Week from Monday 2nd October 2017

My ancient and beloved SONY CASSETTE DECK has finally given up the ghost. It makes a lot of desperate clicking noises when you press 'play', but doesn't actually do anything. Opening up the lid, I find that the drive belt that makes everything 'turn' has come adrift and got wrapped around one of the capstans. No doubt it has got stretched out of shape in doing so. I was able to download a PDF of the official SERVICE MANUAL (You can find ANYTHING like that online if you know where to look! Come to think of it, you don't even have to know 'WHERE' to look, you just have to know WHAT to ask Google for!) When I have time, I will HAVE A GO at fixing it myself, but it looks like a fiddly job. I don't hold much hope that it will be a permanent solution. Even if I do get the beast up and running, it looks like the sort of problem that will happen again five minutes later. Time to keep one eye on the secondhand shops for a 'new' one...

Well, I was SUPPOSED to have a meeting in Gosport today, but that fell through... so I turned my attention to the CASSETTE DECK instead. I managed to thread the drive belts back on (VERY fiddly job indeed!), but I was right, they ARE stretched out of shape now. I can't see them staying on the capstans for very long. I think the reason they came adrift in the first place is because an electronic sensor that 'applies the brakes' is not working properly. Not much I can do about that, even equipped with a comprehensive Sony repair manual from decades ago. The situation is almost certainly "YOU CAN'T GET THE PARTS, MATE!"

Well, this was something that a socially anxious boy doesn't need, but kinda welcomes all the same... Out of the blue, I met a couple of the BRAZILIAN lady friends that I knew thirty-five-to-forty years ago! They were on our side of the pond, doing the 'nostalgia' tour thing, visiting old haunts etc etc... I don't really do 'small talk' in awkward situations, I need actual DISCUSSION if I'm to converse at all. Difficult to strike up one of those when there's limited window of opportunity. SO THERE THEY WERE AND THERE THEY WENT. I couldn't help noticing that the girl who used to be 'The Large Jolly One' is now slim and elegantly attractive, and 'The Petite Cute One' has assumed the 'Jolly' role...

I didn't have any luck so far on the CASSETTE DECK quest. The charity shops don't want to take the old one if it requires any kind of service beyond a perfunctory 'functional' test. The ones they have on their shelves LOOK a bit iffy and, if that's their definition of 'servicing', I'd not expect anything to be in FULL working condition either! There was a DENON machine that looked quite promising, but on closer inspection, the playback head was completely worn down to a polished sheen. I might try the shops in Eastleigh next...

Week from Monday 9th October 2017

Ah but... I have a PHILIPS portable cassette machine, a sort of mini-'ghetto-blaster' with built-in (obsolete AM) radio and tinny speakers, buried under the bed and gathering dust. Why don't I drag that out and clean it up? Fix up some cables for it, that'll at least solve the problem of not having a 'PLAYBACK' tape source that I can plug into the peecee for DIGITISING THE ARCHIVES. Job done! So I can now exhibit zen-like calm and patience until a 'proper' hi-fi separate reveals itself unto me.

This morning's #walkies mission involves an appointment with the DENTIST... except that, in the event, there WAS no dentist, only the #walkies. Bit of a cock-up on the bookings front. I need to go in two weeks' time instead.
On my WINDOZE desktop, CYBERFOX remains as my DEFAULT BROWSER. As I see it, it has all the advantages of a stable FIREFOX, but for some reason, it is a LOT quicker to load than 'the real thing'. But whenever a new version of 'the real thing' gets a general release, I always give it a fair trial, in the hope that they've improved its notorious sluggishness once and for all. When version 56 arrived, I was delighted to find that many of the problems I'd had with earlier 64-bit variants had been cured. It's a LOT quicker, in fact it's pretty much caught up with its 'FORKED OFF' little sister. I was on the verge of making 'the real Firefox' my DEFAULT again after all these years. But then I found that I couldn't log into TWITTER on the new beast.

