Sunday, May 24, 2015

Latest Listening Pleasure 18 - Amaranthe

Elyze Ryd first hit my radar when she had a side gig doing backing vocals on tour with Kamelot back in 2012 when Amaranthe was idle.  I knew nothing of her or the band Kamelot, but they were opening for Nightwish on a US tour when the singer Annette Olson became ill(diva-syndrome?) and left them in a bind.  Instead of cancelling that night's show, they - with the crowd's approval - had Elyze Ryd and another girl from Kamelot fill in and sing Nightwish's songs, even reading the lyrics from paper.  I thought Elyze did a wonderful job and obviously knew Nightwish's material better than the other girl.  It was a unique show and I've watched the videos several times, here's a good one.  Later I learned that she actually auditioned for the band in 2006, when Annette got the job.  Of course, after this last minute replacement singers show the band flew in Floor Jansen from the other side of the world to finish the tour and, eventually, join the band on a more permanent basis.  I cannot disagree, Floor has a wonderful voice and stage presence and I think she fits that band better that Elyze could.

The band Amaranthe got my attention again recently when I saw a blurb somewhere about the new video for their song 'Digital World,' and I really liked the song.  They are a unique band in that they have three lead singers.  Yes, the band has guitar, drums, and bass along with a female clean vocalist, a male clean vocalist, and a male extreme vocalist.  From what I have seen so far, they all sing lead parts on every song and it seems to work for them very well.

Here's the video that caught my attention recently:

I had known about the band for some time, but because of the above video I finally did start taking the time to listen to them and watch them on youtube.  And I know it is like 'pop' metal, but I enjoy this.  It's a good feeling, discovering something new-to-you that makes you feel good - and music makes us feel good, that is why we have it.  I went ahead and bought their latest CD from last October called 'Massive Addictive' about a week or two ago.  I've been playing it lots and really enjoying the first half of the CD, the second half sounds good and sounds like the whole sound of the album but nothing stands out to me so far.  Perhaps when I tire of the first half the second half songs will distinguish themselves to me more.

This is the CD that has helped me test the JBL speakers - with subwoofer - in the new car!  I discovered that it has a 6 cd changer in the stereo but I just plug my phone in and play music from there.  Thanks, Amaranthe!

And because I love the live stuff, here's one more from the latest album:

Previous LLP Posts...
LLP 1 - Pain
LLP 2 - Nightwish
LLP 3 - Die Antwoord
LLP 4 - Pain part 2
LLP 5 - Andrew Bird
LLP 6 - Nightwish part 2
LLP 7 - Paramore
LLP 8 - Newsted
LLP 9 - U.D.O.
LLP 10 - Nightwish Imaginaerum Movie
LLP 11 - Kiss
LLP 12 - Rick Springfield
LLP 13 - Hyrax
LLP 14 - In This Moment
LLP 15 - Faster Pussycat
LLP 16 - Sebastian Bach
LLP 17 - Cradle Of Thorns
LLP 18 - Amaranthe

Sunday, May 17, 2015

A Brand New (To Me) Car!

This past week my wife Kate was in Arizona for a work conference.  You would think I would have had more time for myself but that didn't seem to happen.  The cats were a bit off all week, they knew she wasn't there but I still was.  I don't know if they thought she was gone for good or what they were thinking, but it was stressful, and even more when she did get back Friday evening.  Hamish seemed to take it okay but poor Basil didn't know what to think and dumped on the floor.  All was back to normal by bedtime.

06She was barely out of town last Monday evening and I was at a car dealership getting a new-used car.  It was on the to-do list and I had started looking online over the weekend and found one I liked a whole lot.  It's a 2010 Toyota RAV4 Limited, the one pictured on the right.  We already have a 2003 Base RAV4 that I just love driving, but I will move up to the 2010, my wife will now drive the 2003, and we will be getting rid of the 1997 Corolla (that we bought in 2000) that has had no radio or a/c for a couple years now.  If we weren't before then we are now truly a Toyota family.

