Rabbits and weasels and toads, oh my!

In another life I was the first female truck driver at the local County Road Commission. I had an assigned territory and bladed and brined roads in the summer; and I bladed, brined and plowed roads in the winter. There was also the occasional guardrail work-crew assignment, mowing rural road shoulders in the fall so that the plows could get out there and throw the snow farther – all kinds of good shit.

For the most part, for that type of work – driving alone for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week – you need to really enjoy or be comfortable with just your own thoughts as company. In other words, it helps if you’re kind of a loner. I’ve never really associated that word, loner, with negative connotations like so many people do. Besides, I just call myself introspective – it sounds much more sophisticated. But, yeah, OK, when you get loner to the point of Ted Kaczynski there might be cause for a little alarm among family and acquaintances, but I never drove around recording my manifestos for posterity or anything. That’s what I blog for.

One of the benefits to the job was that I was almost always working on rural gravel roads and got to see a lot of beautiful scenery.

There was one road in particular where I saw two of the coolest things I have ever seen in my life, but at different times of the year. The entire gravel section was only a three mile, U-shaped loop – one mile east off the blacktop, north one mile, and one mile west back to the blacktop road. It was on those north and west sections that all the magic went on.

If you live on a gravel road you’ve probably seen the blade trucks go creeping by, scraping down the washboards, chuckholes, and ruts that traffic has created. If they do it right they slowly blade in both directions, scraping the gravel out towards the shoulders, then make two more passes at a higher speed, fanning the gravel they scraped out to the shoulder back into the road.

One early-summer day I was making my first pass on this loop of road, creeping along at probably eight miles an hour or less. As I approached the blacktop on the west leg of the loop I saw the gravel on the surface of the road, maybe 20 feet in front of the truck, bouncing and tumbling over and over. Now, this was a section that covered the full width of the road and ran roughly 15 feet down the length of the road, of dancing, tumbling gravel!

I stopped the truck and watched for a minute. I wasn’t about to drive that truck, fully loaded with ballast, through a section of road that was quivering and jiggling enough to make the gravel bounce and tumble around. I was, however, going to find out what the hell was going on.

I hopped down and started walking up the road and was getting more and more freaked because I couldn’t feel the road moving at all, and the gravel actually seemed to be moving away from me! Once I got close enough I could finally see what was going on. Literally thousands of thumbnail sized, fully-formed baby toads were moving from the pond they had hatched in, on one side of the road, to the drier area across the road.

I crouched and watched for 15 minutes or so. Fortunately, the whole section of road only had 3 or 4 houses on it because I probably wouldn’t have let a car go squishing through them when they were at their peak. They had mostly disappeared by this time, but I remember that I didn’t blade that small section of road that time around.

It amazes me that I didn’t ever carry a camera with me at that job.

baby toad

The other incident happened in the winter so definitely didn’t involve any toads.

I was on the northerly leg of the loop moving along at a pretty good clip because I was plowing a foot or so of freshly fallen snow.

As I mentioned earlier, there were very few houses on these roads, and as I approached the curve to head west there was a large, open field. Out of the corner of my bleary, snow-blind eye, I saw a little black dot bounding across that field of pure white. At first I thought it must be a mouse running across the surface of the snow, but immediately realized it was going waaayyyyy too fast to be a mouse.

Again I stopped the truck and rolled down the window to watch.

Again I was confused by what I was seeing. A few feet out in front of the little black dot, puffs of snow were moving along at the same speed as the dot. This time around nothing could have pried me from the safety of that truck. All of the hideous, cold snow may have also been a factor.

The puffs and the dot made their way toward the snow bank on the side of the road, and when they broke out of the foot-deep powder it turned out that the snow puffs were caused by a poor, terrified snowshoe hare, in winter white, running for its life from a weasel, also in winter white except for a couple of inches of black at the tip of its tail – the mysterious bounding black dot.