Now Twitter doesn't really like you using PRIVATE BROWSING. It especially doesn't like it when you use any sort of TRACKING PREVENTION. That is why I get daily email notifications telling me that there has been an 'UNKNOWN LOG-IN' to my account. The poor little twitbots just can't recognise you as a real person! I get so many of those in a day that they are forwarded straight to the bin now! Naturally, when I try out a 'new' browser, I immediately tweak all the 'SECURITY & PRIVACY' settings, so that I know nobody is looking over my shoulder all the time and that any 'HISTORY' will get flushed away when I close the window. My ideal internet browser would be a Windows or Linux version of Android's FIREFOX FOCUS, which does all that for you at the click of a single button.

On finding that Twitter "WOULDN'T WORK" on the latest Firefox, I systematically went through everything to track down what it was objecting to:- I disabled plug-ins, including my beloved STYLISH CSS scripts and the 'HTTPS BY DEFAULT' I'd installed quite recently (I find that if something suddenly doesn't work, one should always retrace one's steps to the most recent changes). I tried a number of DIFFERENT combinations of 'Fox's own 'Privacy' settings, including disabling the 'DO NOT TRACK' completely. I unblocked the blocked cookies... Then I found it! I UNTICKED THE "BLOCK POP-UP WINDOWS" OPTION. Suddenly, I was able to close the 'This Site Uses Cookies' nag at the top of the Twitter screen, because its little cross worked again. But most importantly, a previously dysfunctional data entry field would now accept my password and LET ME IN!
UPDATE: You can leave the "Block Pop-Up Windows" option ticked, but add the Twitter address to its 'EXCEPTIONS' list. It seems funny that I've never had to do that with any previous versions though !?!
CASE CLOSED! (well, sort of...) Now I don't know if this is a bug in the new Firefox or changes to Twitter itself. I rather suspect the latter, whenever issues of 'compatibility' crop up. A Twitterchum tells me that there is a version 56.0.1 of Firefox already out there (for those who receive the 'bleeding edge' releases) so it MIGHT be that they've found some bugs to fix already. I find I rather like the latest version of FIREFOX. They're getting there, but I don't know if I'm QUITE ready to go all in just yet...
I'm listening to some old live recordings of the STICK MEN, while dipping into the TOUR OF TURKEY cycle race with the sound down (seems I can only get it online with Turkish commentary!). The ambient improv bit in "SLOWGLIDE" goes rather nicely with some helicopter shots of the LYCIAN ROCK TOMBS at Dalyan...

This morning will find me sitting at the foot of the stairs, Pavlovian-droolingly waiting for the bell to ring, to announce my BURNING SHED delivery. That'll be the long anticipated KING CRIMSON "Live in Chicago" 'official bootleg', generally held by all (including the band themselves) to be a pretty DEFINITIVE document of the most recent American leg of the tour. A midwest twitterchum was at this very gig and he promises that listeners are indeed in for a treat...

It arrived while I was out... I hope to find time to give it the HEADPHONE-ASSISTED ATTENTION it undoubtedly deserves at the weekend! But also arriving on the 'PILES' today is the new ROBERT PLANT album "CARRY FIRE"...

It is a thing of great beauty, oud and fiddle to the fore, carrying on exactly where the last one left off. You know the one? That one with the labyrinthine title that no one can remember and the cover 'concept' that nobody ever understood? Yeah, that one! Well, if you liked that one, you won't be disappointed. On the other hand, if you expect it to still sound like Led Zeppelin, look elsewhere and GROW UP!

I also did the charity shops in CHICHESTER today, coming home with a fresh copy of "A Meeting By The River", VISHWA MOHAN BHATT's meditative album with RY COODER (a most lovely thing that I THOUGHT I had on cassette, but I'm buggered if I can find it)... also an interesting collaboration between yoikin' MARI BOINE and some Russian musicians... and the Esoteric reissue of EGG's final album "The Civil Surface"... SOMETHING FOR THE WEEKEND, SIR?

