Day: October 9, 2014

Adding Tides to Wave Chart

Will I ever be able to rest on my laurels? I was barely finished with my wave chart that I decided it would be even more awesome if it showed me the tides. Of course, the tides for the past are not all too exciting, but if you want to know when to go, today’s tides are mighty fine.

So, to adjust the chart, I needed to find a library that handles tide. There are probably more than just one, but this one seemed to do the job just fine, so I used it. Figuring it out was not hard, thanks to examples provided, and adding the functionality to the chart was mostly trivial. Here is the 411.

The library I used is called pytides. You can simply install it by running

sudo pip install pytides

It will run off after you provide it with your password and gather all dependencies and then install them onto your system. If you already installed matplotlib, then you have numpy already on your system. If not, pip will install numpy along with pytides, which can take forever. If you are on a Debian/Ubuntu system, you are better off installing numpy first, and then using the line above.

The changes to the code are in several places:


Flying Spirit

Spirit LogoSo, I took the plunge and booked a flight with Spirit Airlines. For those not in the know, Spirit is a low-cost airline with tons of extra charges, like the ones that had been popping up in Europe, and not unlike its competitor Frontier.

The basic idea is that you pay a “base price” that is much lower than other airlines’ fare. Then you have to pay for extras that are free-ish on other airlines. For instance, on Spirit you pay for carry-on luggage. Also, you pay for drinks on the plane (even soda!). You even pay if you lost your boarding pass or didn’t bother printing it at home.

Also, the flights themselves are very bare-bones. I am not the tallest guy in the world, but even for me the seats were uncomfortably close to each other. Sitting with the back glued to the chair, I barely had two inches of room in front of my knees. Also, the seats don’t recline – which is a must because every degree of inclination gets part of a chair into your knee.

There is no on-board entertainment system. The seats look worn and old. When we got onto the plane, there were pepitas strewn on several seats. All in all, not the best experience.

BUT! I paid about half as much as I would have on any other airline. That was absolutely worth it, and I would have considered upgrading to make my flight more comfortable. I could have done so on my first flight, but I wanted to see how Spirit does with bare bones. And it does well: it delivers as promised, and the flight experience is more than OK.


L’America: The Supreme Court on Gay Marriage

A few have asked me to explain the meaning of the refusal of the Supreme Court to review gay marriage again.

Let’s start with the technicalities: The Supreme Court of the United States, unlike many Constitutional Courts around the world, is the overall ultimate instance and doesn’t just decide matters of constitutionality, it has broad sweep of the legal landscape and its rulings are binding on everyone in this country. It is also free to choose the matters it wants to tackle. Technically, it is limited to reviewing lower court opinions, but since anyone with a chance to appeal, does, it gets to see pretty much everything that goes on in the legal landscape.

The Supreme Court (of the United States, short SCOTUS) heard a case last year. It was about a woman who had married another woman in a state where it was legal. The woman’s wife died, leaving behind a considerable estate. Since the couple were not legally married in the eyes of the Federal Government, the tax office wanted to collect estate tax as if the two were completely unrelated strangers, instead of the much lower tax rate for married couples.

This case, styled United States v. Windsor, was a particularly good case for the cause of gay marriage. Here we had a couple who had been married in the state they lived in for years, who was denied a substantial Federal benefit because the government chose not to recognize their marriage. This had all sorts of ominous undertones for conservatives and liberals alike: what was the Federal government’s business picking what marriages it liked?

SCOTUS decided the law on which this discrimination was based had to go. With the slimmest of possible majorities (5-4) it declared the law unconstitutional. Dissenting opinions (from three judges) focused on the legalistic argle-bargle, the confusing nature of the Court’s finding. In that, they were absolutely right: just as was the case in the Prop 8 case, the Court refused to be clear about its intent. Which is precisely what they wanted, the thing you would expect from a bunch of Catholics trying to do the right thing and not run afoul of church teaching.

After the ruling in United States v. Windsor, lower courts knew what SCOTUS meant. One after another, court cases on invalidation of same-sex marriage bans were decided, and virtually all of them were in favor of allowing gay marriage. More than that, every single appellate court decided in favor of same-sex marriage.