Welcome to the 68th 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 the editor of The New Leaf Journal, Nicholas A. Ferrell. This week was a slow week in more ways than one. The performance of The New Leaf Journal is deteriorating on our cheap shared hosting. I looked into the issue and found that we are regularly hitting our entire CPU allocation. For this reason, I am hoping to move The New Leaf Journal to more suitable hosting that will provide visitors with a much snappier experience and allow us to expand the site in ways that were not possible before.
But I digress.
I will cover New Leaf Journal developments later in this newsletter. First, we will have our usual assortment of weekly article recaps, recommendations from around the web, weekly article rankings, and something for readers to try.
My week was largely consumed by preparing the groundwork for relocating The New Leaf Journal and work related to my day-job. For that reason, I only published four articles of the short variety.
I think that the articles are good though. Quality over quantity?
Nicholas A. Ferrell. January 25, 2022.
If ever there was an article described perfectly by its title, it would be this article.
The article contains four photographs of mushrooms growing around Brooklyn that I took last July and August along with some additional commentary. None of the photos were quite as dramatic as Victor V. Gurbo’s mushroom growing on a stick on a stream, but the first of my quartet is a bit ominous.
Nicholas A. Ferrell. January 26, 2022.
“Owney” was a stray dog who found his way to a Post Office in Albany in 1889. He earned his stripes guarding the mail, and soon decided to travel across the United States (and abroad) on mail cars. While the story is well-documented, I only learned about it while reading an 1898 article about Owney from when he was still alive and traveling. My post focuses primarily on that contemporaneous Owney account, but I also provide links to external resources for those who want to learn more about one of history’s most well-traveled canines.
Nicholas A. Ferrell. January 29, 2022.
Judging by a definite drop in page-views the past few days, some visitors have been dissuaded from venturing down The New Leaf Journal content rabbit hole by slow page loading times. How better to explain the situation, I thought, than to turn to my fictional dialogue duo, Justin and Justina? (I posted my own statement in the final section of the article after the dialogue.)
New Leaf Journal historians may recognize the terrible Microsoft Paint drawing that I used as the article image from a post I published in the midst of our greatest technical crisis on June 18, 2020. Fortunately, our current problems are caused by our modest success rather than by Bluehost having server-side caching enabled despite having my disabled it.
Nicholas A. Ferrell. June 29, 2022.
I was reluctant to leave readers with only three articles this week, all issues aside, so I wrote a short post on a humorous package management issue I (a Linux beginner) have while using two Linux distributions that use the pacman package manager and two that use the apt package manager. (The New Leaf Journal will be an apt-situation once we make the move to new hosting.)
As riveting as my four articles from the last week are, I doubt that they will keep a voracious reader occupied for the whole weekend - especially here in the Northeast where it is still snowing. To make up for our slow week (and what may be a slow upcoming week in terms of content), I will recommend eight articles from around the web instead of our usual six. Let’s see what’s happening in the vast expanse that is the internet…
Dean Balsamini. January 29, 2022.
As one of the internet’s leading pigeon fan-sites, I state for the record that we are unequivocally opposed to bird-napping our feathered friends for use in target practice.
jeffreaky. January 29, 2022.
The moral of this story is that relying entirely on Facebook to stay in contact with your fans or customers is a proverbial game of Russian Roulette. This is not to say that other projects should generally neglect their official Facebook (and similar) presences like we do at The New Leaf Journal, but it is important to have contingency plans for when things go sideways. For some additional reading, see a few of my posts that touch on the problems of walled garden platforms like Facebook:
Dan Goodin. January 28, 2022.
What was the app?
“To make 2FA Authenticator look real, its developers started with this legitimate sample of the open source Aegis authentication application. An analysis of the malware shows that it really was programmed to provide the authentication service it advertised.”
That is downright nefarious. However, the article highlights a great alternative to malicious apps that sneak past Google’s radar. Aegis Authenticator is fully free and open source, works perfectly and without installing malware, and is entirely free in cost and available on both F-Droid and Google Play Store. I recommended it in my article on apps on F-Droid and I rely on it myself.
Oona McGee. January 28, 2022.
