As some of you know, I like to learn new things. For example, I’m trying to re-learn some of the statistical knowledge I’ve forgotten over the years, and as a side project to that I’m learning the computer programming language Python (partly because it’s used by many folks who do scientific programming, and partly because it’s useful for other reasons). I’m also learning some about mapping and geographic information systems (GIS) as a follow-on to my research on Howard County Council redistricting.

One of the great things about today’s Internet is that there are lots of free resources for learning most anything on your own. For example, I’m learning Python from the free online textbook Think Python, and plan to use its companion text Think Stats to help re-learn probability and statistics. However the downside of the Internet is that it’s rather lonely to see at home trying to learn something by yourself.

As it happens my former employer, the Mozilla Foundation, is promoting the idea of learning in informal groups and settings, particularly having people learn about web technologies. One of the ideas they’re looking at is providing resources for people to hold their own “kitchen table” sessions—essentially small informal meetups where people can help their friends or family learn about the web and how to make things on it.

And that in turn made me think: Is there any one out there among my readers who might be interested in learning any of the same things I’m currently learning (or already know how to do)? I’m looking for an opportunity to get out of the house from time to time, and I’d be glad to meet informally to pass on whatever knowledge I can, whether it’s how to create ebooks, how to code programs or web pages (a hot topic now for many people), how to install and run GIS software on your PC, or even how to do your math homework. I’m particularly interested in talking with fellow bloggers, journalists, and others interested in researching local topics of interest using the Howard County datasets that the county government is increasingly making available.

Does any of this catch your fancy? If so, drop me a line at or talk to me at the April 11 Hocoblogs party at the Second Chance Saloon. See you there!

figital - 2012-04-11 02:52

I’d like to learn whatever the templating mechanism is behind the new Aurora about:home page … because that seems to be the gateway between the browser and the desktop …. sans documentation.

hecker - 2012-04-11 12:59

Unfortunately I can’t help you on this one :-(

Frank Chen - 2012-05-27 02:56

Hey other Frank: how about anything around big data analysis? R programming? Functional programming in general? Commonly used statistical techniques? Hope all is well. p.s. Just watched your cameo on Revolution OS. Cool!

hecker - 2012-05-27 12:35

Unfortunately I have to put thoughts of big data analysis, R, etc., out of mind at least temporarily. I just started a new jobs at Infoblox and most my attention in the near term will be directed at DNS, DHCP, and various aspects of networking. However I am still actively learning Python, so there’s that. Thanks for stopping by to comment!

Ellen Steed ( - 2012-06-04 00:52

Hi Frank, I’ve been working as a Six Sigma Black Belt for Quest Diagnostics for the last 12 years. If you haven’t been exposed to Six Sigma yet, suffice to say statistical analysis and hypothesis testing is a centra partof the methodology that Black Belts use to improve processes. I am certified by Quest but I want to sit for and pass the certification exam administered by the American Society for Quality. As you know math is not my best subject. Wondering if you would be willing to assist me if I run into a roadblock with the statistics associated with the exam. Hope this finds you and Mona doing well. - Ellen Steed

hecker - 2012-06-04 22:52

Ellen, thanks much for stopping by! I’m not sure how much I can be right now, since I’m still relearning stuff, but I’d be glad to try as needed. Feel free to contact me directly at if/when you have questions.