Pip and virtualenv sans magic

I'm trying to bridge the gap between understanding the syntax of Python (among another language or three) and how to develop in them. To wit, I was setting up some of the standard tools for package management on my Arch Linux system, and having a little trouble understanding why I was getting permissions errors while following several of the pip/virtualenv tutorials out there.

Jamie Matthews's post at dabapps did a lot to clear up a lot of whatever was throwing me off.