Now printed schedules are just a bit gooder

It turns out there is HTML which can indicate which header material should be duplicated across multi-page tables: the <thead></thead> tags. So now that I’ve re-learned this and tweaked the calculator again, multi-page tables will have the column headings on each page when printed, provided your browser does the right thing. (I use Firefox for almost all my web-browsing needs.)

Time for a Reunion

If you’ve read my biographical data (and why would anyone…), you may have noticed that I traveled with a group called Up With People. There are some 20,000 alumni of this program scattered across the world now, and every summer the UWPIAA (our alumni association) puts together a reunion for us globe-trotters.

Tomorrow I leave for Tucson, AZ for a Reunion with my cast from 1988. We’ll be joined by about 1000 other travelers from UWP’s 40-year history. I’ll be back at home on Monday, but the blog shall be left unattended until then. I’ll be busy laughing, reminiscing, and partying my butt off.

May your road be as pleasant.

Where are the Abe’s and Tommy’s?

Last night I was reading some excerpts written by Thomas Jefferson. I was nearly struck dumb by the strength and lucidity of his words. A few weeks ago I heard again the words of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. They bring tears to my eyes.

Then there’s George W, who also brings tears to my eyes, but for quite the opposite reason. Even when he does manage to string together a coherent sequence of words, he sounds patronizing and merely restates the obvious. During the campaign leading to his first election, Bush was named the candidate more people would like to drink a beer with: a man of the people, an average Joe, just like the rest of us. While I understand the sentiment, at another level, I also find this notion appalling.

How did we get to a place where we’ve managed to demonize intelligence, preferring to interact with the world, its plethora of cultures, and eons of history as if all things were simple and easily understood? Just because we wish it to be doesn’t make it true. As we’ve had sad opportunity to witness over the past 8 years, it takes a lot more than a winning smile, a firm handshake, a frat house full of cronies, and the occasional chancellorial backrub to run a country. Given our current state of affairs, I’d like our next President to be a brainiac. There is absolutely nothing wrong with hiring smart people to navigate the complexities of the world, to set a beacon so that others may follow, and to solve problems rather than create them. So I guess I’d prefer that our nation’s chief executive really be a cut above the Average Joe, perhaps even several notches above average.

Lincoln and Jefferson were both intelligent and spiritual men, and I yearn for the return to our national politics true statesmen such as these. It is the things for which we reach that define us, and these guys both reminded us of our highest and noblest ambitions. I’d have a beer with them any day of the week.

Blog Changes

Since this WordPress blogging software is so utterly cool, I’ve decided that I can probably import my old website data from my the old server into the blog itself. I’ll need to tweak and fine-tune a few things, I think, but this could give everything a consistent feel.

Hats off to the theme designer du jour (see the “Bob” link under “Meta”). And also to the photographer Benjamin Walls. They really spruce the place up.

More on rate-finding

In responding to a question in blog comments about rate-finding, I noticed that the calculator didn’t behave well if the Payment Amount could not pay off the loan after the Number of Regular Payments had elapsed, no matter how low the interest rate. To fix this, I added a test for the condition and have the calculator write an error message if necessary.

It’s a little surprising to still find bugs of this magnitude after all these years. 🙂 But hey, they’re still getting fixed, one by one.

Best of Times…

I work on a college campus, and there are many great things about that. Though not a professor myself, I’m of an academic bent: I like being in a research environment. I like figuring out things. I like to have the opportunity to explore ideas to see where they lead. I like working with other people who share these similar [odd] traits.

Another “plus” of the campus experience is that new people keep flowing into one’s life. The sad part is that most of them will also flow out of one’s day-to-day experience when this particular phase of their education is completed. So it is that I will bid farewell to a few new friends this month, wishing them well in their new endeavors, knowing I will miss seeing them on a regular basis. It is a privilege to share in the lives of others, so even if it’s a little sad to say goodbye, friendship is always worth the investment. How blessed I am.

Mmm, more stylesheet goodness

For those of you who like hard copies of your amortization schedules, I have produced a new stylesheet which should make printing the schedule a little less ugly than it may have been before. I still wish there was a way to manage page breaks better on more browsers, but I guess some of the browser builders will need more time to implement all that CSS has to offer. (I would also like for there to be a way to re-start column headings after the first page, but alas, that doesn’t seem to be a possibility with HTML or CSS, unless I missed something.)

The Trials of Moving

Well, it has happened. What I have feared the most. Calamity. Pain. Suffering. Ego-shattering. In moving the calculator to its new home, it lost its long-held rank as the number one result for the search “amortization” on Google. It is now number two. I am properly admonished and duly humbled.

As for progress, the calculator page now validates as XHTML 1.0 Transitional. It’s a small thing, but I believe in standards.

Having been truly inspired by the work at the CSS Zen Garden, I will try my hand at making visually aesthetic improvements to the calculator web page. There’s no reason why function can’t also be beautiful. However, my skills as an artist are—shall I be generous?—limited. Someday I’d like to hire the services of a graphic designer to make it REALLY cool and pretty.

Ah, Zen!

I am a believer in the Jungian notion of synchronicity, so I try to pay attention when the universe starts tossing me “coincidences”. I recently had a chat with someone about Buddhism and Zen, and later in the week, while perusing the bookstore for something on web design and cascading style sheets (CSS), I found a beautiful book called The Zen of CSS Design. Though I am a programmer and not a designer, I am a great admirer of what graphic artists have brought to our experience of the web. Next time you’re surfing, you owe it to yourself to check out the CSS Zen Garden.

Negative Amortization

I’ve added a new entry to the FAQ regarding negative amortizations. In the process, I also noticed that some of the summary information produced by the calculator and final schedule row are not completely consistent in the NegAm scenario. I will need to fix these. It is apparent that I missed some sort of symmetry in my calculations here (I probably took a shortcut to minimize computer time, which is just so much gagging at gnats these days).

This is interesting to me because I’ve recently been reading some of the Richard Feynman Lectures on Physics, and he talks a bit about mathematical symmetries. We have such an expectation of symmetry that lack of it in certain contexts may indicate a flaw in our understanding, or sometimes it may lead to the discovery of even more interesting properties. (Amortization is not so glamorous as a fundamental law of the universe, mind you; but I now recognize that had I paid closer attention to a mathematical symmetry in this case, I might have noticed my error sooner.)