Holding Pattern

Nothing felt especially bad this morning, and I pushed my ‘didn’t break stride’ mark to Sidney Street, but I still took 10:54 for the morning. That was a lot of short striding when running, and too many slow walking steps. Three days in a row of times in the 10:50s means a plateau — but as long as I’m pushing the striding distance, I’ll contentedly settle for it. Speed isn’t the goal; it’ll come along with limberness, wind, and being able to run, actually run, the whole mile.


Oh, man, how much I did not want to run this morning! But not wanting to is not a sufficient reason not to do, so I stepped out into the rain to fulfil my obligation to better fitness.

It’s odd to observe how many body parts seem to affect my exercise. For the past two miles, my upper body has ached (mildly) and groaned at its part in the whole endeavour, hardly a fair response considering the relatively easy role my shoulders, arms, and torso play. Legs were not happy, and my breathing was laboured. Still, in spite of reluctance, grudging musculature, and wheezy respiration, I shaved a second off Sunday’s time (while I anticipated that I had lost ten or fifteen seconds).

Big Step

On this morning’s mile, I pushed my break-stride point beyond a half mile, to the Samaritans office on Magdalen Road — not exactly Roger Bannister, but continuing progress. The new approach to breathing continues to help, and the new trainers are more comfortable; and the result was a time of 10:50, my first time sub-11:00, so that’s encouraging. Next comprehensive milestones are (a) making the whole mile without breaking stride and (b) 10:30.

About two years ago (or was it three? must be two), I started skipping rope first thing in the morning to start my blood pumping and to improve my aerobic capacity. The first time I tried to skip rope (after years of decreasing ‘athletic’ activity) I managed to swing the rope over my head and jump over it ten times. That’s ten individual times, interrupted by many more feeble failed attempts. I was gasping for air, perspiring copiously, and at a loss for how I could have gone from playing Ultimate Frisbee for hours on Friday afternoons in the Princeton Seminary summer season, to struggling to make my stout frame get over the skipping-rope at all.

Today, while I’m still very, very far from being fit, I daily skip-rope between 500 and 1000 bounces, except on days I set out for my mile, and hard as running is for me, I have cut three minutes off my mile time and can now run a half mile without breaking stride. That’s what they call ‘improvement.’ I’m not especially proud of my condition, but I am proud that without revolutionising my life and making fitness a rival for my days’ time and energies (work, prayer, and devotion to Margaret come in the first three places), I’ve changed the way my body functions slightly for the better. And I will keep at it. This morning, about two-thirds of the way through my mile, I had the fleeting thought ‘Someday I’ll try two miles’ and ‘I could do this another time a week’ (this last is false, at least during term-time — 7:30 Morning Prayer is an unforgiving governor of my time).

Easter Blessing

First, of course, Easter blessings for anyone who still haunts this ghost blog! As so many matters of state, matters of the polis, matters even ecclesiastical and sporting (shame, Australia!) seem to go from ugly to rotten and worse, Easter is a sign that in a fractured world, accelerating entropy does not have the last word —

And our love is like Jesus, but worse
Though you seal the cave up where you’ve lain its body
It rises
It rises

That’s John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats, performing ‘Going to Marrakesh’ with his pal Franklin Bruno as The Extra Glenns. ‘I wish our love could go the way of all flesh / But it’s not right, and it’s not nice / To try and kill the same thing twice’: no matter how hard you try, love keeps rising. Bless you all!

On a less weighty note, on this morning’s ‘run’ I tried breathing differently. That sounds weird, and it felt a little weird, but hey mindfulness and breath and so on, and by breathing deliberately in a different way, I didn’t begin gasping and panting nearly as fast. As a result, I attained my first mini-goal of the whole ‘running’ enterprise, that being that I made the first half-mile (from home to the corner of the Iffley Road and Magdalen Road) without breaking stride, woohoo! Likewise, as you may have anticipated, the time of the whole mile was slashed from 11:32 last Wednesday to 11:07 today, by far the fastest I’ve ‘run’ this distance.

And I have a new pair of trainers arriving before Wednesday, so….

First Thing Yesterday

I did get in my morning mile yesterday, a disappointing 11:32. My didn’t-break-stride mark was well below my best (short of the bus stop at Henley Street). I’m slightly disheartened, a little concerned, that my wind isn’t improving as I had hoped. If I could breathe freely for the whole mile, I’m confident that I could do much better; even after the wobbly-knees interval, my legs aren’t the problem.

