Helping the voiceless find their voice

Yesterday, my daughter brought in the mail. It included a package from the Edwards campaign, a kit for hosting our house party on Wednesday. My wife and I looked at the package with a sense of excitement and nostalgia. Four years ago, we hosted house parties for Gov. Dean’s Presidential campaign. Now, we are doing it for Sen. Edwards.

For those of you who don’t know what a house party is, it is really very simply. You have a bunch of your friends over to your house, let them know why you are supporting a specific candidate and encourage them to contribute to that candidate. In short, it is a simple fundraiser.

I remember when we first talked about hosting a house party. It reflected a profound change in the way we understood politics. Back then, I thought of politics as a game for the rich and well connected. There is no way that regular person like I could host a Presidential Fundraiser.

Well, campaigns have changed. Some of it is due to the Internet and the ability of people to contribute online. Some of it is due to candidates that understand that democracy isn’t a spectator sport, reserved for the rich and well connected.

No, today, we can all be much more involved. We can work together to help change our country. My wife and I learned that from Gov. Dean and so now we’re hosting a house party for John Edwards because we believe that he is the candidate that is doing the most to help the voiceless find their voice, whether it be helping bringing his voice to calling for an end of the war in Iraq, getting people to focus on the needs of the poor, in New Orleans, the whole gulf coast, across our country and across our world, or in many other ways.

If you want to find your voice in the political dialog, if you want to help others find their voice, please attend a house party Wednesday night. If you’re in Stamford, CT, please come to ours. Otherwise, find one near where you live, or host your own.

It is a wonderful feeling to realize how much difference we all can have.

(Cross posted at John Edwards' blog)

Looking at rankings, linking and other statistics

Two weeks ago, I joined into a viral tags boosting experiment. Essentially, it was a way to boost your Technorati authority and ranking, and potentially also your Google page rank. At the time my Technorati authority was somewhere around 170. Much of that was because of being part of the Progressive Bloggers Alliance, which has mostly fallen apart, other than linking to one another.

This latest experiment boosted my Technorati authority up to around 350. Essentially, this is a way of looking at how many people are linking into the site. However, that doesn’t really have that big an effect. What really matters is how many people read your site, or, depending on the advertising system you are working with, click on links in your site to external sites. During the last two weeks, traffic has actually decreased 15 to 20%.

There are a lot of ways that you can measure traffic. My site uses Drupal the access log shows an average of 4000 hits a day from an average of 1000 different IP addresses a day. However, I am sure that includes many spambots, various sites reading my RSS feeds and who knows what all else.

One site that many people use to track traffic is Alexa. Alexa gathers data from many sources, including an addon to Internet Explorer. I use that addon which helps boost my rating there. Another way is to link to your site using Alexa redirection, e.g. I don’t like the second approach. I want people to be finding my site in searches and not have it hidden in some redirection.

So, by simply using the tool bar, Orient Lodge is ranked fairly highly on Alexa. As a matter of fact, it is ranked higher than Bill Richardson, Chris Dodd and Joe Biden’s Presidential campaign sites.

Let this be our song, no one stands alone

Today, Trinity Emmanuel Church in Stamford, CT dedicated a Garden Labyrinth ‘to the glory of God and in loving memory of Malcolm Wechsler’. The Right Reverend James Curry officiated.

Trinity Emmanuel has gone through tough times. Stamford had two small Episcopal churches, Trinity and Emmanuel, which merged into Trinity Emmanuel. Last fall, Malcolm Wechsler, who had been their organist passed away. During my journey, I’ve attended Trinity Emmanuel from time to time, along with many of the other Episcopal churches in the area.

This spring, The Reverend Kate Heichler started as Priest in Charge at Trinity Emmanuel. Kate and I go way back. In the early 80s, we both attended Grace Episcopal Church in Manhattan. It was a special time for many of us. Wednesday nights we would gather for prayer groups. On summer weekends, many of us would travel to Ocean Grove together. We would swim and sunbath on the beach during the day and in the evenings sit on the porch of The Kings Inn and sing folk music. Few of us had any idea what our lives would bring.

