call of the American toad
Friday, May 1 2020
Today was cloudy and fairly warm, with occasional intense downpours. Coming back from the brownhouse at one point, I put my Samsung Chromebook on top of some unprocessed firewood in the driveway and went to check the mailbox. I then totally forgot about it, and it was out for at least one downpour before Gretchen saw it after returning from a drive into town. Amazingly, the Chromebook didn't seem to be damanged by the rain (though there was now a crack in the corner of the lower clamshell, evidently from having fallen off its temporary perch. Fearing the worst, I opened it up and found that it was entirely dry inside, even though there had been plenty of holes for water to enter through. While I was in there, I took note of the enormous battery that seems to take up most of the interior space, the explanation for its amazing battery life.
I had a rather hellish day in my remote pandemic workplace as my boss Alex and I went through the database schema for our new application line by line, conferring for a time with Hunter, the only employee in our company who has a strong grasp of the original program we are migrating. Yesterday I'd taken pseudoephedrine, which made the process a bit more pleasant. But today it was excruciating, at least until I cracked open a beer. The worst part of it came when Alex and I were communicating with Hunter via a Team chat (similar to a Google Hangout). My Spectrum internet kept misbehaving, halting the signal for four or five seconds at a time every ten to fifteen seconds, forcing me to have to repeat almost everything I said or asking others to do the same. Something was going to have to change for this important communication channel to be viable. Hunter suggested having Spectrum send me a different cable modem, so I searched eBay for options, impulsively buying one before remembering that it would also need to come with a landline (fortunately, I was able to cancel that purchase).
At the end of the workday, I went with the dogs on a walk down the Farm Road and then up the escarpment to its west, taking photos all along the way with my Nikon camera. By then the weather was balmy enough for those annoying flies buzz constantly in front of your face to be out. I also noticed that the spring peepers were again active in the wetlands east of the Farm Road.
Back at the house, Gretchen and I were sitting in the living room when she talked wistfully about the days when she could just play music from the livingroom stereo. I didn't understand what the problem was, and immediately went to put on Stevie Wonder's Original Musiquarium I, a compilation from 1982. When I turned on the stereo, a Stevie Wonder song was playing, as expected. But it turned out to be the radio, not the record player, and it just happened to be playing Stevie Wonder (though not something from that album). When I made the switch to playing the audio from the record player, it was going too slowly, and I was reminded why it was I didn't like that record player (a recent-model Ion that I got at the Tibetan Center thrift store). I'd hoped to maybe fix it, so I took it apart then and there to see what might be done. But everything about it was so obviously cheap that it seemed best to strip it for parts. So, as we continued listening to Stevie Wonder playing from Gretchen's old record player, which predates our 2001 reconnection, I broke the whole thing down into parts that I might later be able to use. It had two good speakers, a spindled motor, and a USB-interface that presumably allows it to digitize audio signals; I could see that last item being useful for some future project (though I really need to stop stockpiling odds and ends for projects I have little chance of ever undertaking).
Later I experimentally swapped-out the Netgear WNDR4300 router I'd been using as the house's internet gateway (connected to the Spectrum cable modem via the WAN port) with my old Zyxel X-550N, a router I'd pretty much abandoned because I couldn't install the open-source DD-WRT firmware onto it. Amazingly, though, some testing suggested the Zyxel solved all the video chat dropout issues I'd been suffering from; evidently the Netgear WNDR4300, which had been running DD-WRT, had been the source of all my problems. The testing, by the way, involved having two different computers in a Google Hangout together and listening to audio coming from one on the other. I didn't hear the signal drop out even once.
After dark this evening I heard a high warbling call that I know to be characteristic of this time of year, though I've never really known what animal made it. I assumed it was some sort of toad or frog, so I did a quick Google search to find a page with clips of various such calls. I didn't have to try many samples from a page entitled Calls of Frogs and Toads of the Northeast before hearing that mysterious warble. Evidently it's the call of the American toad. Toads are around all summer, but evidently they're only mating at this time of year.
Neville near the north end of the Farm Road (a house across Dug Hill Road is visible in the background).
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Fiddleheads on the steep slope west of the Farm Road.
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Fruiting bodies on moss west of the Farm Road.
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Vegetative bodies on moss west of the Farm Road.
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