Quotes from Moominvalley in November

Book: Moominvalley in November, by Tove Jansson

The Moomin books are beautifully, simply written. If ever I want to feel peaceful, nature-enclosed, and Nordic, I turn to them.


“There’s nothing so lovely as being comfortable and nothing is so simple.”

“‘There’s no cat here.’
‘It would be easy to get one,’ said Mymble with a grin. ‘You just imagine it and there you are, you’ve got a cat!'”

“I don’t want friends who are kind without really liking me and I don’t want anybody who is kind just so as not to be unpleasant.”

“They disappeared in the swirling snow, lost in that mixed feeling of melancholy and relief that usually accompanies good-byes.”

“His fire had burnt out long ago but he didn’t feel cold. He had that simple but rare ability to retain his own warmth, he gathered it all round him and lay very still and took care not to dream.”

“During the short and violent thunderstorm Mymble had become completely and utterly electric. Sparks flew from her hair and every little bit of down on her arms and legs stood on end and quivered. Now I’m full of ferocity, she thought. I could do anything, but instead I’ll do nothing. Isn’t it marvelous to do just what one feels like.”

Book Snippets – Intro

I read things. I read rather a lot of things. For many years, whenever I came across a phrase that amused or intrigued me in the book I was reading, I would cruelly dog-ear the page to save the words.

Then, in 2011, I put an end to this carnage, and started a blog of quotes: Book Snippets.

Since then, I have faithfully transcribed my favorite quotes from each book onto this blog. I haven’t dog-eared a page in over four years.

I love these quotes-collections very much, and it seems a bit silly to have them only on a side-blog—so from here on out, whenever I have a new batch of quotes, I will share them here. I will also begin to share some of my favorite quotes past from Book Snippets’s archives. Why? Because I want to.

May you enjoy.

Island Mallow, you grow up so fast

Botany-geeking time! Over two years ago, I brought home a tiny young island mallow (Malva assurgentiflora), and planted it in a shady spot across from my desk window.

I had first learned about this species during an environmental horticulture class I took in college, and, several years later, I found one for sale (at the amazing plant nursery Annie’s Annuals). The species is endemic to California, originally growing only in the Channel Islands, and it is quite a lovely plant.

Here’s how it looked then:


Since then, it has grown slowly but heartily, surviving two winters and a pack of rowdy squirrels. It is now almost as tall as my shoulder. And today, I glanced out the window and thought I saw something pink near the top of the plant. I investigated, and indeed: my island mallow has opened its very first flower!


This is a small thing, but this is a thing that makes me very happy.

Montréal: Technology! Language! PyCon!

Earlier this month, I was in Montréal for PyCon 2015, a conference about Python. In case you don’t know of it: Python is a very flexible, powerful programming language with amazing support for everything from web development to scientific computing. It is one of my very favorite technologies, so I was genuinely excited to be at this event.

I attended as many talks as humanly possible, because om nom nom Python. Here are the talks that I found the the most interesting and enjoyable. (The full talks list is here, with many of the videos available on YouTube.)

My very favorite talk, hands-down, was Michelle Fullwood’s talk on building a linguistic street map. She is a linguistics grad student who decided to make a map of Singapore color-coded by the linguistic origin of the street names (e.g. Malay, British, Chinese). I loved this talk because, in addition to the topic being fascinating, she struck an excellent balance between theory and example. The talk covers a lot of good machine learning concepts, and it illustrates these very well with bite-sized, effective code snippets. It was great. Even if you haven’t the faintest idea what Python is, it’s worthwhile:

Isn’t that the coolest darn thing? For the curious, you can see the final linguistic streetmap here, and the code is on her GitHub.

Here a few other talks that I enjoyed:


(Previously: I saw the city of Montréal a little bit.)

Montréal: Exploring the City

I just went to Canada! I spent five days there, over the last weekend, attending a conference for work. Despite having managed to find my way to far-flung places like South Africa and Chile, this was the first time I had ever been to any part of Canada. I am glad to have remedied this.

I was staying in Old Montréal, which is a placidly beautiful part of the city, with handsome, giant old stone buildings scattered around like it ain’t no big deal. My coworkers and I ate splendid food (foie gras, quail, rack of lamb, a wide range of crème brûlées), and were able to see Montréal both shrouded by grey, wintry rain at the start of our visit, and enlivened by comfortable sun on the last day.

Since I was there for a conference, I spent most of my time there traipsing around inside one very, very large building. On the last day there, however, I did get to explore the city itself a tiny bit. We rode the Métro to a quieter part of town, to investigate a shop there, which was a pleasant step off the normal downtown track. We also wandered around Old Montréal itself, by the edge of the Saint Lawrence River, admiring the piles of only-slightly-dirty snow piled up here and there, stumbling upon a maple sugar museum, and enjoying the architecture and the earnestly-posed statuary.

Here are a few photos:


I also wrote about the conference itself and all of my favorite technical bits thereof.