Welcome to the syndicated version of the 120th edition of The Newsletter Leaf Journal. I (e-)mailed the original newsletter with Buttondown on January 28, 2023. Below, you will find the newsletter re-printed in its entirety with the exception of this modified introduction and the original newsletter’s boilerplate conclusion. If you enjoy the content, you can sign-up to receive the flagship Saturday edition of the newsletter via email or follow it via RSS (see options). If you prefer waiting for the syndicated version, you can add this section to your feed reader.
Leaves from the week that was
I only published three full articles in the last week. However, we also have a number of new smaller posts. Let’s first cover the long-form content.
- Trying National Park Typeface
N.A. Ferrell. January 22.
I review a free font that you can use to bring the style of U.S. National Park signs to your reading and writing.
- Bing and DuckDuckGo’s Chinese Communist Party Problem
N.A. Ferrell. January 25.
A deep dive into Microsoft Bing’s somewhat troubling relationship with the Chinese Communist Party’s censorship apparatus, and an explanation of how this relationship affects Bing front-ends like DuckDuckGo and Qwant. You won’t find this article on Bing (literally, since we’re being blacklisted).
- 1880 poem on becoming an older sibling
N.A. Ferrell. January 27.
We could hardly go an entire month without re-printing an old children’s poem.
- Idea for showing category RSS feeds (NAF, January 21)
- Defective second-hand graphics cards (NAF, January 23)
- Starting Fire Emblem Engage on Maddening (NAF, January 23)
- Does Brave Search have Bing Dependencies? (NAF, January 25)
- First DLC Paralogue in Fire Emblem Engage (NAF, January 26)
- Cutting tall grass in the early Pokémon games (NAF, January 26)
Leaves from around the web
Let’s dig into my “saved articles for the newsletter” archive…
- We get a rare whiff of the corpse flower, a.k.a. the world’s stinkiest flower, in Tokyo botanical garden
Katie Pask for SoraNews24. December 31, 2022.
Some flowers are best admired from afar.
- Can Scientists Save the World’s Tiniest Rabbit?
Abigail Tucker for Smithsonian Magazine. January 5, 2023.
One can only hope.
- How do free VPNs make money?
Harry Bone for the Proton VPN blog. January 6, 2023.
Granting that Proton VPN has something of an interest in the subject, this is a good piece. As a general matter, you shouldn’t use a free VPN. But if you insist, Proton VPN is probably a good option. I have also briefly used Calyx on Android devices. Most free VPNs, however, will make their money somehow.
- How China pirated U.S. technology to rapidly expand its nuclear arsenal
Bill Gertz for The Washington Times. January 8, 2023.
While the story and situation are different, the root cause is not too dissimilar from how the Chinese Communist Party has repeatedly been able to censor search results in the second most-used American search index.
- Amateur archaeologist helps crack Ice Age cave art code
BBC. January 5, 2023.
Professional work by an amateur.
- What Bird Longevity Might Teach Us About Human Health
Steven N. Austad for the MIT Press Reader. January 5, 2023.
While I am not sure that we will learn much about human health from the points in this article, the article does include many interesting facts about hummingbirds.
- Why Baiting Owls Is Not the Same as Feeding Backyard Birds
Laura Erickson for Audubon. May 11, 2017.
I was going to say that baiting owls is much more graphic than feeding doves and hummingbirds, but this article explains some more serious differences relating to the best interest of owl-kind.
- Potato-shaped stones are better for skimming, say experts
Ian Sample for The Guardian. January 4, 2023.
The “experts say” headlines are getting out of hand.
- The Tree That Owns Itself
Atlas Obscura. June 4, 2009.
Perennially virid self-ownership.
- How to make noodles look restaurant quality in just three seconds
Oona McGee for SoraNews24. December 31, 2022.
The article and tip lives up to the bold headline.
The Old Leaf Journal
Let’s dig into our archive…
- 1914 Moral Story For Children on Responsibility
N.A. Ferrell. March 1, 2021.
On keeping your promises to your mother (and keeping your brother from eating himself sick).