If my wife did not smoke she would be the one getting a new vehicle and still parking  in the garage, but she wants to be able to smoke in the car she drives.  Oh well, my gain.  The new car looks like a million other cars on the road these days, it is not unique but it is loaded!  It has all the bells and whistles and premium options offered in 2010.  Heated seats and mirrors, rear view camera, keyless entry and start, killer stereo, steering wheel controls, dual climate controls, bluetooth calling, sunroof, and much more!  It is larger than the 2003, but feels more solid, has a quieter ride and is nicer than anything I have ever driven.  Along with the new car I am also getting garage parking rights for the first time in my adult life.  Yes, my wife will be parking in the elements now.  It goes against how I've always tried to treat her, but I'll try to live with it!

Friday, May 8, 2015

More Rocks

I mowed the lawn for the first time on Wednesday after work.  It could have been done last weekend, but I like to give it a good start on the year before whacking it off at a predetermined length on a weekly basis.  There are different grasses in different parts of the lawn and not all get started at the same rate.  One thing I learned is that I need to take a half hour and scour the lawn for dandelions and dig them out.  I hates dandelions!

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I also dug out some more rocks from around the base of the tree stump.  The flat cinder block type thing on the right I knew was back on the fence line, and I'll find a good use for it.  The others were mostly under a layer of dirt - and there still may be two or three more in there.  There are plenty of places I can fortify or lengthen the new stone 'wall' in back.  I am very much still getting used to not having that big old tree there.  I don't miss the worry of when it might break and fall, but I do miss having a tree there, our tree.  There are still good size trees in the neighborhood, but we are now treeless.

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Thursday after work I made my way around the yard with the camera.  I always like to document how/when things grow and happen.  It can be interesting to look back and see where things were in years past.  I just posted a bunch of pics over at the garden blog, our own little garden diary space on the internet, Click Here to go see!

On a side note:  Glad to hear all went well today, Dad, we hope you feel better soon.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Rocked Out

20150428 004Our tree had a ring of good size rocks around it, mostly real rocks but some concrete and cinder block pieces, even one piece of the original curb that still lines our street.  When the tree was removed the crew moved about half of those rocks to the fence line, the rest I removed the other day.  I think I got them all but only a few good rains will let me know for sure.

This has been the first weekend that I have finally felt that we will stay above the freezing point for the season.  Overall it has been a very cool Spring and we have not yet had much rain.  There is rain in the forecast, though, and I passed on mowing today but it won't last until next weekend.

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Back to the rocks!  I spent part of yesterday lining those rocks up parallel to the back fence in front of the hostas that will be bursting forth soon.  This was nothing I planned, I didn't know they would remove so many at the time, and I wasn't going to try and re-place them back around a stump.  Luckily it was about the right amount of rocks to let me make a good line, from the lilac to almost the compost bin.  I like the definition it gives to the hostas - at least I believe I will once the hostas burst forth.  These hostas are always a bit later than normal because they never get direct sun.

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Facing West
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Facing East

So, it was an unexpected project, but I had to do something with the rocks.  I've gotten a mostly straight line out of them but I also placed them mostly vertical in the dirt.  We'll see how it holds up for now.  Also, we're still waiting to see what plants come back in the tree area, but a few good rains would clean it up and grow what will still grow.  At least now that it finally seems I can trust it won't freeze again...

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And while I'm touting my projects lately, I also cleaned up my work area in the garage a bit and also made myself some handy hooks to install behind the second bedroom door for my hats and clothes.  There are many things to be done in the next few weeks, before my time.  I can almost count down the days to my first vacation of the year, and probably my most needed in a long time.  I have only one big project that I am willing to commit to that week right now, well, maybe.  My present thoughts and later actions may differ at this point.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

RIP Tree

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Wednesday this week I took the day off to be at home when our large silver maple tree in the back yard was scheduled to be removed.  I hate to see any large tree taken down, let alone ours, but it was dying and we felt it was becoming unsafe.  Part of the trunk was showing stress, rot with ants and visibly leaking sap in a stress area.  The questionable segment was hanging right above the back end of the garage and gardens, also some of the upper branches, including some above the neighbor's house, had died and started to rot.  So rather than wait until gravity became too much, we had it taken down safely.  Many thanks to Nikolas' Tree Service!