I met my first wife at Grace. We were married there. Our eldest daughter was baptized there. We moved to Stamford, CT and stayed in touch with our friends from Grace, but over the years drifted away. By the time my wife and I separated, we had lost touch with most of our friends from Grace.

Kim and I met and started dating. Kim’s mother was fighting cancer and on Kim’s birthday her mother went to be with God. The priest from Kim’s church, Christ Church Bethany, came over to sit with us as we grieved. On Sunday morning, Kim and I rallied and made it to Christ Church.

It was a strange day for me. Everyone there had been supporting Kim for so long during her mother’s illness, and they all joined in the mourning as they met me for the first time. It was a strange day for Kate Heichler as well. It was her first day as Seminarian at Christ Church and everyone was meeting her for the first time as well. We looked at each other asked each other, what are you doing here?

I guess that is the question that we all need to ask ourselves from time to time, what are we doing here?

Now, Kate is Priest in Charge at Trinity Emmanuel. She is helping the community at Trinity Emmanuel on the next phase of its journey, as she starts the next phase of her own journey. Kim and I are worshipping at Trinity Emmanuel as we wait to find where the next phase of our journey will lead us. Like the early days at The Kings Inn, Kate is getting us to sing folk songs again.

At the end of the service, we sang a song, “Draw the circle wide”. Part of the chorus goes, “Let this be our song, no one stands alone”. Perhaps this ties together so many of these stories. It is something Kate, Kim, myself, and hopefully many others have learned in our personal journeys. It is something that churches like Grace Church, Christ Church and Trinity Emmanuel need to understand, especially during these days of conflict in the Anglican Communion. And, it is something that we especially need more of in our political discourse. We need leaders that are committed to making sure that no one stands alone, when they come home from Iraq, when the attend schools burdened with an unfunded ‘No Child Left Behind’ slogan, as they try to get sufficient health care, as they look to see their city rebuilt after a hurricane, or after so many things in our lives that make us feel alone.

The Farmer’s Market

This morning, Kim, Fiona and I went over to a local farmers market. We had signed up with a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm. For the next eighteen weeks, we will stop by every Saturday and pick up a box of locally grown fruits and vegetables.

It was a beautiful day. We picked up our box of produce, and then supplemented it with some other food. One farmer was selling fresh picked peas and we bought some of them and some strawberries. We then sat down underneath a tree and shelled and ate some of the peas and ate a few of the strawberries.

I told Fiona of picking peas when I was a kid. We had plenty of pea plants and would spend the early morning picking peas and spend the late morning shelling them. My mother would then freeze them for the winter. If we were lucky, we would get to go swimming in the afternoon.

Fiona said hello to everyone that showed up with a dog and asked if she could pat the dogs. She stopped by and patted a goat and Kim picked up some ribs from a farm in Northern Connecticut. It was pretty close to an idyllic Saturday morning.

For me, this gets to the sort of sacrifices that we need to make in order to live a more sustainable life style. Instead of eating frozen peas grown in Renville, MN and shipped 1,300 miles, not including stops for processing, we ate fresh peas that had probably been picked this morning in Middlebury, CT before their 50-mile trip to the farmers market.

The ribs we will eat this evening will have traveled about as far, coming down from Ox Hollow Farm in Roxbury. However, the ribs may have traveled further than that. Doing a lookup on Ox Hollow Farm, I see that they show some of their livestock at the BigE. Who knows, perhaps I met the pig I am about to eat part of last fall.

Yes, it does take a little more time. It takes time to go to the farmers market with the family. It takes time to shell and enjoy the peas, yet it is time well spent. If you want to deal with climate change, the problems of factory farms, how farm workers are treated, and a myriad of other concerns, a good starting point is your local farmer’s market. Then, a good follow up is getting a few friends to go as well.

Edwards, Poverty and the New York Times

Well, it has been an interesting day. My diary over at DailyKos which I cross posted here got picked up by Huffington Post. Others have been writing great stuff about this as well, in particular, Greg Sargent has this great post about the Times article.

Some folks have suggested to me that I write to the public editor of the New York Times about the article. I have sent my letter to him, which I am including below the fold.

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