- ‘Sonnet About A Nose’ – An 1840 Poem
N.A. Ferrell. November 28, 2021.
Remedying a deficiency in the English verse canon.
- Teaching the Art of the Video Game Snafu
N.A. Ferrell. July 25, 2020.
In this article, I made the case for leading video game players astray in order to teach valuable lessons. My experiences with the new Fire Emblem inspired an upcoming article that will take the opposite approach (an approach less likely to breed animosity).
- Linux Terminal Error – Who is Proton Von?
N.A. Ferrell. March 2, 2021.
A terminal typo story from when I used Proton VPN.
Most-turned leaves of the newsletter week
I list our most-read articles from the previous newsletter week (Friday to Saturday) in each edition of The Newsletter Leaf Journal. These statistics come courtesy of Koko Analytics, our local, privacy friendly page-counting solution (see my review).
- The Mystery of Sōseki and Tsuki ga Kirei
N.A. Ferrell. March 14, 2021.
4th top five of 2023. 3rd top placement.
- The Pokémon Special Split in Generation 2 – Statistics and Analysis
N.A. Ferrell. January 18, 2022.
4th top five of 2023.
- Installing Ubuntu Touch on a Google Nexus 7 (2013)
N.A. Ferrell. July 5, 2021.
3rd top five of 2023. 1 top placement.
- Tom Cantor’s Changed Has Poor Color Scheme
N.A. Ferrell. August 3, 2022.
3rd top five of 2023.
- The Last Stand of Constantine XI
N.A. Ferrell. May 30, 2020.
2nd top five of 2023.
Our first full week being blacklisted by Bing saw the decline in visitors that one might expect from losing our second (DuckDuckGo) and third (Bing) largest ordinary referrers. Moreover, as I explained in a Leaflet, we have seen a noticeable decline in referrals from Brave Search since the Bing blacklisting, albeit Brave is not a big enough referrer to make a big difference on its own.
The effect of the Bing ban does not affect all articles equally, for some articles relied more on Bing, DuckDuckGo, and other Bing-based search engines more than others. One article that hardly relied on Bing at all is my March 2021 review of tsuki ga kirei. Traffic to that post has always been driven by Google search, and my tsuki ga kirei post had its best week in a couple of months to win its third straight weekly ranking going away. My review of early-generation Pokémon stats recorded its highest ever placement with a runner-up while making its seventh consecutive top-five appearance.
News leaf journal
I made most of the immediate changes that I wanted to implement at The New Leaf Journal last week – and this week I focused on fixing 404 errors and other minor, largely clerical issues.
Bing has still not replied to the support request I sent 12 days ago about our being banned from its web search results. I sent a follow-up request, long since having identified the issue the site scan raised, but I am not expecting a response or for the situation to be resolved in the immediate future. For the time being, I will focus on developing other ways for people to find The New Leaf Journal without having to rely too extensively on Google and a few more niche search engines.
I have a number of interesting article ideas lined up for the next couple of weeks, but I will reveal those by publishing them on The New Leaf Journal.
Notable leaf journal
There are two big English-first search indexes: Google and Bing. Google is the dominant English-language search engine, but most of the “alternatives” are Bing front-ends. There are a small number of genuine alternatives to Google and Bing, that is, search engines that crawl the web, maintain their own indexes, and serve results from those indexes. I refer readers to a post by Mr. Rohan Kumar of Seirdy One for a great list of alternative search engines with their own indexes.
Today I highlight Mojeek, which is a general-use independent search engine with more than 7,000,000,000 pages (including most of The New Leaf Journal) in its growing index. I have been using it more lately. It works solidly for some purposes, but needs work in others – for example, I cannot use Mojeek for law research. I plan to write a full piece on it in the future. Do note if you try Mojeek that the team does actually respond to questions and support requests. When I observed that Mojeek was not playing nice with my current VPN provider, Mullvad, and they quickly wrote to me and seem to have resolved the problem. I will also take closer looks at Marginalia Search and InfoTiger this year. There are a few others on my radar that I may look to write about after more testing.