20150422 004First off, yes, that is snow on the ground Wednesday morning.  In fact, it spit snow almost all day.  No light accumulations like what you see here from the overnight hours, but still it was snowing.  Again.  Actually not bad outside for late November or early December.  Too bad it is late April.

Secondly, if you must skip all my yadda yadda, there is a short video at the end and 28 more pictures after the break - click where it says 'Read more' at the end of this post.

The crew showed up by 7:30 am Wednesday morning.  I had already been up and taken the 'before' shots you see here.  Getting the boom truck into the back yard was the tricky part, and probably took about 20 minutes to accomplish.  They were very safe and slow, driving on plywood and putting blocks by the wood edging around the tree as to not destroy it when the tires rolled over.  I was impressed by the care they took, not just in getting the truck in and out, but overall.  I do not have pictures of getting the truck in because I did not want anyone to get nervous.  Anything that might happen to get accidentally destroyed would have been our property, after all.

I took over 140 images, including a dozen or so short videos.  I decided to stay well out of their way so they wouldn't have to yell at me or worry where I was.  For taking pictures I mostly stuck to just outside the back door on the landing to the front of the house for the tops of the tree.  I did watch out the windows and did not try to hide it - I found watching them work pretty fascinating.  They knew what they were doing and seemed like a well oiled machine.  Talking to Nikolajs at lunch, however, he said how it was going slower because a control in the bucket broke the day before so he had to have one crew member at the base of the boom controlling that particular item manually.  To my untrained eye it all seemed like it was supposed to be like that.

201504220 071bOne thing that happened that I should have but did not consider, is the squirrels.  It all started for us on Easter Sunday 5 years ago, when we had a very long branch break off due to squirrels that made a large hole out of a small hole (probably where a branch broke off years ago - I saw a lot of holes in limbs they brought down where the old branch stub rotted, leaving a hole), and kept weakening the branch until it broke.  Squirrels had probably been living in there for years, which still upsets me because we had a crew trim the tree shortly after moving in and they surely noticed but let it go.  (Bastards.  Nikolajs was a certified arborist.  My advice if you have trees is to only hire a certified arborist - and verify insurance.)  When he got to that part of the tree this mama squirrel made a mad dash away through the branches and into neighbor Dave's black walnut trees.  I watched Nikolajs take down that small part of trunk carefully and vertically, and when it got down one of his guys went through the bedding carefully and found one baby squirrel, eyes still unopened.  He carried the squirrel and bedding to the burning bush next to the compost bin and set him up in a little nest on the ground.  I went back there while they were at lunch and got a couple pictures.  While the crew was cleaning up one of the guys told me he saw mama squirrel carry off the baby over the fence.  I'm sure she did because I know she did not go far and I thanked them for caring.  Inside I thought:  Good!  I was thinking maybe we'd be raising a baby squirrel this year - I don't know how the cats would take that!

Although I trusted them I kept an eye on them almost constantly, either outside taking pictures or inside looking for the next stage to go out and take more pictures - it was cold enough to be snowing, remember.  And like I said, I found it fascinating to watch.  I told him I was taking pictures because it would take me a long time to grow the next one!  He actually appreciated it and we arranged for him to stop by the next evening for me to give him a copy of all the pictures and videos I took that day.  He mentioned putting new pictures on his website and I would be flattered if he did.  I'm no pro, and with our digital camera I do not zoom.  If I zoomed in or if I crop to the same parameters it is the same resolution.  I'd rather get the whole shot and zoom in later where I need to, if even necessary.

One thing that did surprise me but shouldn't have was the sheer weight of some of the pieces of trunk even 20-25 feet off the ground.  I understand why he was cutting them shorter and shorter.  When one would fall to the ground you could feel it.  He did that with only a few pieces, let them fall without being roped, as he got down to the trunk that was to be brought down in one last piece.

Below is video of the felling of the trunk, Youtube did not give my video a thumbnail for some reason - and I tried re-uploading it twice - but the video works.  I think email readers must visit the site to view the video, click here for that!  And Read more below!

