Thursday, February 4, 2010

Green Thoughts: The Home Energy Audit

Friends. Beginning with this week's post about home energy auditing, we are happy to inaugurate our new Thursday feature called 'Green Thoughts'. Though healthcare is currently dominating ever other issues, cleaning and strengthening our planet is vital for guaranteeing a healthy and viable future. As such, we want to spotlight ways that Americans, individually and collectively as a society, can work to maintain and improve the long term outlook of our world. From home energy auditing, to novel recycling efforts, to renewable fuel research, people are working on a variety of different green solutions and we would like to discuss a few of them with you every week.

We are going to start off 'Green Thoughts' with some videos on home energy auditing and retrofitting. Having your home audited and retrofitted is helpful for (many reasons, but particularly for) three purposes: 1- Lowering your energy bills, 2- Improving the environment, and 3- Cleaning the air you and your family breathe. It is a complicated process, however, and I hope our videos help to simplify the steps for you and explain why this is such a necessary undertaking. Please contact us to submit any ideas for future posts and come back to every Thursday for more articles. Thanks!

Getting a home energy audit and making the according retrofits is a win-win situation for homeowners. They can improve their energy bills and decrease their energy foorprint at the same time. Basically, a home energy audit is top-to-bottom test of your house. From the attic to crawl spaces, auditors check for every leakage and inefficiency in your home. They want to make sure that your house is sealed- that the air circulating the living spaces is isolated from the air in non-living spaces and from the outside. If there are leaks you will have several issues. First of all, you risk leaking conditioned air out of your living area into the attic or outside. By doing so you waste the conditioned air from you AC or heating system, thereby having to over use those systems and use more energy. The other main issue of an unsealed home is that the leaks allow toxins and harmful chemicals from crawl spaces, attic insulation, and elsewhere, to get into your breathable air. So by finding the gaps and sealing them, homeowners can ensure that they are efficiently cleaning and conditioning the breathable air in your home.

We put these videos together for Edge Energy (, a local home energy company, to explain their work. Though Edge is going to use the videos for their own self promotion, we find that the videos are very helpful and educational for homeowners. The first video is about Edge's consulting (auditing) practices. Though Jason, the project manager with Edge Energy, doesn't go into detail on the specific tests of the audit (which the other videos will) he goes through the entire process, which includes much more then just finding the problems in your home (like helping you find out how to pay for fixing it). The second video is about the main test of the audit, the blower door and infrared tests. For this test, they put a large fan in your door which creates a controllable and constant air flow in your home. By doing so they can test how the air cycles in your home and use the infrared camera to find the gaps and weaknesses in your insulation, and more.

There are so many other ways in which the audit helps your home and several more tests included in an energy audit, such as duct and combustion safety appliance tests. We'll be posting more videos on these and other aspects of the audit process in the next few weeks, so please keep checking back every Thursday to see them. Go to Enjoy!

--Home Energy Consulting

--The Blower Door and Infrared Tests

Full Disclosure: EDGE Energy hired us, as Sum of Change not individuals, to produce several videos for them including the ones in this post. We have not been hired to distribute, recommend, or advertise for EDGE Energy, rather we are using these videos to explain a vital service and we appreciate them letting us do so.

Please come back to next Thursday for more videos explaining the energy audit and retrofit process.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

William McNary at the Pennsylvania Progressive Summit [Video]

For me, the highlight of the entire Pennsylvania Progressive Summit was the speech given by WIlliam McNary, President of USAction, on Saturday morning of the conference. Jeff Garis, the gentleman who gave the introduction, claimed that Mr McNary is, 'Someone who you will not forget, a speaker to measure all other speakers' and he was certainly correct. I had never heard of Mr McNary before the summit, but he is someone who I will never forget. The entire speech was amazing and we hope to be able to release it in its entirety soon, but for today, I have isolated 4 selections that highlight his best points.

Trying to explain his words is impossible and my explanation can not do his speech justice (though I'm going to try), so you really have to watch all of the videos. His speech was an impressive impassioned plea for progressives to stand up, 'grow a backbone' as he says, and lead this country to a better future. As he explains in the first video, progressives must win not because they are selfish and want to win, but because they are the ones who are caring for the American people So if America wants to build a future better than its past, progressive policies must reign supreme.

