Curiosities of a Rambling Mind

A New Addition to the Website

November 21st, 2011 Posted in Programming, Skew-T | No Comments »

I love programming, and I love to sink my teeth into a problem. Recently, I became intrigued by the Skew-T/ln p charts that meteorologists use to graph weather balloon soundings. I couldn’t find a blank graph online that completely satisfied my high-quality printing expectations, so I decided to create one myself. If you’re a closeted weather geek, or if it’s your main thing, you might find this resource useful to you. Let me know if you like it, or if you think something could be improved. You can find the Skew-T link here.

In Passing

December 6th, 2010 Posted in Blather | 1 Comment »

A good friend of mine died today. His friendship was of a rare kind, built from scratch in full adulthood, without benefit of youthful energy or shared childhood history or common locality, built even without having met face-to-face. And yet it was a solid friendship, having outlived the length of time it takes to tell all our most interesting stories.

We met online through some forum or other, finding that we shared a few interests in common. And when we each moved on to other fora, we kept our communication going through e-mail and then daily interactive chat sessions, discussing the news of the day, sharing our triumphs and frustrations. I looked forward to meeting my friend in person one day, at last being able to attach a voice to the words we’d type back and forth.

My friend actually passed away a week ago. I didn’t find out until just this morning. The week-long silence in our conversation is no longer a mystery, and the least-expected explanation for that silence has been instantiated. The loss of this friendship in cyberspace hurts as much as any friendship I have lost out here in the real world. Had I known about it in time, I would have traveled to his memorial service.

I guess we’ll just have to wait a little longer to meet up, my friend. TTYL, Curt.

The Latest Addition

June 22nd, 2010 Posted in Amortization Calculator | 16 Comments »

Over the years, a lot of people have asked for calculator features like occasional extra principal reduction payments, tracking fees or late charges, summary of interest over a fiscal year. My pat response is “this kind of thing needs a spreadsheet or special-purpose software.”

Well, I’ve taken a little time to work up a basic amortization spreadsheet. It doesn’t have all the calculation options that the web calculator provides (it only calculates the payment, for example), but the amortization schedule it produces will allow one to track extra payments and fees, to include payments for insurance and taxes, and it provides a nice fiscal year summary of interest paid.

It took a few days of playing around with Excel to get it working mostly right, and it’s free for you to download and try, if you’re into that kind of thing. Maybe it will give you some ideas about how to build your own custom spreadsheet. But of course, use at your own risk! Please don’t base any high-finance decisions on the spreadsheet’s results until you’ve verified that it’s doing everything correctly. Like the web calculator, I consider this a planning tool only!

If you want to give it a shot, here’s a link to the spreadsheet. Enjoy!

Pushing the Limits

June 14th, 2010 Posted in Amortization Calculator | No Comments »

I’ve made a few more improvements to the calculator today. Since I added some comma separators to the output to improve the readability of larger numbers, I thought I should do something about the upper bound of the calculator. Before today, the calculator couldn’t amortize amounts larger than about 21.4million. This upper bound was imposed by the computer’s native word size and how I chose to round values to the nearest whole penny. By changing the rounding procedure, I have boosted that upper bound to under 10billion. Above this value, the calculator will silently start to lose resolution at the low end, but amortizing values in the 100s of millions should be possible now.

Identifying the cross-over point

June 12th, 2010 Posted in Amortization Calculator | 1 Comment »

I just can’t help myself: when I start to tweak things, I start coming up with more ideas for making things a little better or easier. Nothing dramatic, just little things.

Today’s idea was to make it easy to identify that point in the amortization schedule when the principal component of a payment first exceeds the interest component of a payment. Let’s call that the cross-over point. If you run an amortization schedule now, the cross-over point is highlighted in green. There may be schedules without a cross-over point (usually shorter term loans), in which case there’s no special highlighting.

Who knows what might come next, now that I’ve started tweaking. 🙂

Small Improvements

June 11th, 2010 Posted in Amortization Calculator | 1 Comment »

It’s been a while since I’ve made any improvements to the calculator, but today I finished a few cosmetic upgrades. The Summary section has some nicer layout and formatting, and the addition of comma-separators should make larger numbers easier to read.

Even more math…

October 2nd, 2009 Posted in Amortization Calculator | 2 Comments »

Hi, folks. It has been quite a while since I’ve made any substantial additions to the site. I just added a new document with some new formulas for directly calculating the interest portion of any payment, and for calculating the total interest paid so far. If you’re into math, you might find the Interest Recurrence document mildly useful.

A little Halloween treat

October 30th, 2008 Posted in Amortization Calculator | 3 Comments »

I added a little Halloween decoration to the calculator page, for some holiday variety. Thanks to Don Barnett for the cool pumpkin background.

Calculator Printing and Display tweaks

October 17th, 2008 Posted in Amortization Calculator | 1 Comment »

I’ve made some slight modifications to the schedule display: alternating rows of the table now have color bands to help identify rows more easily. In the process, I was also able to reduce (slightly) the amount of HTML that’s generated, allowing the schedule to download and render more quickly (though this is hardly an issue for most of us these days).

For people generating hard copies, I made some very minor tweaks as well. I don’t know if it makes things any better or not.

We get the government we deserve

September 8th, 2008 Posted in Politics | 4 Comments »

This morning I received a note passed along from a friend with a list of all the books that Sarah Palin, our newly appointed candidate for Vice-President, had allegedly proposed to ban from her local library while she was Mayor of Wasilla, Alaska. I couldn’t believe some of the entries on the list, so I did some further digging.

It turns out that Sarah Palin did not actually put forth a list of books she wanted banned, but had merely inquired of the local librarian about how one might get books banned. After the librarian resisted, Palin tried to have the librarian fired. This is plenty enough egregious for me: I don’t need a list of books. However, I also detest that someone felt the need to somehow make the case even stronger by inventing a list. Haven’t we learned anything from the first OJ trial? Planting evidence can only backfire.

After years of distortions, half-truths, deceptions, and outright lies, this behavior has come to be expected from those seeking positions of power in this country. And the press too often has not even noticed. And We, The People, have let all of them get away with it.

If we are truly intent on saving our nation from what appears to be an inevitable decline, we need to fight for those things which are important to us. We have allowed ourselves to be deceived because it’s easier than being vigilant. We must educate ourselves, seek out the truth, dig, and hold accountable those who lie to us. We need not believe that we cannot change the system: we’re not yet too far gone.

But if we do not remain alert, if we accept without question the constant stream of distortions that are spewed at us, if we do not engage our own critical thinking in selecting those who would lead us, then we deserve the bloated, dysfunctional, self-serving government that We, The People, have put into power.