Burying the Lead

Every time I reread my blog posts, the same thought comes to my mind – “man, I buried the lead again”.

I learned about leads from “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die” by Chip and Dan Heath. It is a short book, but one that influenced me deeply. Every blogger out there should read it.

Burying a lead“, in the jargon of journalists means boring the reader before getting to the juicy part. A “lead” or “lede” is the first sentence of the story.

In the book, there’s an anecdote about a journalism teacher giving his students an assignment:

” … They would write the lead of a newspaper story. The teacher reeled off the facts: “Kenneth L. Peters, the principal of Beverly Hills High School, announced today that the entire school faculty will travel to Sacramento next Thursday for a colloquium in new teaching methods. Amnong the speakers will be anthropologist Margaret Mead, college president Dr. Robert Maynard Hutchins, and California governor Edmund ‘Pat’ Brown. ”

Apparently, most students produced a lead that lumped all these facts into a single sentence. The teacher read all the submissions and then announced:

“The lead to the story is ‘There will be no school next Thursday’ ”

I am having a huge problem with writing in “inverted pyramid” style. The juicy parts of my posts are usually at the bottom.

Think about it, most blog readers, especially the ones that matter suffer from add, and often do not get to the bottom of the article. This means they won’t link to it, won’t digg it.

I am trying to improve, but writing is a difficult art to master. I just wish I took more writing classes.

Persuasive Online Copywriting: How to Take Your Words to the Bank

Writing for the web. Web word wizardry. Web writing that works. What does that mean? Your online copy must persuade – it’s integral to getting your visitors or readers to register, subscribe, qualify as leads, and yes, even buy from you. It’s writing that must earn its keep. And to effectively manage the quality of your online writing, you need to understand what works, why it works and how to make it work better for you. Whether you are the marketer responsible for the bottom line or the writer creating the copy, Persuasive Online Copywriting provides the tools you need to get results.

Military Clip

A programmer’s job is full of stress. The worst part of this stress is that you can’t stop thinking about your problems, and continue working on them 24/7. Literally.

I read a blog of a developer who quit and took a job as a waiter in a Mexican restaurant. Being a server is one of the most stressful professions in the world, but that stress stops at the end of the work day. Problems that programmers face never end at the end of the day, they continue into the night, the next day, week, and year. Unless you fix them, that is. Then you get to solve a whole different set of problems.

Working as a developer is like solving SAT problems for 24 hours a day with long procrastination breaks. No wonder it’s a ghetto job.

I’ve recently had a series of recurring dreams about fishing. I come out to the beach, cast, and immediately the beach is filled with other fishermen. They all cast as well, the lines tangle, it’s impossible to fish. This is exactly like locking MySQL queries that I’ve been battling as of late.

I am a proponent of the Danny Sorenson method of stress reduction. This basically means that I go out and buy pens.

The cool thing about my new job is that I work right near a fountain pen store and a cigar store (which also helps in stress reduction). My latest stress-reducing fountain pen purchase is kind of interesting.

It’s a fountain pen with a “military clip“. You see, U. S. Army Regulation AR670-1, paragraph 1-9a(1) had the following passage:

“Soldiers will ensure that articles carried in pockets do not protrude from the pocket or present a bulky appearance.”

A clip on most pens would create a bulge on a uniform pocket. Pen manufacturers were forced to create special pens with a clip that would not cause this problem, like the one that I purchased.

While treating me and my team to dinner, my boss’ boss, watching as I stuffed a bulky Treo 650 smartphone into the front pocket of my shirt, quipped — “As soon as you put anything into your front pocket you automatically become a nerd”. I guess U.S. Army regulations have a point…

The Devil in the Details

Working most of your adult life in a cubicle is like being in sensory deprivation chamber. You start noticing more details. I took this series of pictures without a tripod, just walking around town with my long lens.

Looking at the steel eagles on the Chrysler Building up close, it’s easy to imagine yourself a superhero, standing on it with a cape billowing behind you.

It’s a little harder with the eagles’ less popular neighbors – flying hubcaps.