"KING CRIMSON: LIVE IN CHICAGO" is mighty powerful stuff, a proper HONEST, warts-and-all 'official bootleg' recording. We the home audience will probably never know for sure whether this was indeed the 'BEST' night, but it's probably a fair representation of the tour as a whole. It's not a PERFECT PERFORMANCE by any means, there are clunkers a-plenty (and, it has to be said, a lot of them are Fripp's!). The one song that this line-up has played more than any other, "Starless", is full of them! ('HONEST', I tells ya!) I don't know what it sounded like to the punters in the hall, but on this RECORDING, Fripp's guitar TONE sounds a bit muddy, that famous 'laser beam' sound has been dulled by too much reverb. On the other hand, the keyboards ("Did somebody mention a Mellotron?") and woodwind are clear in the mix and the countless percussives sound strong as ever. I'm happy to report that TLev gets through this night's "ConstruKCtion" without too much of a hitch! Finally getting to hear "Fallen Angel" played live is a 'hairs on the back of the neck' moment for me, and the 'new' songs ("Meltdown"/"Radical Action II"/"The Errors" formerly known as "Radical Action III") are settling in nicely. It's not the most inspired version of "Easy Money" I've heard recently, but the "Lizard" numbers and "Islands" are astonishingly good, these alone are worth your price of admission. By the way, Adrian Belew can complain all he likes about this Crim playing 'his' songs, but the new versions of "Neurotica" and "Indiscipline" make all previous efforts sound very tired indeed!

Week from Monday 16th October 2017

I'm settling into the new FIREFOX nicely, having 'fixed' that one problem that I had with it (re: TWITTER). I need to 'shop around' and find a new AD-BLOCKING plug-in that I can get along with, because the one I had been using on CYBERFOX doesn't seem to work on newer versions of 'the real thing'. There's one called ADBLOCKER ULTIMATE that looks like it might be the business. It does what you'd expect ANY ad-blocker to do, with no apparent loss of performance. But it is in the nature of these things that I'll need to TRY IT OUT for a while. Inevitably, there are still some media sites who nag habitual ad-refuseniks about denying them their 'income', and who will, in turn, deny access to any of their content. (Funnily enough, there seems to be a correlation with the ones who still rely on FLASH PLAYER, especially TV channels.) I have found with some ad-blockers that trying to switch them OFF for specific sites causes more trouble than it's worth...

Morning #walkies are now, very suddenly, AUTUMNAL... Even traversing the 'proper' footpaths involves trudging through fallen leaves. There are peculiar species of fungus popping up everywhere. The skies remain twilit and dun[ny]-coloured for much of the day. The geese have been spotted further north, no doubt headed this way just as soon as the fireworks are done. Mind you, it's still too warm for donning woolies and anoraks just yet...

IT'S A 'PHENOMENON' THEN, IT'S OFFICIAL... Apparently, the reason the sky looks 'twilit and dun[ny]-coloured' is because of another big storm system ("OPHELIA") over the Atlantic, whipping up some Saharan dust and Portuguese smoke. As GREGGERY PECCARY might well have asked, "Who is making those new brown clouds?". If and when the sun itself WAS visible (and here it WASN'T for most of the day), it was apocalyptically red. We haven't seen anything as weird as this since the last eclipse, or when Eyjafjallajökull erupted. It got so dark in some areas that the street lights were switching themselves on in the middle of the day - the ones in Elm Grove, Southsea came on at about ten past two!

I found myself in SOUTHAMPTON again yesterday. As yer do. One couldn't fail to notice that the big FERRIS WHEEL is still there, spoiling views of Bargate. Obviously, it WASN'T put up just for the duration of the BOAT SHOW. I really don't know WHAT the thinking behind it was then, but there's probably SOMEONE on the City Council who thought it would be a good use of public money. It can't be earning anything, because I haven't seen anybody use it yet. What? You mean there's NOT a queue of cash-flushed punters, eager to look down on the rooves of POUNDLAND and MAPLINS? It just goes round and round, empty...

Week from Monday 23rd October 2017

On Monday morning, I am due to go for that DENTAL CHECK-UP, which for reasons best known to the receptionist, I DIDN'T have a couple of weeks ago, because only I and my little appointment card seemed to know about it ("...puter says 'No'..."). But it is peeing with rain, so my mum offers to give me a lift into town... AND THERE WENT THE DAY!

Once all the oral examining, poking and scraping were out of the way, I traipsed back to Trinity Street car park, but the car wouldn't start! Flat battery. So, since I am the one with the mobile phone, a large chunk of the day was spent pacing around the parcark, waiting for the EMERGENCY CALL-OUT man to arrive with his charging equipment. After THAT was done, it was suggested that the car should be given a good half-hour's drive to warm up, so we went down to Gosport and back just to get petrol! It's now mid-afternoon and I only just had breakfast!