Jordon Cooper, 1974 – 2018

The Saskatoon Star Phoenix
Warren Kinsella remembers Jordon
The CBC memorial

I don’t remember exactly when I first met Jordon online. I do remember that, at the time, he was pastoring a Free Methodist (I think) congregation in Saskatchewan, that he was attentive to the kinds of technology discussion that David Weinberger, Shelley Powers, Chris Locke, Dave Winer, Jeneane Sessum, and many others among us were conducting — describing, proposing, arguing (sometimes bitterly), exploring and discovering as we went. Now and then a witty, pointed observation from Canada would flash to my attention, and Jordon and I would trade comments (or, in the epoch before ‘comments,’ linked blog posts) about one topic or another.

At a time when Trevor and I were trying to jump-start conversations about theology and technology with my seminary colleagues and students, the residue of some grant money came available and I invited four guest speakers to speak about the role that blogs and blogging software might play for congregations and churches in the next decade: David Weinberger (as an embedded technologist and internationally-known commentator), Ben and Mena Trott (the developers of Moveable Type blogging software, who at the time were still more one-of-us indie developer geeks), Jim McGee (a business consultant, academic, executive, entrepreneur, and technologist), and Jordon Cooper (a church leader who could testify first-hand to the value and effects of user-oriented software in his pastoral work). When David, Jim, and Jordon spoke, only three to a half dozen people showed up (a veritable love mob of ace Chicagoland bloggers came to see Ben and Mena), and an opportunity was missed for the seminary to steal a march on the rest of the world — and more poignantly, many missed the chance to hear insightful, compassionate, up-to-the-moment spokespeople for the very near future explain what lay just beyond the horizon.

Jordon gave a comfortable, collegial, encouraging talk that night for the handful of folks who came to hear. Here’s what he talked about (thank you, Wayback Machine!)

I used Gloria Reimer’s blog as an example but I could have used Darren’s too in the context of Lakeview Church. Now most of you know that I took a lot of pride in the latest incarnation of Lakeview Church.com. I created a lot of the content and helped design a lot of the stuff that is online. Jeb, Sharon, and I spent almost an entire summer trying to come up with the perfect design, creating new content, migrating over the old stuff, spell checking what I wrote, finding the hidden Edmonton Oiler stars that Jeb hid throughout the design (Grant Fuhr and Gretzky). As good as the site is, I think Darren’s and Gloria’s are more important. Why? Because people don’t connect to content, they connect to people. That is one of the reasons that the staff section of Lakeview Church.com is (at the time of me leaving) most popular cluster of pages on the web. They were just made up of a 10 or so off beat questions and a picture that Jeb made into a kind of photo ID graphic but that is what people wanted to read.

As more people at Lakeview get blogs, the less important of a tool Lakeview Church’s website will become. People will just choose to connect with the individuals website instead of the organization’s. People connect with people, not content. Smart organizations will realize this and facilitate the connection between their employee’s work and their own. They will promote Gloria, Jeb, and Darren’s blog on their site and create custom graphics for the employees to link back to the church’s. That could mean that the sites are hosted on the churches site or that in the employee’s bio that mention that they are apart of this organization. I mentioned that the churches website may be less vital but I think the churches effectiveness online grows, it is just isn’t centralized in a particular spot. Churches need to move beyond seeing the web as another place to provide consumable religious commodities and realize the people want community over goods.

Seabury is an example of that. With AKMA, Trevor and a couple of students all having weblogs, a face of the school that would never be known is shown to the world. Of course there is always risk in that because it is a less sanitized, more biased version of the school is shown to the world but the voice is far more human. Most of us online can detect individual bias and realize that we don’t live in Utopia. No one expects perfection which is why we don’t believe marketers anymore.

Jordon Cooper talking with Trevor Bechtel
(Not the best photo of Jordon or Trevor, but it’s what I’ve got)

That was fifteen years ago, friends. Jordon was looking ahead, and offering a glimpse of what he foresaw to beginning clergy, gently, with friendly and self-deprecating examples, and hitting a number of spots right on the button.

