My “Mosaic”

There were only a few things I wanted to make sure I brought back to campus with me from my Thanksgiving break. All but one of them were electronic paraphernalia of some type. The other? A book. Not just any book though, a book that I hold near and dear to my heart, one that when I realized a few days before the trip that I hadn’t brought it down to begin with, I was very disappointed in myself.

The author? Arnold Ropeik, former Senior Editor of the Times of Trenton, a journalist for 50 years, a loving husband for nearly 60, a joyful father of 4. He also happens to be my grandfather.

“Poppy Arnie,” as we all so affectionately refer to him, wrote for The Times for most of his career, and a few years ago made a quip at a party we were all at, saying that while he had written well over 2,500 columns in his life, he had never published a book. His kids, my mother, aunt, and uncles, responded to that comment with a promise to help him do just that. Just a year or so later in 2005, with the help of all his kids, but specifically my uncle David Ropeik, Mosaic: Warmth, Wit, and Wisdom was published.

Mosaic is just what the title implies. A mosaic of columns that Poppy Arnie wrote over the course of his long career with The Times. The book includes articles he wrote on everything from family, fishing, and politics to his experiences as a member of the 45th Infantry Division in World War II. The columns embody the man I know was behind them; they tell the story of how he is the most loving, positive, and caring person I ever have or ever will meet. They talk about the good times, the bad times, the worst times. They tell stories of my grandmother (to whom he refers in all his columns as “dearly beloved” and nothing more), my mother, my sister, me. Whenever I read a column of his, I am reminded of of his uncanny ability to express himself through the written word. I’m reminded of the “warmth, wit, and wisdom” that my grandfather had and shared with everyone through this talent. The book is not about him. The columns were never about him. They were about the people who touched his life. The people who added to his mosaic. As always, Poppy Arnie really said it best himself, in the closing comments section of the book:

We are all the same really. We are all a mosaic, a portrait of the bits and pieces of our lives.

Fortunately, Poppy Arnie has had the opportunity to hang in there, despite nagging health problems over the course of the last decade. He’s had the opportunity to see his eldest son publish his own book, to see all his grandkids reach adolescence, to witness the turning of the millennium and the first African-American man being elected president. He lives in an Assisted Living Facility (my Gerontologist of a mother will call me out, as this is probably improper terminology) just minutes away from where he spent almost his whole life in West Trenton, New Jersey. Unfortunately, due to the distance and the busy schedule I haven’t had the opportunity to see him very often. It’s been since July of this year that I’ve seen Poppy Arnie, and each time I read a column in Mosaic, it becomes harder to grasp the thought of how long it will be before I get the chance to see his smiling face, to be greeted with the signature wet kiss on the cheek and big hug.

I don’t have nearly as great a way with words as my grandfather does. There are many ways he would have been able to write a post like this better than I did. There are so many small things that have gone through my head while I’m writing this that I wanted to include, but couldn’t find the right place to add them. But I’m trying my best. In this new day and age, where everything is accomplished while being “plugged in” in some way, I’ve realized that this site, this blog, these words, are my “Mosaic.” This is a mosaic of the bits and pieces of my life that are the most special to me, and after reading some of my grandfather’s words tonight, I realized just how big an impact his love for family, devotion to his craft, and all-around warmth have really touched me.

Each time I close my copy of Mosaic, I notice a note scrawled in shaky, post-seizure handwriting from Poppy Arnie to my mother. I think of the love he has had the opportunity to give to the world-not only to his wife, kids, grandkids, but to the readership of The Times. I can only hope, Poppy, that through my “Mosaic” here, and through my actions in life, I can touch even close to the amount of people you have.

I leave you with the eloquent words of my grandfather:

This has been a wonderful life. Every step of the way. I am quite proud of it.

I am too, Poppy. I am too.

What do YOU Want?

So the semester is over, and I’m working on filling the gap that will occur in the next two weeks on my blog as I prepare for the all-out blog/tweet-fest that will be the 2008 Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic in Chicago.