Bang on schedule, I spotted half-a-dozen BRENT GEESE in formation, skimming low over the choppy sea, no doubt taking a shortcut to the lovely soggy bits of TITCHFIELD HAVEN. They will be taking up their rightful place on the RUGBY FIELDS, just as soon as those awful humans have finished setting fire to things in the name of {{{What is it we're celebrating exactly?}}} and have finally taken down the BEER TENTS (Surely the most valued part of ANY Gosport event?) that are currently causing even the landgrabbing BLACK-BACKED GULLS to keep to the verges...

Week from Monday 30th October 2017

The clocks went back this weekend, but my BODY CLOCK doesn't... so I find myself waking even 'earlier' than ever, only it isn't 'earlier' really, even though it is... anyway, I rolled out of bed before six, but I spent at least forty-five minutes JUST reading the unanimously positive comments about last night's jawdropping first episode of "BLUE PLANET II". Brief summary of the points raised:-
1. Sir David Attenborough and the BBC Natural History Unit are alone worth the licence fee.
2. Sea creatures are amazing and human beings are c**ts.
3. We cried over the ickle baby walrus, breathed a sigh of relief as it turned out the dolphins and whales were mates after all.
4. Anyone who is still watching "The X Factor" while this is on needs to take a long hard look at their lives.
5. Transgender fish? Climate change? Daily Mail readers are going to be apoplectic about the 'liberal BBC agenda' (again!)
Having tried the new FIREFOX for a while and determined that "IT'S NOT QUITE THERE YET", I'm back on CYBERFOX. But the problem still stands that TWITTER has got very sluggish on the latest flavours of 'Fox. Something has changed. Considering how fast Foxy has become at handling EVERYTHING ELSE, I suspect that it is Twitter itself.

A standalone app would seem to be the way forward. After all, it works for Android, why not Windoze as well? I tried a couple of options. There is one called TWEETEN that isn't bad. The trouble with that is any embedded or linked media requires your default web browser to open, so it rather defeats the object of having something that purports to be 'self-contained'.

I have also considered setting up an alternative web browser "FOR TWITTER USE ONLY". OPERA is nice and fast. But those webkit Chromium derivations all have that eye-watering DirectWrite 'smooth' font rendering, which you can no longer disable. So the choice has been to stick with the sluggishness of the Fox, attempt to adopt an entirely alien and quirky new working method, or suffer headaches from squinting at OPERA. All things considered, I'll stick with the slugs...

I think I can dismiss 'WEBKIT' browsers entirely. Ideally, I want an OLD SCHOOL version of 'MOZ'. A Firefox clone that has all the basic stuff (32-bit will do!), doesn't hurt your head by trying to be fancy with the fonts and is fast to open. In fact, it doesn't need ANY of the bells and whistles that slow the 'real' ones down, because I'm going to use it for one thing only. I've always liked MOZILLA LIGHT (which I use for offline testing of pages), but it hasn't been updated in years, so I don't know how 'SAFE' it is. I've now found yet another Moz 'FORK' called PALE MOON that's quite zippy and easy on the eye, so I'm giving that one a go...
STOP PRESS (Yes, I know I'm banging on about this stuff, but it's important, dammit!)
Having done all that and found a solution that 'WORKS', I received an e-mail newsletter telling me that there is a completely NEW version of FIREFOX (itself) arriving.
It's called FIREFOX QUANTUM and it makes great claims to be "FASTER THAN CHROME". I'm guessing they probably do their benchmark tests on the latest quadcore Win10 machine with a state-of-the-art fibre-optic broadband, rather than running Windoze7 on a five-year-old Novatech 'build-it-yourself' with a woefully unreliable BT copper-wire, so I shan't be holding my breath in anticipation of any MAJOR improvement in speed... but, who knows?
I'm trying it in 'BETA' and I must say that, so far, it's ruddy marvelous! It really does OPEN a lot quicker and it doesn't hog the memory like previous versions. The comprehensive new home screen means that I no longer have to use up valuable toolbar real estate with all those shortcuts.
'Out of the box' it's a bit too Windoze10 for my aesthetic tastes (all those flat, texture-less, Lego-brick colours that everyone ELSE seems to like these days), but I can fix that!
As far as my favourite plug-in tools are concerned, there ARE one or two changes. A number of what they now call 'LEGACY' extensions are no longer compatible with this version, so I had to find alternatives. I've switched to their 'recommended' AD-BLOCKER. I now have to think of "STYLISH" as "STYLUS" instead (same only better!). But I no longer need my third-party COLO[U]R PICKER, because there's now one built into the 'developer tools' section! In fact, there's a lot of tools in that department that look interesting... Watch this space!
I made myself available for duty as a HAIRDRESSER'S DUMMY and got me an overdue 'NEW BARNET'... I suddenly received some printing work from our friendly neighbourhood insurance consultants... I need to get one or two preparatory things sorted before FRIDAY, because that is when we venture out to darkest Surrey for the "JAZZ 'ROUND AT GOD'S GAFF" event with SOFT MACHINE...
Soft Machine - St John's Church, Farncombe, 03/11/17  *****