To improve America, we must work together to build a better future for everyone. We can't play politics when there are so many people who need our help, so we must work openly to improve America for everybody. Moreover, we as citizens need to take matters into our own hands because ordinary people are the ones who make change. Though politicians are the figureheads in office, nothing will happen with out us citizens working to make it happen. And especially now, with so much turmoil and so many things in flux, we have to work harder than ever.

Finally, Mr McNary talks about how we must be committed to social justice by organizing for power, democracy, and change. As he says, 'the root cause for social injustice in the country is the inequality of power. Power is unequally distributed along many fault lines in this country along race, income, class, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, [and] immigration status." Only with a solid stable democracy can the needy masses fall on the powerful side of the fault line. And it is only by fighting for and working towards change can we guarantee improvement for everyone.

I hope you all enjoy Mr McNary's words as much as I did. We will have more footage from his speech and the rest of the summit up at

To get more info on the summit please go to and

--Progressives Must Win

--We Must Work Together

--Ordinary People Are The Ones Who Make Change

--Committed to Social Justice by Organizing for Power, Democracy, and Change

Training Tuesday: The Numbers You Need To Win Your Election - Part 2

This week, we are going to follow up on last week's post on the numbers you need to win your election. This week, we're looking at special circumstances and unique elections and how that may or may not effect how you set your numbers. First, what happens if you are running in a multi-candidate race? A win number in a two candidate election is 50% +1, but when there are multiple candidates that number is going to change. That said, it's never a case of simple math - your win number in a three person election won't necessarily be 33.3% +1 - and you have to be wise in setting your goals. The second video is about how your numbers may change due to major national issues. The obvious issue of our day is healthcare, but from the war on terror to the economy, there are often major issues outside of your control as a a candidate which will alter the turnout for your election. The final video are some stories from our trainer, Kendra-Sue Derby, on how you should constantly be challenging your own numbers. A campaign should never be satisfied or static in their evaluation of the electorate, so it is important to keep changing and updating that number to maximize a campaigns effectiveness (hint: expected turnout almost never goes down).

--Turnout In A Multi Candidate Race

--How Do Your Turnout Estimate Based on Major National Issues

--Stories of Challenging Turnout Expectations

This slew of videos are from Democracy For America's Campaign Academy. This particular session was filmed at Gettysburg college in Gettysburg, PA. To find out more about Democracy For America's Campaign Academy, go to

To see more training videos, go to

Monday, February 1, 2010

Hayti Cherie: Haiti The Week Before Disaster


As the effort to assuage the disaster and devastation that has hit Haiti continues, we would like to bring you a piece written by a Haitian-American friend of ours (who has asked to remain anonymous) who was in Haiti the days leading up to the tragic earthquake and flew out of the country that morning.  Her viewpoint on the situation is certainly unique and we are proud to bring you her words and some pictures she took of Haiti immediately before the quake hit as a celebration of a country and culture that deserves much, much better.


Only History tells the story well.

Behind my camera lens, I see an illuminative and collective rendition of history in culture. It’s a motion picture of sorts, in which life is mimicry of art and vice versa. How priceless? How beautiful? It puzzles me. Can someone pinch me? As I click away, I see above and past the dilapidation, poverty, destitution, and penury. What I see is true, perfect, and whole.  As I walk around the city, I feel the gentle breeze whisper sweet lullabies in my ear and when I close my eyes, the warm embrace of the Coco Puff Mountains wrap around me. I am safe for I am experiencing a glimpse of paradise.  It’s a secret heaven on earth that one experiences, if one lets go of worldly influences and listens to the heartbeat of a nation. It is in the air. It is in the food. It is in my blood. It is all around me- guiding me to a higher truth and understanding.

The cries of my ancestors are heard in the thunderstorm at night. Liberte- Egalite- Fraternite! It has been over 500 years since Christopher Columbus discovered Hispanola. At that time, the Arawak and Taino Indians protected and cared for the land. They named the land, Hayti, mountainous land. They were not only the true inhabitants of the lowest valley, but also, the masters of the highest mountain peak (8,793 feet).   Moreover, they were mindful of the environment and its natural resources. Gold, vegetation, sugar! What a jackpot.  But how come this prosperity is not inexistence today? What happened?