Between then and Monday, Jordon took up several different bylines. He managed an urban shelter, appeared on television and radio, wrote a column for the Star Phoenix, worked at Don’s Photo (I think it was Don’s) in Saskatoon. He test-drove and reviewed a series of new auto models. He and Wendy loved taking the family on excursions to the wilderness, and to their family cabin. Jordon recounted these road trips with his characteristic friendly-sharp comic style, delighted in pranks played on the kids and that the kids played on him, and illustrated all with his exceptionally powerful photography.

He also wrote about depression, abuse, mental health in general, the impact that childhood trauma leaves even on self-aware adults. He shared widely his experiences with chronic pain, with the health care system and its weaknesses, with the realisation that he had cancer and it was going to take his life, soon.

He wrote about his love for Wendy and Mark and Oliver, and for the family dogs Marley and Elway. He was intensely proud of them all (well, maybe not quite so proud of the dogs).

For all that he wrote and said online and in print and broadcast media, we missed much more that Jordon could have shown us over the coming decades. We missed a lot of what he said within our hearing.

He was a blogger, and much of his archive remains in the Wayback Machine, in the back columns of the Saskatoon Star Phoenix, and elsewhere. It would be worthwhile to take some time to get to know him retrospectively, to recognise some of the simmering passion he felt on behalf of Saskatoon’s homeless, the abused women, the desperate lawless shadow world people slide into, or fall into, or just find themselves overtaken by. If we remember Jordon by showing extra generosity, extra patience to people in hard times, that would be a fitting tribute.

Jordon was one of the good guys. I’m sad to miss him, sad for Wendy and his family, sad that he had to go through so much misery — and touched by his persistent grace and amiable temperament. When bad things happen to good people, very few manage their lot as Jordon did. That has been, and will be, a blessing for all who’ve known him.

Back on Track

First ‘run’ in ten days, but I only lost six seconds from my best time; it was 11:27 in the end. Knees felt fine, and I reached the crosswalk just after Aston Street without breaking stride. It seems clear to me that the big obstacle for me is lung capacity — but with the weather warming, I’m hoping to get in twice-a-week runs through Hilary Term.


Every now and then, people ask me which sort of fountain pen I collect. The answer is complicated; the simplest version is ‘I collect pens that sellers undervalue’ — that is, bargains. This is in part because of our family finances, and partly because of the fun of hunting (it doesn’t really feel like ‘collecting’ if you walk into a shop and pay list price for a pen).

That being said, even bargains don’t interest me much at a certain point. England overflows with Parker school pens; no, thank you. I’m not the world’s most enthusiastic Parker supporter in the first place, and yet another Parker 17, or Arrow, or Vector, really isn’t going to delight me enough to make it worth the purchase. I greatly admire Parker 45s and could be won over to one at a very good price, but even then…

Other pens would almost always interest me as bargains: Sheaffer almost anything, but especially lever-filling Balances, Flat-Tops, Crest, or Targa. Esterbrook Js in good nick. Parker 51s and 21s, but only in good condition and at a bargain price. Watermans, but Waterman has such a good reputation that their used pens almost always come at a premium.

If I were awarded a pen collection grant, here are some pens I’d look for at a higher price:

    Sheaffer PFM — I shy away from Snorkels, since I haven’t learned to service their fill system, but I’m PFM-curious. They look like a handful, and I do like a big pen.
    Parker 50 Falcon — I love the design of these. I have the matte brown and the gold plate, so I am always on the lookout for the chrome/steel and black Falcons.
    Parker T1Rara Avis, but the Parker integrated-nib style.
    Pilot Murex/Myu — the star of the integrated-nib sky. I have a vague memory of my Uncle Bob of blessed memory having picked up a Murex on his business travels. I’d like one of these some day.
    Pelikan pens in the tortoise-shell pattern. I have an M200 (Old Style), but the tortoise-shell colour is so seductive…
    (I may update this later, as my desires wax and wane.)

There are also some pens I’ll make it a point to collect, perhaps even at fair-market prices when I’m flush. I have a black Sheaffer Connoisseur; I’d like, if I can afford to, to add other models of the Connoisseur line. Likewise, I have a few Targas, but I would always pick up another. These appeal to me for their own sake, and if I see a style I don’t have, I’d think hard about adding it.

Skip Days

Snow on the pavements yesterday and today, and plans to be in Chester on Wednesday, mean that this is likely to be a low-exercise week — a bit frustrating, since I was on the verge of catching up and pushing for progress again. But I’m not going to risk running on shaky knees when the pavements are the least bit slippery, and the subzero wind chill provides a confirming disincentive.