Well, at our age, given the choice between listening to a favourite pop combo while seated on a wooden church pew, or having to stand for a couple of hours in some grotty midtown drinking establishment, I'd say "Gimme dat ol' time religium!" every time! This is a refreshing place to hear music - I'd come here again! (even though we - typically - got lost trying to find the place!)

Only the second(?) show of this year's UK tour, but "The Artists Formerly Known As Legacy" were on top form tonight, with quite a few fresh additions to the repertoire, including some Softsongs that I've not heard this line-up play before ("The Man Who Waved At Trains", "Out-Bloody-Rageous" and others). Plenty from "Bundles" and "Softs", needless to say, but the set covered a lot of ground from "Third" onwards.

My personal highlight was "Facelift", which once again became the jumping-off point for some glorious improvised space-music, particularly effective given the setting. And I'll probably be 'earworming' "Song Of Aeolus" all week!

The sound quality was pretty good, with none of the reverberative problems you might expect from playing in a church. Everything was clearly audible but, it has to be said, John Marshall's drum sound wasn't that great. (They decided to rely on a couple of overhead mikes to pick up the 'acoustic' sound instead of properly close-miking the kit. His solo feature sounded a blurry mess as a consequence. But that's jazz, I suppose...) Roy Babbington's bass still bubbles along in fine fashion and John Etheridge's guitar playing is astonishingly diverse in style yet always distinctive. Theo Travis was my 'star of the show' once again, not only for his peerless sax and flute work, but for his increasing armoury of electronics... Great show, great venue, great atmosphere! (Setlist will hopefully follow soon!)

Week from Monday 6th November 2017

IT'S OFFICIAL! There really is nothing better than TANGERINE DREAM for mobile listening! Even on a thirty-five-year-old cassette played through failing car speakers, you can't beat the FAB TANGS for making the act of GETTING LOST in far-flung parts of Hampshire and Surrey that little bit more bearable, and the ubiquitous yellow diversion signs slightly less frustrating!

Well, it's possible I might have found time to listen to something OTHER than SOFT MACHINE over the weekend, but I doubt it. There were two 'new' acquisitions at the gig (that's "STEAM" and "LIVE ADVENTURES" ticked off my 'WANTED LIST'), not to mention "FLOATING WORLD LIVE", downloaded from the Bandcamps and judiciously self-edited for a more comfortable listening experience, purging it of excessive DRUM and/or BASS SOLO time-wastage. Shame on RADIO BREMEN for leaving a ten-minute-plus DRUM SOLO completely intact, yet fading out "HAZARD PROFILE" during an Allan Holdsworth guitar solo! WAS DACHTEN SIE?

Not that I'm allowed much undisturbed time to listen to music of ANY sort at weekends, what with having a whole week's worth of televisual entertainment to catch up with... Plus I still do 'THE SATURDAY ROUTINE', which involves subjecting my various personal computer devices to the scrutiny of several brands of ANTI-MALWARE and CLEAN-UP software... Then there's a vital CATNAP schedule to be adhered to... before culminating in the SUNDAY EVENING highlight of open-mouthed gazing at weird freaky underwater stuff in high-definition.

Off down to the PRINTERS this morning to do some TROLLEY-PUSHING. I make a reasonable little profit on 'reprint' jobs, so it's only fair I do some of the physical work and trundle them down the road to the customer...

As a reward for some sort of satisfying accomplishment (Well, that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!), I went for a train journey to BASINGSTOKE, where I spent an hour or two perusing its quota of CHARITY SHOPS. As yer do. Picked up a quartet of promising cheapo seedies: BO HANSSON's "Magician's Hat" (very peculiar mixture of styles); MOGWAI's soundtrack to the French TV drama "Les Revenants" (loved the music at the time, but it had a disappointingly dull second season, if you recall?); JOHN MARTYN's "Piece By Piece" (the one with "John Wayne" on it!); plus the debut 'solo' album by the sickeningly talented pianistic jazzbo GWILYM SIMCOCK. Since last week, regardless of what you may see on my 'PLAYLIST', I've listened to LITERALLY NOTHING ELSE except various incarnations of SOFT MACHINE, so it will interesting to remind myself what OTHER music sounds like for once!

Bang on schedule, my copy of KING CRIMSON's latest enormo-box "SAILORS' TALES" arrived from the Burning Shed people. But it has to stay wrapped until the twenty-fifth of December... This weekend is set aside for insanely complicated Spanish crime drama, not to mention more freaky high-definition fishy thrills.

SOFT MACHINE UPDATE... nobody on SETLIST.FM has yet posted a list from any of the shows on this tour (in fact, no one has posted a SoftSet at all this year!), but a review of the gig has turned up on the LONDON JAZZ NEWS website. Also THEO TRAVIS himself posted a (surely definitive ??!?!) setlist on his Facebook page, which means I can finally fill in a few blanks and put things in the correct order:-
First Set
>> Land of the Bag Snake
In The Back Room
Chloe and the Pirates
Voyage Beyond Seven
Song of Aeolus
Grape Hound

Second Set
The Tale of Taliesin
The Man Who Waved At Trains
Theo's Intro
>> Out-Bloody-Rageous
>> The Last Day
Out of Season
The Relegation of Pluto
>> Tarabos
>> Drums
>> Two Down
>> Pump Room

Hazard Profile I
There! The London Jazz News piece also included this quote from JOHN ETHERIDGE, which I can certainly relate to:- "Maybe it's a jazz thing... I play a lot of tunes where I've never heard the original. Some would say that's disrespectful, you should go to the original and check out what the artist originally intended and then, perhaps, put your own spin on it. But I don't do that..." (Just for the record, I am currently working up a version of THELONIOUS MONK's "Straight No Chaser" for a possible NET PROPHET project, without first listening to any previous recordings of same. Not to mention the "STRANGE DAZE" project of some years ago, when we Filth-O-Boppers covered an entire DOORS album without once sounding anything like the original...)

Week from Monday 13th November 2017

A LITTLE PROJECT... Around the turn of the century, a couple of albums were released under the SANTANA banner ("Supernatural" and "Shaman") that were massive sellers and highly acclaimed by all in 'The Industry'. Hardly surprising really as, for the most part, they sounded just like they were 'produced' by the record company's accountancy department! The days of Santana being an viable 'BAND' were long forgotten by this point. Both discs are filled with lots and lots of songs with "FEATURED GUEST VOCALS BY...", which sound to me like it is Carlos who is guesting on OTHER people's records. These are artists of the likes of Dave Matthews, Dido and various members of The Fugees, no doubt bankable 'chart' names at the time, but they don't mean nuffin' now! Indeed, both albums are now readily available for a bargain price at your local CHARITY SHOP, such was their longstanding appeal. That's where I got them from. As far as I'm concerned, a goodly fifty-percent of both albums are made for the skip-button, but there ARE some really strong tracks (reminiscent of the proper 'Latino' Santana of yore) buried amongst the horrid stuff. So I've been doing my 'DIGITAL DJ' bit once again and I've sequenced one HIGHLY SATISFYING Santana album from the remains of two COMPLETELY UNLISTENABLE ones...

I've now been called upon to demolish then replace a broken TOILET SEAT... wot fun!

FIREFOX QUANTUM has now emerged from out of its 'BETA' state on Windoze and it has also arrived in the LINUX/UBUNTU repositories. You thought the old Windoze versions were slow to open? Well, that was doubly so with previous Linux versions! But what else could you do? Other options for browsing the webs on LINUX are terrible!

The new Linux 'Fox is a definite improvement, but I'm resigned to the fact that nothing on my Linux laptop set-up will ever match my Windoze desktop for relative speed. There's always a greater amount of WAITING TIME involved. But it could be worse, it could be 'owned' by M!©r0$ofT...

One thing that will require some attention on my part is in the 'EYE CANDY' department. The new 'Fox's appearance does not sit prettily with my Linux laptop's DARK theme. There are toolbar icons, as well as buttons and entry fields on the homepage, that are not of a particularly retina-pleasing colour scheme (some elements appear black on dark-grey!) I need to explore the alternative 'themes' on offer in Firefox's ADD-ONS repositories, maybe install that new STYLUS for some CSS 'fix-its' of my own... TWEAKAGE SHALL ENSUE...

Week from Monday 20th November 2017

I succeeded in buying tickets for the STICK MEN next March (yay!!!), but it was a right old kerfuffle! TRADING BOUNDARIES' website doesn't sit well with the new Firefox's safety measures. I got all the way through the stages of placing my order, but then the CHECKOUT page didn't load properly. Tried it a second time, same result. So I retraced my steps and tried the OTHER browsers I keep on my peecee: first MOZILLA LIGHT, then the Chromium-based EPIC PRIVACY BROWSER. The former blocked me altogether, warning me that it wasn't secured (What? the site or the browser?). Then, using Epic, I managed to get through to the checkout, only to find that certain BUTTONS wouldn't press in order to complete the process. Again, these were possibly disabled by the security plugins or, more likely, were created using some slightly archaic CSS and/or Javascript that the browser didn't recognise. Also they don't do PAYPAL, so you have to type your card details each time (shudder!)... In the end, I used the FIREFOX FOCUS browser on MY LITTLE ANDROID, which displayed a completely CSS-free version of the page content. But at least all the buttons worked! Tickets are now paid for... fingers crossed that it was SAFE to do that sort of thing on an Android phone!

Yesterday, I went with my mum to collect a 'big-button' phone from Currys PC World. I thought I'd take a look at the BLU-RAY PLAYERS while I was there. I've been thinking of 'upgrading', but I have questions about CONNECTIVITY. Most of them only have HDMI and USB (or sometimes optical) sockets on the back, with no AUDIO JACKS like my current DVD device. Apparently, you are expected to route the (HDMI's) audio through your telly, which doesn't sound like the very definition of 'HI-FI' to me.

One machine that I examined had a very sensitive security tag attached to it. I accidentally set off the ALARMS! I flagged down a member of staff with a "SORRY! THAT WAS ME!" type gesture, but he didn't know how to turn it off. The racket continued for some time - after a while, everyone seemed to be ignoring it. This sort of thing must happen to them all the time!

Upgrading to BLU-RAY is not a priority though. I have been without a proper 'hi-fi' CASSETTE DECK for a while now, having failed to repair my trusty old SONY. But while visiting a charity shop to look at furniture, I spied a YAMAHA KX-200 beast that looked very promising at twenty quid. As might be expected for something that is almost certainly over THIRTY YEARS OLD, the playback head looks a bit 'polished', so I wasn't expecting the highest of fidelities. But I am well impressed! Depending on the quality of the tape (of course), the machine produces plenty of what it says on the front of the case - 'NATURAL SOUND'. On a good quality, pre-recorded 'musicassette', there is very little of that high-end 'GURGLE' that one would expect from worn down (i.e. gone a bit out of phase) tape heads, and the bass is clear and punchy. I've no doubt it'll breath new life into my ancient collection of REGGAE and AFRICAN tapes! This afternoon, I've been testing it out with all sorts of stuff, from acoustic CHICK COREA to MISTY-IN-ROOTS to the LOUNGE LIZARDS. Even some second-generation radio recordings sound highly listenable.

I went for my biennial visit to the OPTICIANS yesterday, but I find that my 'prescription' hasn't changed any, so I can keep my existing spectacles. ("No nurse, I said his clatescelps!") Just as well really! I don't need that kind of additional expense, what with next year's KING CRIMSON tickets still to pay for!