far away.

My landing was anything but graceful (I pretty much hit the ground and collapsed, much to the disgruntlement of Bear behind me). My post-jump interview proved to be even less profound than my earlier exchange with Boothey. Overall, I was ecstatic about what I had just done but completely exhausted from the adrenaline rush and the tensing of what felt like every muscle in my body.

We regrouped in the hanger, reliving and comparing our experiences. We hung around just long enough to receive our certificates and our DVDs and then we were on the road again. As it was we were 2 hours late for Rachel's bridal shower, but we had a pretty good excuse.

So, yeah, skydiving. I highly recommend it!

Certified...or Just Certifiable?

Thursday, August 04, 2005


"There are always two choices, two paths to take.
One is easy. And its only reward is that it's easy."
- Anonymous

A fairly simple quote, but it arrested me yesterday with the reminder that everything comes down to a choice--sometimes it's black and white, right over wrong, good vs. bad. But I find that more often it's the better over the acceptable, or even the decent over the pathetic. Which rings of the saying the Apostle Paul quoted from his day, "Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial."

As I think about the way I spend the minutes and hours of my day, I realize how much I could change for good simply by choosing the "better" in any given moment, but at the same time I am appalled by how frequently I talk myself out of it and settle for the acceptable, or even the pathetic. I am reminded that half-hearted trust is really distrust, and half-hearted devotion is a step away from apathy. If I were fully convinced that something was better, even if it proved harder, would I be so remiss in chasing after it?

Wednesday, August 03, 2005


I promise to post something of actual substance again soon.

In the meantime, however, conjure up an image of the ugliest dog you can imagine, and then check this out...if you dare.