The 7.0 Earthquake raises the skeletons and unmasks the rebellious truth.  For the first time, we clearly see the Universal equilibrium of life and death; a journey to the past reflects an essential step inward and a monumental move forward.  At the inner core of the Haitian people is liberty and justice for all.  The glorious revolution of 1804 is seen in the eyes of the grandmother and carried on the backs of the men. The women uphold the cultural diet, sharing recipes while planning dinner at the crack of dawn. The hustle and bustle of the streets begins right after breaking bread and savoring a warm cup of coffee. So, one might ask, what keeps them from seeing their own beauty and enjoying their own freedom?  If beauty is in the eyes of the peacemaker, maybe the peacemaker has a misconception of the standard of beauty.  So I ask, what is beauty? What is freedom? Who is beautiful? Who is free?  Who is not?


We were all created in a delightful image and what makes us beautiful is what’s on the inside. Regardless of external circumstance, the pulse of a being is what keeps them alive. If we remember correctly, the heart is at the center of our being. The heart is capable of many wonderful things provided it is open to the light of mankind. We are all a reflection of progress, whether it is civilized or uncivilized. We are Human Beings. A cooperative process is essential to the preservation of mankind. With cooperation comes peace, balance, and basic human rights. I love you Hayti. Always remember to thine own people be true. All else will follow.

Please help Haiti by donating to the relief efforts. Below are three reputable national organizations who can ensure that your donation is having the maximum effect and one local church who is sending assistance to Haiti:

-The Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund
-The Red Cross
-Shrine of The Sacred Heart

Joe the Nerd Protests Senator Specter at PA Progressive Summit

The last main event at the PA Progressive Summit this past weekend was a Senatorial Forum with Senator Arlen Specter and Congressman Joe Sestak.

During the Q&A with Sen. Specter, there was one man who spent the entire time standing with his back to the stage. It was rather obvious, one man standing while the rest of the room was seated. We caught up with the protester, Joe Ferraro, better known to the online world as Joe the Nerd, and got a chance to chat with him about what he was doing and why:

Whether you agree with Joe the Nerd or think the Senator deserves to speak with progressives, it is rather difficult to argue with his logic. Senator Specter has a conservative history, albeit moderate and on some issues, and even liberal on others. According to the Specterometer, after switching parties the percentage of votes he cast with the Democrats jumped from 44% to 69%. After it became clear that Congressman Sestak would enter the primary, that spiked up to 97%. That is sure to please many progressives, but is it enough to overcome the years of pre-Democrat-Specter?

More videos from the PA Progressive Summit available at with lots more to come!

Jazz and the Birth of Television, With Elvis, Satchmo, and Art Ford

Though network television began with NBC’s first broadcast from the New York’s world fair in 1939, television didn’t become very popular in the United States until the early 50s. One of the main issues for early television was finding appropriate programming that people would like and watch. Since television was brand new, there was no formula for success. There was barely a formula for anything, as no one had ever put a show together for television, much less know what kinds of shows the public would like. As a result, most television programming was stolen from other information outlets. There were news shows from the newspaper, educational programming from the classroom and broadcasts of sports events from stadiums across America.

The main source for programming ideas, however, was radio. Instead of approaching television as a new medium, producers saw it as an advanced radio- radio with video- and so many early television shows were updated radio shows. Popular radio shows were either directly put on screen, like Amos and Andy, or adapted for the screen, such as I Love Lucy, from her show My Favorite Husband, to try to duplicate their radio success on screen. Music from the radio was copied as well. Live studio performances of classical orchestras carried over from radio to television. Additionally, the networks would put together smaller live studio concerts of whatever popular musicians they could find hosted by a popular radio DJ. Music programming was also taken from popular music concerts. If a popular musician was playing for a week at a New York theater, they might set up a camera crew to record a show or two for a wider audience.