I have no idea how that little drama played out. They both ran across the road and into the woods on the other side; however, the rabbit gained a little ground when I beeped the horn and startled the weasel. I know, I know – weasels have to eat, too, but I never claimed to be Mort Neff.

snowshoe_hare_ASM544

weasel1

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I just got my Chromebook. . . .

. . . and, well, this is going to take some getting used to. Forgive my privileged-git whining but what the fuck?!? The keyboard is definitely not standard layout – well, I mean the letters are all QWERTY and shit, but literally nothing else is where it should be. If I hit the PAGE UP key one more time when I try and hit SHIFT I’m going to scream. ENTER, DELETE… none of it is rigggghhhhhttt!

And may I tell you just how much I hate touchpads? Pull up a chair; sit a spell. I’m one of those people who a year after remodeling the kitchen still occasionally reaches around the wall to turn on a light switch that used to be there but isn’t anymore. (I just hit CTRL instead of the period – twice in this one sentence) Do you have any idea how long I’ll be reaching for a mouse, and then sitting here for a few seconds with a stupid look on my face like: What the hell? Where did the fucking mouse go?

I did just learn the two finger trick on the touchpad to replace right clicking.

Oh hell, I’m just blowing off a little steam because I’ve had a hell of a time with my wifi connection. Well, not actually the connection but having to sign in to that every time I log on, and it wants me to sign in as a guest, and then having to sign in to Google. So, any savings in boot time are kind of lost on me at this point. I can get online on my PC faster than with this Chromebook.

DAY TWO of my horrendous ordeal:

Things are looking better today. I’ve finally gotten the Chromebook to stop asking me to sign in to my wifi account, but was messing around in so many settings on this computer (the Chromebook) and my PC that I don’t know how much security I’ve jeopardized with some of the sharing and proxy settings. Fuck.

I also have finally learned how to use the touchpad. You don’t need to hard click the poor thing all over the place. Oops. In fact, it’s really quite responsive and fast when used properly with just a light tap. Really, you barely need to touch it and it does what it should. My bad, which I’m going to chalk up to newbiness. Can you just imagine the damage I could do to a touchscreen computer? Scrrrrriiiiitch! Bang. Poke, poke!

So far: It’s a really nice size and weight for carting around and using in your lap, and the keyboard, for all of my bitching, is also a nice size, just not quite what I’m accustomed to. The battery only lasts about 4 hours for continual use, but since I use it mostly sitting here in a chair I can have it charging while I use it. It gets warm, but definitely not hot, while it’s charging. Everything synced the way it should, so really it performs just like my PC for all intents and purposes, except it doesn’t have the ability to work in Word! Zut alors!! Land-o-goshen! Holy shit! I guess my work-around for that will be to upload text documents to either Box or DropBox, edit and work on them there and then download them to my PC whenever I get around to it. Easy peasy.

I may do more updating as I try new things out, but all in all I think I’m really starting to like this little thing :) I need to put some Hello Kitty stickers on it and name it Petunia so my husband will keep his grubby mitts off of it.

DAY THREE of my somewhat less than stellar experience:

Well, last night as I was browsing along with maybe 3 tabs open, maybe even only 2 – I don’t really remember except I know it wasn’t very many – I got the dreaded black screen. What happens is that your Chromebook basically shuts off even though the power button is still on, you have a good wifi signal and your battery is fully charged. I had no idea this was a thing common with Chromebooks until I typed in that particular search: chromebook screen going black. Oh yes, page after page of complaints in Chromebook help forums, and as far as I can tell, no answers. Apparently this happens with all brands of Chromebook. Mine’s an Acer but I also see complaints about Samsungs doing the same thing. 

Shutting the lid and letting it sit for a few minutes does nothing. You open it up and it still shows power on, but it’s still a dead laptop with a black screen. You need to hold the power button down for about 3 or 4 seconds and the machine will finally actually shut off. Then you can turn it on and log in again and it fires right up until the next time it dies. Nice job guys! I know these aren’t your high-end computers or anything, but this kind of shit doesn’t do your name any good at all. 

The black screen has happened twice now in the 3 days I’ve owned this thing. It will be going back to the place I bought it.

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