Slice of Life: No, Virginia, Minecraft is NOT Shutting Down

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

This year, Minecraft players in my classroom suddenly became a ‘thing’ again after a few quiet years. I have clusters of sixth graders talking about building, playing, exploring, and as we are in our Video Game Design unit, there’s plenty of chatter about how Minecraft is different from other games they play.

There’s also been a lot of conversation about Minecraft shutting down. A lot of worry and concern. Questions. Some heard it here. Some heard it there.

This news of Minecraft closing up by the end of the year is false, just so you know, but the fact that so many of my students have heard it and passed it along to each other in our classroom space — never mind across whatever apps they are using — gives me a chance to revisit with them a Digital Life lesson from earlier this year about false information and the viral nature of social media sharing.

And how to debunk fake news.

Last night, I did a little investigative work. I was already wary of the reports because of the “this doesn’t make sense” common sense test — Minecraft, owned by Microsoft, has more than 100 million users who pay a pretty hefty fee for the game. If Microsoft were truly closing it up, it would be more than a ripple. It would be an uproar.

I searched “Minecraft Closing” and saw a slew of articles, including the one I was really looking for at Snopes (don’t know Snopes? It’s a site dedicated to researching news items for veracity).

Snopes clearly labels the news of Minecraft’s demise as “FALSE” and then goes into the back story. It all began with a prank that went viral when an openly prank news site first published it as a joke (sort of like The Onion does) and Google’s algorithm temporarily grabbed it for a news item. Oops.

You know the rest: prank becomes news, becomes shared.

Here’s a Minecraft Vlogger, explaining all this, too (while wandering Minecraft world)

I’ll be going through this thread of discovery with all of my classes today, to remind them of techniques for investigating fake news and to ease the minds of my Minecrafters.

And it looks like I need to add a new slide about this into my Fake News presentation …

Peace (true and truth),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Noticing the Days

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

When the Winter Solstice hit us last month, my wife made note that the days would start getting longer again. Then I forgot. Yesterday, I noticed, and remembered. I was driving my son to track practice at a time about 30 minutes later than usual, and the day still had light. A few weeks ago, we would have been drenched in the dark of the short day/long night.

I pointed this out to my son — this observation of more daylight — and he looked out the window of the car, nodded, and that was that. But I kept my eye on the trees, the lawns, the people, the clouds across the blue sky. It’s still the heart of winter, no doubt, but the day pushing itself larger is a sign that somewhere down the road, spring awaits us.

And there will be plenty of sunshine and daylight to see it.

Peace (in the view),
Kevin

Slice of Life: No Guitar … No Problem

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

It’s often during in-between moments — the lull of the evening — where I will grab my acoustic guitar and just play for a bit as a way to step aside from the day. A sort of acoustic reprieve. Sometimes, new songs emerge from these burst of playing sessions. Mostly, not. Usually, it’s just a chance to play.

I had this inspiration to maybe try to write another holiday song because I had challenged my teenage son to make a holiday song, as he is an accomplished beat-maker with Logic, and he just laughed me off. I went upstairs to get my guitar … only to suddenly remember that I had left my guitar in my classroom at school. I have been doing some guitar playing with a student who is writing his own holiday song that he wants to perform in front of classmates.

Hmmm.

I still had this melody and idea of bells jangling around in my head, so I queued up an online music production platform I use quite a bit — Soundtrap — and plugged in my small MIDI keyboard, and then began to compose the holiday song. It’s built off the echoes of the main Jingle Bells riff, and I had quite fun laying in sounds. The song structure is pretty simple: melody-break-melody.

After finishing the track, I decided I wanted to make the audio track into a video version, so I searched around for some copyright-free video of snow falling — I wanted the visuals to be simple but moving — and then used iMovie to quickly pull the audio and video together.

So, you know, happy holidays and all that …

Peace (play it forward),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Symmetry of the Stubborn Dogs

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

 

We were dog-sitting a neighbor’s pooch the other day. It’s a small Whippet-breed — full of love and snuggles and personality. We took it outside for a walk around the neighborhood, with our dog, Duke. Ollie, the Whippet, decided he did not want to walk, and sat on the driveway, refusing to move an inch. This is not the first time his stubbornness has reared its head (and not just with us, either). We gently pulled his leash, called his name, pretended to run, used Duke as ploy (Duke was confused by this). Nothing.

Finally, my wife gave up and began walking back to the house. That’s when Ollie decided maybe it was time for a walk and now the stubbornness pulled the other way, guiding my wife back down the driveway to join Duke and I.

I thought of this yesterday as I watched a similar scene unfold in our small village. I was in my car, looking at a small boy, maybe seven years old, trying to lead an old Black Lab across the street at the walk light. The dog sat and sat and sat on the sidewalk, and I could see the boy doing his best to get the dog moving. He pulled the leash, he bent down to talk to the dog, he started to feign walking, he threw his hands up in frustration.

Finally, the dog got up, rather slowly, and began moving in the reverse direction of where the boy wanted to go, only to have the boy finally guide the dog back towards the street. But by then, the cross light had turned red red and the whole thing would have to happen all over again.

Dogs. Right?

Peace (stubborn for change),
Kevin

Slice of Life: I Heard Me on Pandora

Gift of Peace on Pandora(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

Last year, my friend and I released a holiday song called A Gift of Peace (For Christmas), more as an experiment than anything else. We did the whole thing — copyright lyrics and music, went into a recording studio, enlisted CD Baby to distribute the song through streaming services, and even hired my son to create a video story for the song.

