I'm just getting into electronics as a hobbyist. When I want to make a project (say from MAKE magazine) I find I don't know enough to easily choose between the hundreds or thousands of available matching parts when ordering the components. Sometimes when the resistor I ordered arrives, I'm surprised by what it looks like.
Are there any rules of thumb to follow for a hobbyist like myself that can make choosing parts easier? Or perhaps some "blessed" list of parts I can choose from somewhere online that would be a good default when I just need some generic capacitor, resistor, etc?
I usually use octopart to find components. This similar question about SMT components was great, but I don't think I'll be using those anytime soon. Also this OT question about which components to always have on hand looks like it will help me as well.