Favourite books: 2006

I’ve been recording the books I read on goodreads and making a top-ten(ish) list since 2006, so in anticipation of publishing my 2013 top ten on December 31st, I’ll be posting my older lists here. The numbering is only an approximate order.

1. Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

2. The Boy Detective Fails by Joe Meno

3. The Bone People by Keri Hulme

4. My Sister’s Continent by Gina Frangello

5. Salmon Doubts by Adam Sacks

6. The Little Friend by Donna Tartt

7. Black Swan Green by David Mitchell

8. The Keep by Jennifer Egan

9. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

10. The Thin Place by Kathryn Davis

11. Juniper Tree Burning by Goldberry Long

How many books did you read this year? 112, so this is my top 10%.

How have these books stood the test of time?  I now want to reread some of these books. I remember loving all of them, but I don’t remember specific details about some of them (The Thin Place, for example, although I have now added Kathryn Davis’ new book to my to-read list).  I think I intentionally only included fiction at the time, but now I would replace The Thin Place and Juniper Tree Burning with The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic and Word Freaks: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius and Obsession in the World of Competitive Scrabble.

Python for Actual Beginners: Installing Python Packages in Windows

We have been learning Python recently. We’ve taken some MOOCs and written some programs that worked, and it all seemed to be going well. Then, I needed to install a package to do something that isn’t included in the regular Python installation.

People on Stack Overflow recommended using another package, easy_install, to make it easier to install other packages. Unfortunately, installing and using easy_install is not so easy. It doesn’t help that the responses to requests for help all assume that you’re either not using Windows at all or have far greater fluency in unix-style shell commands than I have. So, in case we need to install another package someday, or in case some other Windows user stumbles upon this, I decided to post step-by-step instructions.

First, you need to install the installer, either easy_install or pip. I have no idea which is better. They both eventually worked to install a package, which is all I’ve needed from them so far.

1. Download the special Windows version of setuptools or pip here, since the one on the developer’s site won’t work.

2. Run the executable file, making sure the installation is going into your Python folder.

3. Check that easy_install or pip is now in your python/scripts folder

Supposedly, you can add python to your Windows path so it knows how to find your scripts, but that didn’t actually do anything for me, as far as I can tell, so let’s skip it.

Now you can install other packages more easily. I installed Beautiful Soup.

1. Download the file from the developer’s website (did I actually need to do that? I never told easy_install where I downloaded it to…). No, I did not need to do this, that’s what easy_install is for!

2. Open a Windows shell (Windows+R, type cmd, hit enter)

3. Change the directory to your Python scripts folder (if you need to change drives, like I did, just type “d:” to change to drive D, for example, then “cd python\scripts”)

4. Type “easy_install beautifulsoup4” or “pip install beautifulsoup4”

5.  Be thankful that you didn’t have to spend an hour googling error messages to get it to work (or curse me because it still doesn’t work. I probably can’t help if it doesn’t).

Vernacular Spectacular #17: “trash-talking” vs. “sledging”

“sledging” has been in the news here because the Australian and English cricket teams have been engaging in a lot of verbal back-and-forth during The Ashes (even getting American attention!).

The short-a is a harsh sound to me. For example, my least favorite of all normal women’s name is Pam (nothing personal against the many great Pams I’ve known). I usually don’t like short-a words, but with “trash” it makes a fair bit of sense given what the word means. For this reason I would probably pick trash over rubbish in a head-to-head, but would take rubbish over garbage.

On the other hand, sledging to me connotes an image of dogs transporting something across the tundra.

Jeremy’s winner: Continue reading