Pandora was one of those services that took a long time to allow our song into its mix, but yesterday, while doing other things in the kitchen, our song started playing onto Pandora (I had created a station called A Gift of Peace) and I rushed to give it a thumbs up and to call my wife. We then danced for a bit around the kitchen to my song playing on Pandora.

If you hear my song on your station, give it a thumbs up, won’t you?

Peace (gifting it to you),
Kevin

Slice of Life: A Moment Too Late To Forget

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

It was only as I was watching it on the screen that I suddenly remember why we watched only PART of this video last year. At the reference to Whale penises, I was up and at the computer.

Let me explain …

We are working on a lesson around Fake News, and hoaxes, and one of the earliest hoaxes that used the aspect of global news to its advantage was the Nantucket Island Serpent Hoax of 1937, in which a local puppeteer maker teamed up with the local newspaper to report on sightings of a serpent off the coast of the island. It was a publicity stunt for tourism, but the newspaper’s role and its connection to wire services made the story go viral.

That part of the video is fine. Interesting. Nicely paced. Funny, at the right moment of the reveal.

Then the video shifts into a wider discussion of other fictional serpents, in places like Loch Ness and Lake Champlain, etc. Still, fine, and the kids are tuned in. They are curious.

Suddenly, the video takes a shift into explaining what people might have seen and thought were mythical creatures. Thus, not only a reference to the, um, whale’s large body part, but also a flash of pictures to, well, prove the video’s point about said whale body part. By then, I was at the computer, moving things along to the next slide in my presentation in front of a now rather-silent classroom of sixth graders.

Funny, but not one of them asked me about it, although I heard some surprised mutterings at the video references, and they didn’t blink an eye as I kept the lesson rolling.

Me? I was all professional on the outside, just moving things along, folks, just moving things along. Nothing to see here. Inside, though, I was kicking myself for not taking the time to watch the whole video in the morning. I had relied on my using the video last year for using it this year … but I didn’t leave a note for myself from last year. (Self, leave a note for yourself … Self, just did that … thank you … you’re welcome … now, remember … Ok).

Note: feel free to watch the video yourself

Peace (some days),
Kevin

Slice of Life: A Musical Moment

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

My guitar has been sitting in the corner for a few weeks as I have been busy with school, family, etc. I picked it up and within 15 minutes, this entire demo song was done — lyrics, music, demo. Sometimes, the muse flows through with the Pen and Paper Blues.

Peace (singing it the best I can),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Looking Next Door For the Neighbor No Longer There

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

There was a time when every Veterans Day, I would keep a special eye out for my neighbor, who served in the Korean War and who volunteered for years to help other vets out at the nearby VA Hospital. Of course, we connected many other days of the year beyond Veterans Day, but on that day, I made sure I was looking for him.

I’d see him, go outside, and we’d chat, and I’d make sure he knew we were thinking of him and remembering others who served in war and came home to restart their lives. I’d tell him about the Veterans Day event at our school — the breakfast and ceremony and music and celebration. He knew I had been in the military, too, but even on Veterans Day, we spoke little of those connections.

He passed away earlier this year and yet I found myself yesterday looking towards the fence, to where his rake would often rest near mine as we chatted, the leaves fluttering around us in the Autumn wind.

Peace (remembering Sarge),
Kevin

Slice of Life: She Has My Vote

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

Today will be the first day I get to go into a voting booth and cast a vote for my wife. She’s running for the board of trustees for our city library, and she’s the most qualified, smartest, thoughtful, and beautiful candidate I know.

🙂

Years ago, I took out nomination papers to run for City Council but then never took the steps to get a political campaign in motion. We had three young kids and there was an incumbent, and …. now I have been able to cheer and support my wife, Leslie, in her first electoral run, inspired by the movement of women to get more involved in local politics.

Leslie for Library!

Leslie for Library

She’s a natural fit for the city’s library board. She’s a school librarian at a vocational and agricultural high school here in our city and she is involved in many local projects, including volunteering at the cot shelter (she was there, serving dinner, last night). She has been working in the field of literacy for 25 years, as teacher and as consultant. She loves books.

Leslie for Library!

There are five people in this one race, for three open seats, and two of the candidates are incumbents. All five are solid candidates, with lots of ideas for improving and supporting our public library. My wife is hopeful for a win on the board but she is realistic, too. The library will be in good hands, no matter what.

The larger picture is that we are seeing more and more people here getting involved in elections, which we hope will spill over nationally into the larger elections, leading to real change in our country’s leadership. Momentum begins local and builds national. It all starts at the ground level.

Leslie for Library! Catchy, right?

Peace (vote it),
Kevin

 

Slice of Life: Visiting the Woods of Vermont for #Writeout

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

With the start of the Write Out project, getting outside to observe the world has been on the list. Yesterday, my wife surprised my youngest son and I with one of her “magical mystery tours” in which she doesn’t tell us where we’re headed until we get there.

Yesterday, it was an hour or so north, up to Brattleboro, Vermont. We had hoped the Autumn foliage would be more brilliant than here, in Western Massachusetts, but that actually wasn’t the case. There’s more green to the north than here, which was sort of disappointing, but the drive was beautiful, and our hike along the Sunrise Trail loop through Fort Dummer State Park in late afternoon was lovely.

Since “discovering stories” is a theme of Write Out, I did a little research on the Fort Dummer State Park. It was one of the first settlements and was built in 1724 with an overlook of the Connecticut River. Soldiers there, along with Mohawk Indians, protected the area from the French and other tribes.

Later, I had this idea of a music composition running around in my head, inspired by our hike through the woods, so I spent some time, creating the soundtrack — I call it Woodlines — and then used SoundSlides to put the music with the images from our walk in the woods.

Peace (in light and color),
Kevin