At this point, then, I’d like to appeal to the small but (hopefully) existant readership of this blog to find out what you’d like to hear about from me. What do you want me to talk about in the next few weeks? Want to hear about how the semester went? ‘Canes sports? More Web2.0 stuff? UBand updates? You name it, I’ll blog it!

Leave a comment here with anything you’d like to hear an update on from me, and I’ll do my very best to get you what you ask for!

Why I Tweet

As I’ve become more and more active in the social networking community, specifically with the micro-blogging system Twitter, I have of course been suggesting to friends and colleagues that they create their own accounts and start “Tweeting.” By far, the most popular response I get when I suggest someone create a Twitter account is “Why? Why in the would I want to spend time telling the world what I’m doing in only 140 characters?”

Of course, I asked myself the same thing when I began tweeting. What could I possibly do in a bunch of 140 character updates that would benefit me in some way? But now that I’ve really found a lot of benefit from Twitter, I’ve decided to share my answers to this never-ending question of “Why?” in an effort to explain to you non-Twitterers the reasoning behind the time I spend on Twitter. Here goes nothin’!

My Reasons for Using Twitter:

  1. Networking – I have met, in the past month that I’ve used twitter actively, over 20 professional music educators, music technology specialists, or just music enthusiasts. I’ve had the opportunity to talk to these people about the profession, to get new ideas from them, and to meet even MORE people through these new relationships!
  2. Sharing Information – As a result of this new network I’ve developed, I now have tons of people who can help me with questions I might have, or who I can help in return. If I ask a question on Twitter, generally I have a response from someone within a few minutes with an intelligent response! It’s like having a living, breathing, search engine at my disposal!
  3. Website Traffic – I began really actively using Twitter in the month of November (220 Tweets last month, compared to 104 in Sept. and only 42 in Oct.), and I have seen a dramatic increase in traffic to this website since then. In the month of October, my Traffic program logged 1610 entries (each time someone visits a page). In November, thanks to my extended Twitter network and increased activity, I logged 3455 entries! That’s an over 200% increase in Traffic to my website, just by having my site linked from my Twitter page!
  4. Blogging Help – I’ve also been able to find many specialists on the use of Blogging, WordPress (the blogging software I use), and Twitter to help me become a more effective communicator using all these mediums! I’ve been able to link my blog to my Twitter account, and as a result you can now see my Tweets on the sidebar of my site, and each time I post a blog, there’s automatically a Tweet created about it! These additions help increase traffic to the my site and to my Twitter account, which allows for more exposure all around!
  5. News – I can learn what’s going on in the world through Twitter! By using sites such as TwitScoop, which logs what words are being used most often in Tweets. These trending words really show what is going on in the world right now, and can be a lot more effective than even news services!

Keep in mind that these 5 reasons are in addition to the main purpose of Twitter, to share ideas and thoughts with people around the world, which I think is the most important reason to Tweet. It’s such an interesting dynamic being able to have intelligent conversations about anything with like-minded people all over the world!

Do you use Twitter already? Why do you Tweet? What are the motivations that keep you coming back for more Twitter fun? Leave a comment with your reasons!

Have I convinced you? Are you interested in trying Twitter now? I hope you do! If you need help setting up, feel free to contact me, or check out Darren Rowse (follow him on Twitter @ProBlogger) over at TwiTip, who has a great article on setting up a Twitter account!

Happy Tweeting!

How to Turn Your Bedroom Lights off With Twitter [VIDEO]

Hey all! So I know I haven’t blogged lately, mostly due to the business that this last few weeks has caused, and I’ll try to give you an update on things as the semester comes nearer to an end, but I thought that you might appreciate a little teaser while you wait. I found this thanks to Darren Rowse‘s TwiTip (follow Darren on Twitter at @ProBlogger), and thought it was definitely worth watching!

As I’ve gotten more into the world of Twitter and micro-blogging lately, I’ve realized how much Twitter can really do for you (think networking, professional development, etc.). I never, though, thought I would be able to do this using Twitter: