Welcome to the 41st edition of The Newsletter Leaf Journal - the official newsletter of the perennially virid online writing magazine, The New Leaf Journal. As always, this newsletter comes to you from the waterproof keyboard of Nicholas A. Ferrell, Editor of The New Leaf Journal. While I posted five new articles this week, most of my work was done under the hood - which I will explain further down in the newsletter. I will also provide six content recommendations from around the web and one from our archive.
Although I was busy working on improving how the site works, I still found time to post one long article and three short pieces.
Nicholas A. Ferrell. July 12, 2021.
I discovered one of Charlotte Becker’s poems in an old magazine on July 5 or 6. I was going to write about a single poem, but after I found a bit more information about the poet, I decided to work on a larger project. My article contains 34 poems by the early twentieth-century poet, all reprinted in their entirety. I found the poems in old books, anthologies, and newspapers. I also disclosed what little I was able to learn about Becker herself and appended some brief thoughts to each poem.
Aside - this article was a pain to format. I have noted that WordPress’s block editor is not amenable to poetry. I imputed all of the spacing manually. Brutal stuff. I hope you enjoy the collection.
Nicholas A. Ferrell. July 13, 20201.
An enterprising programmer decided to turn a Casio graphing calculator into a web server. I was most impressed with the fact that his graphing calculator website withstood the force of thousands of visitors from Hacker News. In my post, I included a link to an archived version of the webpage in case it went down and for posterity. As of the evening of July 16, 2021, the webpage not only remains online, but has been improved since I wrote about it. Bravo Mr. Tobias Mädel.
Nicholas A. Ferrell. July 15, 2021.
I had been doing a significant amount of work on the site back-end on July 14 after having done my real job during the day. That left me with little time to write an article, but I remain committed to not allowing two days to elapse without a new post. When in doubt, I turn to either Project Gutenberg or my collection of still-unused photographs. The latter (or steps, in this case) won out for my July 15 article.
Nicholas A. Ferrell. July 16, 2021.
A nineteenth century edition of Harper’s Round Table included a short advertisement. If any person sold enough product from a certain company, he or she would be eligible to win a Fairy Tricycle. A photo was included with the ad.
What is a Fairy Tricycle? I did a little bit of research and made some interesting discoveries. While you cannot win the tricycle anymore, you can learn a bit of tricycle history by reading.
Save for my Charlotte Becker review, my articles this week were on the shorter side. Fear not, however - I have additional reading recommendations from around the web.
Sumit Khanna. September 24, 2012.
“By embracing modern social media mega-sites, we give away our writing, our photos and our content for free and let hosting companies make money of us from advertising. But even more than that, these social media services have created an environment that gives people a false sense of relevance. Combined with the reality show generation, it has rewired the psychology of today so that people now think in terms of what they intend to broadcast to the world. People are losing their concepts of personal thoughts, and with that, they are losing their empathy for others.”
There are parts of the essay that I would approach differently (which I likely will soon), but the foregoing paragraph is one of the best things I have read in a long time. Note Mr. Khanna’s reference to the “reality show generation.” The reality TV show boom in the early 2000s had a deleterious effect on how people interact with the internet. The idea of owning content is something that I will discuss at The New Leaf Journal in detail.
Toshiyuki Takeya. May 28, 2021.
Video included. The content does not disappoint.
Victoria Song. July 6, 2021.
A new tradition of mine is to sneak an awful take into every newsletter.
I personally like owning my devices. That’s part of why I run my own hosted website and use Linux as my computer operating system. Apparently some people have different aspirations:
“The scary thing is that only sounds terrible if you have the mental energy to care about principles. Making decisions all the time is difficult, and it’s easier when someone else limits the options you can choose from. It’s not hard to turn a blind eye to a problem if, for the most part, your life is made a little simpler. Isn’t that what every tech company says it’s trying to do? Make your life a little simpler? Life is hard enough already, and living in a home that maintains itself so long as you hand over control—well, by 2030, who’s to say that’s not what we’ll all want?”
My head hurts. It genuinely hurts. Aside, my best college professor always scolded students for beginning questions with “Isn’t” or some form thereof. “Don’t do that, it’s not nice” he’d say. Not wrong. This article, however, is very wrong.
Lorenzo Franceschi. July 8, 2021.
That’s not shady at all.
Bhvishya Patel. May 25, 2021.
I had been meaning to share this amusing article for a while, but there was always another Daily Mail piece in my queue. This is finally the week to share the failed extravagant mating ritual - which of course is caught on video. After watching the ritual, feel free to read my content about a more subdued pheasant.
Pak Yu. June 24, 2021.
I am a bit late on sharing this story, but it is worth sharing nevertheless. Apple Daily, a Hong Kong newspaper that I cited to in an earlier Around the Web (I forget whether it was in a post on site or a newsletter) was shut down by Chinese Communist Party authorities. The article is about Apple Daily and other outlets being targeted by Chinese Government authorities seeking to preserve their archives. I took note of one passage:
Another programmer, Kin Ko, 47, has been building a decentralised registry called LikeCoin. The blockchain platform helps internet users identify the metadata - creator, date, time, location, version - of the content through a unique number called an International Standard Content Number (ISCN), akin to a book’s distinctive International Standard Book Number.
The digital repository is still in its beta phase and months away from launching officially. But online pro-democracy outlet Citizen News told Reuters its has already used LikeCoin to catalogue its images.
I came across LikeCoin months ago because it is in the WordPress plugin repository. I studied it briefly to see if it was worth adding to The New Leaf Journal, but I decided that it did not make sense for us at that (or this) time. However, it seems to be an interesting project and way for censored outlets to ensure that their content remains accessible.
Let us visit one post from the archive.
Nicholas A. Ferrell. September 25, 2020.
My filler article about steps this week was not my first New Leaf Journal step content. I published an article about steps that appear in the middle of the pedestrian walkway on the Triborough Bridge last September. The post includes two photos and is notable for the fact that I do not think very many people in New York City - relatively speaking - have walked the Triborough Bridge.
Below, you will find our five most-read articles from Saturday July 10 through Friday July 9, inclusive. This is our “newsletter week” ranking - a list of the most-read articles between newsletters. In parentheses, I will indicate the article’s change in rank relative to the previous newsletter week. You will find additional information about each article’s publication information and ranking history below it.
“The Mystery of Sōseki and Tsuki ga Kirei” (Change +1)
Nicholas A. Ferrell. March 14, 2021.
Weeks in top five: 12 (8 in first place)
“A Follow-Up Post on the Meaning of ‘Blob Dylan’” (Change +3)
Nicholas A. Ferrell. April 12, 2021
Weeks in top five: 4
“Persona 4 Golden Digital Artbook Review (Steam)” (Change -2)
Nicholas A. Ferrell. November 13, 2020.
Weeks in top five: 24 (6 in first place)
“Reviewing the HALOmask and är Mask” (Change +4)
Victor V. Gurbo. December 2, 2020.
Weeks in top five: 23 (7 in first place)
“A 2021 List of Alternative Search Engines and Search Resources” (Change -1)
Nicholas A. Ferrell. June 13, 2021.
Weeks in top five: 4
The Persona 4 Golden sale ended on Steam, and so too did its two week reign atop our weekly ranking. My Tsuki ga Kirei article returned to the top spot for a year-leading eighth week, and it has been first or second for the last eleven weeks.
My second Blob Dylan article achieved the highest Blob Dylan ranking yet with a second-place finish. May Blob become our most unlikely first-place article in 2021? I doubt it, but I have mistakenly doubted Blob before. One interesting effect of the second Blob Dylan article is that it cannibalized my first Blob Dylan article. It is definitely the more informative of the two articles, so is not a surprise that it generates the most interest. But I have learned from watching this in deciding how to publish future content on strange King Baby graffiti in Brooklyn.
Victor’s review of protective masks, which led our newsletter week ranking for seven weeks in 2021, returned to our weekly top five for the first time since our June 4 newsletter. I thought interest in masks was waning. Is it on the upswing again? Ominous.
Three articles in our weekly top 10 have no newsletter week rank appearances in 2021 - my articles on installing Ubuntu Touch on a tablet, reviewing the Mondrian theme for KDE plasma and my September 2020 article on the fall of the Western Roman Empire. Perhaps one of these articles, or another article, will shake up the ranking next week.
Part of why I did not write much this week (other than being tired after the long Charlotte Becker article) was because I was working on improving our site behind the scenes to make it a better and more secure visiting experience for you. I will describe in brief what I did.
I improved our site speed with some work on the backend. We had been using the popular Autoptimize plugin since May 2020 to optimize scripts on site. I replaced that with a new, lighter solution that both replicates most of Autoptimizes script optimization in the free version and allows me to keep scripts from activating on specific pages. The latter feature is useful. For example, several of our plugins run scripts on pages where they are not doing anything. This new plugin allows me to keep those scripts from running on a page-by-page basis. Our theme has some built in script optimization, and between it and our new plugin, we are now replicating Autoptimize’s functionality in a lighter and more effective way. My early tests suggest that the site speed has improved a bit.
I properly configured our site’s HSTS headers and now implement HTTP redirect to HSTS without a plugin. Furthermore, I submitted our site to the HSTS preload list. It looks like we are on track for inclusion. In addition to the proper HSTS headers, I added several other security headers to the site - and I have a few more that I am researching in order to properly configure.
Going forward, I will look to finish adding security headers to the site and then move on to some customizations to our theme - which may be prompted by a change to the functionality of the system we use to serve fonts locally. I will also finish removing unused shortcodes that are still in a few articles (referring to our former method of displaying estimated reading time).
I was talking an evening walk the other day when I overheard a guy - very much not in work clothes - telling the gentleman he was walking with that something was like a pie chart. He does not realize it yet, but that is what happens when corporate life takes over your whole life. Office speak escapes into the real world. Remember - the more you talk about thinking outside the box, the less outside the box you are.
Early this morning, I updated my Motherboard BIOS. The reason why I did this was because, since I set up my new computer with Manjaro last year, I had an error when starting up and shutting down that I discovered had to do with a BIOS update. The BIOS update was successful, but it caused an error calling the GRUB menu (Linux bootloader). After failing to find a quick solution, I decided to take the opportunity to start fresh with a new install of Manjaro. Besides the fact that I was going to be spending a bit of time with my computer today regardless, I had installed plenty of things on my computer that I no longer (or had never) used, and because I found my desktop environment (KDE Plasma) to be a bit temperamental, I wanted to try XFCE, which I use on my laptop.
Save for a strange error affecting my preferred markdown editor, all seems well thus far.
It was an interesting week at The New Leaf Journal. While we were (again) a bit short on content, the site should work better now than it has previously. Furthermore, I am gradually improving our site’s security. While I will keep working on improving the site, I look forward to posting some more content this week - although I will refrain from any new poetry anthologies for the time being.
Until we meet again.
Cura ut valeas.