Jazz, though no longer as widely popular as it used to be, was good programming for early television. There were a variety of styles and there would be some sort of audience no matter what style they chose. People had already liked the music, so, with some exposure through television shows, jazz could possibly regain its mass popularity once again, thus making money for the show and leading to new, profitable jazz shows. Also, there already were popular artists and bands to focus on and big names that would draw audiences.

It was relatively easy to record too. Musicians, like Nat King Cole already went on tour or would have temporary or permanent engagements at certain venues, like The Copa room in the Sands hotel in Las Vegas (as a very specific example from some video I just watched). All television producers had to do was record those shows. This is obviously a lot easier said than done, but it presented viable profitable opportunities to the networks. Logically, if people would pay money to go see concerts, then they would watch one for free in the comfort of their own home.

As a result, early jazz shows were intended as popular pieces of entertainment. The shows themselves were marketed as concerts in the home and often virtually were exactly that, except with a host. The shows were broadcast live from concert venues, like a theater or club, and would promote the show similarly, trying to have on the biggest names to attract the biggest audience. The shows often touted themselves as all-star reviews, combining the best available talent in jazz for one show. This often was problematic however, because several bands that usually performed concerts several hours long would all be giving a couple minutes of performance time. As a result, the musicians only had a few measures for each solo, not enough time to really explore and develop the piece.

Furthermore, a band might have several soloists and a diverse selection of songs that never get exposed simply because there wasn’t enough time. Instead, each group would get a song or two before they had to cede to another group. The beginning and end especially would usually include a collaboration between several groups. This idea is good in theory- two (or more) famous musicians playing together must be better than a single band- but it usually turned into a confusing cacophony on sounds. Nevertheless, these shows featured some great performances from some of the most popular, successful, and talented jazz musicians of their day.

As examples of the shows, I have picked three videos from You Tube that are quite interesting. The first is a song featuring Louis Armstrong from the Timex Jazz All Stars, the same show that featured Armstrong's only recorded performance with Dizzy Gillespie. This time he is with a group that included Bobby Hackett, Barbara Dane, and the remarkable drummer Gene Krupa, who is one of the most animated, and talented jazz musicians ever. The second example is Art Ford's Jazz Party. Art Ford was a successful local DJ in Newark, NJ who had connections throughout the Jazz industry and was able to convince many successful musicians to join his cozy and relatively impromptu sessions. This session includes Osie Johnson, Roy Eldridge, the violinist Stuff Smith, Harry Sheppard on Vibraphones. The last video is of a performance by Elvis Presley on Stage Show, hosted by the Dorsey Brothers, Jimmy and Tommy. This show (though not this performance) is the location of Elvis' first appearance on television. The Dorsey Brothers were very successful bandleaders in their own right and their big band orchestra backed most of the performers on the show (though clearly not Elvis). Enjoy!

Timex Jazz All Stars

Art Ford's Jazz Party

Stage Show

For more Music Monday articles, please go to

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Quick Interview with Sen. Arlen Specter at the PA Progressive Summit

At the end of the PA Progressive Summit, Senator Arlen Specter was kind enough to take a few moments for an interview with us. I asked him what concrete steps he is taking to work with his former party members towards a reduction in their use of the filibuster.

As you can see, the Republicans are on track to have threatened the filibuster far more often than ever before. In response, liberals all across the netroots have posed the thought of ending the filibuster once and for all.

There are many good reasons to end the filibuster and a few bad reasons. Ultimately, if the Republicans demand 60 votes for every piece of legislation in existence, than the true purpose of the filibuster has been lost and it should be eliminated. But that might be using a shotgun to punch a hole in a piece of paper.

Senator Specter is in a position that other Democrats are not. Those Republicans filibustering everything are his former party members. He likely has a much stronger personal relationship than other Democrats with many members on the other side of the aisle. So asked him if he could share with us some concrete steps that he is taking to work with them towards returning the filibuster to a level more consistent with the historic use of the filibuster.

This may be one of the few advantages that Senator Specter has over Congressman Joe Sestak. Folks appreciate someone who can move the other side. In this election, he should, and has, played on that fact. At Netroots Nation last year, he got a great applause when he said he would call Senator Grassley the minute he stepped back stage to tell him to tone down the rhetoric against the health care proposals.