This is certainly a uniquely Japan take on applying the “monster under the bed” concept to train platform safety. Many pictures of the mascot are included in the article. (In New York City, I fear we would need a monster to dissuade criminals from shoving people onto the tracks.)
This is an interactive chart showing European depictions of elephants i from the middle ages through the end of the eighteenth century. There are many elephants, and you can click on any elephant that you are interested to learn more about.
Ben Wolfgang. January 27, 2022.
““This is a moment for diplomacy and for cool heads to prevail. That’s what we want,” said Victoria Nuland, undersecretary of state for political affairs. “We hope [Mr. Putin] will see here a real opportunity for a legacy of security and arms control rather than a legacy of war,” she told reporters at the State Department.”
A part of me hopes that the upper echelons of the U.S. State Department do not actually believe that Mr. Putin is amenable to being persuaded by the platitudinal paradigms of cable news and popular historians, but hope always dies last.
Harold Lee. January 9, 2022.
I largely agree with Mr. Lee’s take, albeit not with every specific example.
Any readers who are interested in starting their own blogs without the hassle of hosting-related issues of the likes of what we are managing at The New Leaf Journal may want to take a look at write.as. It provides a minimalistic interface, has free and paid plans, and is federated. Moreover, it can be self-hosted by more technical users. I will not personally recommend it since I have not used it myself, but it is a project worth following.
Jordan Middler. January 26, 2022.
I post this review of the newest Pokémon game only to note that I am a bit sour that my pre-order is coming on Monday instead of when the game was released. With that being said, I do have quite a bit of work on my plate - so perhaps it is for the best.
Will my own review be forthcoming?
I may have cheated by linking a few of my old posts in the previous section. But here, as usual, we check our archive for some older New Leaf Journal content.
Nicholas A. Ferrell. December 18, 2022.
Fitting content today for those of us in the northeast.
Nicholas A. Ferrell. June 27, 2020.
In the very early days of The New Leaf Journal, I published week-in-review articles every Sunday. The concept was eventually ported to this very newsletter. My June 27 review was the first one I posted after we resolved our June 2020 caching issues (described in the post). I hope to have a similarly optimistic newsletter next week.
As for the content in the week in review itself, Victor (my New Leaf Journal colleague) and I combined to post three interesting articles that week. You will find links to Victor’s review of boutique guitar strings (with vintage guitar photos) and my posts on one of my favorite video game scenes and the concept of “necessary contemporary ideologies.” While that section of the article is evergreen, the “New Features” section describes two features - the Guestbook and Estimated Reading Time - which were subsequently removed from The New Leaf Journal.
I list our most-visited articles of the previous week in each newsletter. In keeping with our newsletter schedule, these “Newsletter Weeks” begin with Saturday and end on Friday. The statistics come courtesy of our local and privacy-friendly analytics solution, Koko Analytics - which I reviewed on site. Below, you will find our most-visited articles of newsletter week 4 of 2022 along with their publication information and 2022 statistics.
The Mystery of Sōseki and Tsuki ga Kirei.
Nicholas A. Ferrell. March 14, 2021.
Last Week: #1.
2022 Top Fives: 4 (4 in first).
Notes: 21 consecutive first-place finishes dating back to September 2021.
Installing Ubuntu Touch on an Asus Nexus 7 (2013).
Nicholas A. Ferrell. July 5, 2021.
Last Week: #4.
2022 Top Fives: 4.
Recommended F-Droid FOSS Apps For Android-Based Devices (2021).
Nicholas A. Ferrell. November 27, 2021.
Last Week: #2.
2022 Top Fives: 4.
How to Find Substack RSS Feeds and Other Notes.
Nicholas A. Ferrell. June 19, 2021.
Last Week: #5.
2022 Top Fives: 4.
Notes: 23 consecutive top-5 appearances (second-longest streak).
Reviewing the HALOmask and är Mask.
Victor V. Gurbo. December 2, 2020.
Last Week: #3.
2022 Top Fives: 4.
Although the same five articles returned to the top five for the seventh consecutive week, things were a bit more interesting behind the scenes than in previous weeks.