About 8 hours of tree removal told in 28 more pictures after the break!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Craft Brew Dinner #2

20150420_201227Last night was the fourth Heritage Series event at Dexter's Pub, featuring a six course dinner and different beers with each course.  We had gone to the first dinner back in January and had a real good time.  The second dinner was canceled.  The third we opted not to go to due to my wife was disgusted with a goose liver course - there's a fancy name for it that I forget now (I'm sure I wouldn't have eaten it either).  So this was the fourth dinner and featured a craft brewery from northern California, Anderson Valley Brewing Company, providing the refreshments.

As regular readers know, I am normally not a big beer connoisseur, but I do have fun with this event and tasting different brews with different foods.  Also, my wife and I have found we rather like the sour brews, and there were two featured with dinner. a lighter one with the first course and a much more sour one called The Kimmie, The Yink & The Holy Goze to go with dessert.  The beer rep did give us some back story on the brewery and explained each brew as it was presented.  The chef also came out with the courses explaining why he picked the dish to go with that particular brew.  Informative and tasty, too!

We had two friends along, Ted and Steve/Bob (don't ask), who are members of the local home brewer's guild and definitely know their way around a stout to an ale, IPAs to sour brews, and much more than I will ever know.  Although it can be like listening to a different language sometimes, I do like listening to my friend Ted and other beer people talk beer, and I enjoy the enthusiasm they always display.  So, they seemed to have a good time as well.

Anyway, my wife and I had much fun for a Monday night and I was still in bed on time with no ill effects this morning (while my wife planned today off, you know, just in case!).  Next month there is no Heritage Series dinner at Dexter's due to Madison Craft Beer Week and all the festivities that go with that, but June is Alaskan Brewing Company and July features the local Capitol Brewery from Middleton, WI, right next door.  Honestly, the menu dictates our wanting to go to these events.  Almost any craft brewery good enough to be featured will be interesting to us to try with different foods.

Oh, and it snowed today, Tuesday, 21 April, 2015.  No accumulations, just flurries.  Certainly not unheard of in this area, but it was tee shirt weather just this past weekend!  It may as well have been a day in late November today.  Ya gotta love Wisconsin in the Springtime!  Um.  Well, I don't have to love it but I gotta live with it!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Cat Crush*

This is exactly why I looked for a larger top for the new cat tree.  Now they have it and can both fit comfortably - and they do love the new cat tree, but I still find them on the porch, on the older cat tree stacked on top of each other.  It's a good thing they are very close, being brothers.  Their third birthday is Monday but they already got their present, maybe I'll just give them some treats that day.

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The weather has been okay and the grass is turning green finally.  Plants are starting to come up and flowers have appeared here and there.  Kate got some planting done in the garden today, see pictures on our garden site.  Still, we are going to have overnight temperatures below freezing again early next week.  I've been stressing about my long list this spring, but it is still too early for much of it.  I want to be done with below freezing temperatures before I get out the power washer.  All in due time, I guess.  But there will be a dramatic change coming for us this week, stay tuned!
___   ___   ___

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*Update:  The next morning.

I got a shot of the cats in their new cat tree for comparison.  They're still tight, but at least not on top of each other!

Friday, April 10, 2015

LLP Bonus - Nightwish

Live in New York last night to open the new tour!  I've been listening to the new cd since I received it from Amazon on the US release date, March 31.  I have already had them as a Latest Listening Pleasure a few times so did not want to do it again so readily, so this is just a new thing - a LLP Bonus!  I came across this video of last night's show in New York to open their US tour and I wanted to post it because it is the newest live video of them since year before last festival season, and we hear the newest songs live!  The new album, Endless Forms Most Beautiful, opened in the US top 40 last week.

The band's setlist was as follows:
01. Shudder Before The Beautiful
02. Yours Is An Empty Hope
03. Amaranth
04. She Is My Sin
05. Endless Forms Most Beautiful
06. My Walden
07. The Islander
08. Élan
09. Weak Fantasy
10. Storytime
11. Nemo
12. I Want My Tears Back
13. Stargazers
14. Sleeping Sun
15 The Greatest Show On Earth
16. Ghost Love Score
17. Last Ride Of The Day
Via Blabbermouth