The decorations of the beautiful Art Deco Chanin Building are so very Lovecraftian. Tentacles, pentacles, tentacles with pentacles.

More tentacles and jellyfish on the copper parts.

The fighting dragons. An allegory of retaliation or something?

Minerva on the top of the Grand Central Terminal has a very modern look favored these days by Conde Nasties and the like. Must be cold up there.

It’s pretty cool to see how cabbies order hot dogs without getting out of their Crown Victorias.

I hate graffiti, and especially train graffiti. That said, I must acknowledge that an infinitesimally small percentage of graffiti tags is actually cool. Here’s one that caught my attention. It looks like instead of the usual gobbledygook and gang symbols, this tagger painted “NYC” in a manner highly reminiscent of Japanese calligraphy. I still mind having it blocking my view, but I would not mind purchasing something like that on a scroll.


Ad:
These are my two favorite NYC photography books. “Drive by Shootings : Photographs by a New York Taxi Driver” is a collection of photographs by a taxi driver with a Yashica T4 from behind the wheel.

“New York Changing: Revisiting Berenice Abbott’s New York” is a collection of photographs of New York originally taken by Bernice Abbot in the thirties, and then retaken with the same camera, lenses and at the same angles by Douglas Levere in the nineties.

Disturbing Weekend Update With Deadprogrammer

The most useful thing I did this weekend was organizing my papers. It’s kind of like therapy for me. The amount of paper crap that accumulates on my desk is amazing. Junk mail, bills, magazines. Well, I’ll describe my organizational system for you. It consists of three stages.

1) Intake: basically heaps of paper on all flat and not flat surfaces in my apartment. Care must be taken to hide paper receipts from Tilde the cat, or she’ll file them in her stomach. Receipts are a delicacy for Tilde.

2) Stage one: a stack of three milk crates with folders inside. There are these special bound folders books that I bought at Staples that have partitions for various bills and documents. There is a special folder where I file stuff for the Tax Man throughout the year.

3) Stage three: big plastic boxes where I file away older stuff.

Among other things I found an old box that held Christmas cards and tip envelopes from my job as a doorman. Among them was a card from Professor Samuels. Disturbing, huh?

Also disturbing is the fact that I learned about the particular Staples where I usually go on office supply buying binges. In the past it used to be a Waldbaums supermarket that burned down in the seventies. 20 firefighters were standing on the roof dousing the fire when it collapsed. The ones that fell in the aisles mostly made it, but 6 that landed on the shelves (yes, yes, those gondola shelves) died (I don’t really understand why, but that’s what I’ve read in Bay News).

Disturbed enough? No? Well, I recently learned that Bryant Park used to be a cemetery. There.

Clippy? Is that You?

One of my favorite TV shows is NYPD Blue. There are a lot of little details on good shows that only become apparent if your read the FAQ. For instance, one of the detectives, Danny Sorenson sometimes did this weird thing – when upset, he would start putting office implements, usually paper clips into his shirt pocket. The explanation is in the FAQ:

What’s the deal with Danny and those paperclips?
During Rick Schroder’s first few episodes on the show, the writers introduced the idea that when Danny gets emotionally “stirred up,” he deals with it in part by grabbing office supplies — usually paperclips — and sticking them in his shirt pocket. And on one occasion, after getting a particular problem off his chest, we actually saw him take the clips out of his pocket and put them back in their caddy on his desk. At least one therapist who watches the show says this means that Danny had Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder, which is a more mild version of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

When I get stirred up, I go and buy office supplies. Especially pens. It seems to have a calming effect on me.

I am especially lusting for a really really good fountain pen. I think one day, when I feel especially crappy, I’ll finally buy myself a modern Parker Duofold, a descendant of the noble offshoot of Parker’s Jack Knife Safety line. My high school physics teacher used to have one of those. They are great. Nibs made of osmium, iridium, ruthenium and other unobtainium, split by hand. Ooooh.

Anyway, because the prospect of buying an apartment is making me poor, all I can afford right now is regular ballpoint pens at Staples. And writing in livejournal about that.