On the whole, we began the week with our first and third most-trafficked days of January, and ended with our three least-trafficked days (which coincided with performance issues).
My Ubuntu Touch article had what I believe was the best single-day performance of any article that didn’t gain views from a sharing event (e.g., Hacker News, Facebook, Twitter, etc.), and it held the top spot until late Tuesday. However, as has been the case for months, my Tsuki ga Kirei article closed the gap by the middle of the week and took the top spot in our ranking for the 21st week in a row. It is worth noting that the Ubuntu Touch article had enough views to have taken the top spot in the first or second newsletter weeks of 2022 - but sometimes the timing does not quite line up.
Further down, my May 2020 article on Constantine XI, which is the only article from The New Leaf Journal’s earliest days that regularly features in our most-read article lists, nearly took the fifth spot in the ranking from Victor’s mask review, which has lost steam the last couple of weeks as excitement over the virus decreases.
While I cannot say for sure, it is possible that we may see a shake-up in the rankings next week along with what I hope will be a shake-up in our web hosting.
Today I recommend trying Pétrolette, a very unique RSS reader. When you open the link, you will be taken to https://petrolette.space/ and be presented with a large number of RSS feeds sorted into categories. However, all of the data is stored in your browser cache - not on a central server. This means that as you modify your feeds and categories, they will still be there when you reopen your browser - so long as you do not clear the cache.
For those who do clear cache, you can download backups of your feed and upload them into Pétrolette running on any browser or you can sync your feeds using remoteStorage (easy to sign up for free for an instance at 5Apps), Dropbox, or Google Drive (see menu on top left). A local method would be to sync the backup file and upload it into any browser that you are using.
Pétrolette can be self-hosted (YunoHost has an installer for it) and it is relatively easy to build from source.
I am impressed with Pétrolette thus far and am playing around with it. While I am not going to use it as my primary RSS reader, I am looking at setting it up as a world news reader and a system to help me stay on top of news relating to U.S. immigration law. I will reserve further comment since this (as well as my primary RSS solution) will be the subject of a review in February or March.
To learn more about RSS and why you should consider using it if you do not do so already, see my existing article on RSS as a Facebook Alternative.
As I explained at the top and in our newest Justin and Justina dialogue, I am working on upgrading The New Leaf Journal’s hosting in the next week. Once completed, our site will be able to handle increased traffic flawlessly and we will be able to implement some new concepts and features over time that were not possible on cheap shared hosting.
In the interim, I beg your patience for the slow performance of The New Leaf Journal.
While my goal is to complete the move this week, I cannot guarantee that the task will be done. There is a non-zero chance that some complication will arise during the move or with a new hosting provider that may leave us as we are for a bit longer. Additionally, since our new system of managing the site will be different, there is a chance that we could encounter some minor issues here and there after the switch - but there are no issues that I anticipate at this time.
This is all to say that the move will be a great thing for The New Leaf Journal, but there is the possibility - as there always is with this kind of thing - that unexpected issues may make the transition irritating.
I will add that it is possible we may have some small downtime when we are moving, but my plan is to complete the move fast (or temporarily revert) to ensure that our content stays online.
Regarding content - I will post our normal monthly review on Monday. I am working on my Ubuntu Touch and PocketBook Color reviews, but I will reserve both of those posts until after the site move is complete. If we complete the move in the next week, I will begin posting some content for the lead-up to Valentine’s Day, much like I did in 2021. Finally, I will post an article about how we moved The New Leaf Journal once the move is complete.
While I will keep publishing content over the next week, it will undoubtedly be of the shorter variety due to my working on moving the site and a pair of deadlines I have for my day job.
(If you are reading this newsletter after the fact, I hope you will find a fast New Leaf Journal when you follow links to the site.)
I bid our fair newsletter readers farewell. I hope both that The New Leaf Journal is settling in when I write to you next Saturday or, at a minimum, that the entirety of The New Leaf Journal is not this humble newsletter. If you want to prepare for disaster, however, I recommend subscribing to this newsletter via email or RSS.
If you are reading this newsletter well after the fact, we will almost definitely be on our new hosting.
Until next week (wish me luck),
Cura ut valeas.