The Internet Giveth and the Internet Taketh

I would assume that Gian Paul, our Brazil bureau chief, would have better things to look at down in Brazil than the stats on Astrology Mundo. But perhaps it isn’t bathing suit season right now.

In any event, Gian Paul has correctly observed that about 12,000 of my “hits” have disappeared from the site meter. I was getting pretty excited about hitting 150,000, but now it appears that will take a little longer than I expected.

Who knows? Maybe I’ll go back up to 148,000 and change after Mercury goes direct. I don’t have the energy to complain to WordPress about this, that’s for sure.

Thanks, as always, Gian Paul, for your observations.

Catching Up on the Astrodienst-AstroDataBank Merger

I’m late on this. Out the Comet’s Ass tipped me off to it, though I had been noticing a new birthdays feature on Astrodienst. Anyway, in case you haven’t heard, all of the AstroDataBank charts that have been lovingly compiled over the years by the late Lois Rodden and her followers are now available FREE (I use caps sparingly) at Astrodienst.

Here’s a story from Astrodienst’s Web site explaining how it’s going to work. I wish I could come up with a great metaphor to describe what this means for the astrological community, but being a Sag-y type, I’ll go with the old saw, “It’s the greatest thing since night baseball.”

I don’t know what this means for the folks who were working at AstroDataBank. Does anybody know?

Introducing the AstroWiki

I’ve just stumbled upon Astrodienst’s latest innovation: the AstroWiki. It’s a place to learn about astrology and to educate others. You can find out more about the AstroWiki here.

Rather than starting from scratch, Zurich-based Astrodienst acquired the right to republish the content of two astrological encyclopedias published in Germany. They have been translated into English by the astrological services firm.

This is a fantastic resource for the astrological community. Thanks, Astrodienst!

Starlinked: An Online Matchmaker with Stellar Insight

When I came back from a six-week tour of India in summer 2004, I began another odyssey: I started reading Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy. The 1,488-page opus chronicles the widow Mrs. Rupa Mehra’s hilarious and heart-rending search for a husband for her daughter Lata.

In India, as you may know, marriages are still arranged by families. But before prospective spouses and their parents agree to a betrothal, an astrologer determines the compatibility of the couple.

That’s right: Close to 1.1 billion people believe in consulting an astrologer before they tie the knot. (Of course, not all of India’s citizens are Hindus who follow Vedic astrology. Still, there are plenty of Indians living outside the Subcontinent who rely on astrology to find a mate.)

We’re just joining this party in the West, but we’re harnessing the power of technology. Under the auspices of Astrology Explored’s Beth Turnage, I’ve learned about a new Web site called Starlinked that uses astrology to help you find your soulmate.

Starlinked’s president, Kurt Grandis, was kind enough to do a Q&A with Astrology Mundo via e-mail. What follows is an edited transcript of our “interview.”

What is Starlinked?
Starlinked is an online astrology-based matchmaking service. We are dedicated to providing high-quality astrology-based information to our members to help them find that special someone. While the inner workings of our compatibility engine are grounded in traditional astrological techniques the entire user experience is designed for [someone] who may not have much experience with astrology.

Actually, Starlinked is often the first foray into astrology beyond daily horoscopes for many of our users. Our goal is to bring the benefits of sophisticated astrological techniques in evaluating relationships to people less familiar with the power of astrology. We recognize that technology alone can never replace a personal reading by an experienced astrologer, so we plan to incorporate features that will help our members connect with qualified astrologers in their area.

How long has it been in existence?
The Starlinked idea has been floating around for awhile now. Active development on the site and its underlying technologies began about eight months ago and we just launched in October 2008. We took our first couple of weeks to focus on North Carolina, where we are located in Mebane, but are now beginning to roll out into the rest of the U.S.

Are there competing sites that use astrology to match up people?
There are a few other sites out there that do some form of astrological matchmaking, but most reduce it to something along the lines of sun sign matching. We are proud to be able to go leaps and bounds beyond that and base our compatibility measures on real astrological techniques.

You are not just 1 of 12 buckets we sort out. The matches we find for you are entirely personalized to the exact time and place you were born.

How do you make sure people aren’t lying about their ages?
Great question! This is something we are obviously concerned about since we wish to ensure the integrity of our compatibility measures. We do our best to balance the integrity of our natal information and the privacy of our users. We explain the importance of accurate birth dates and also offer our members the option to hide their age from others. This provides less incentive to “tweak” their birth year.

What if someone doesn’t know when he was born? What happens then?
This is often the case for our first-time visitors, who haven’t had astrological consultations before. We allow folks to come in and make a rough guess if they have some idea (e.g. sometime in the evening) or just plain-old say “I don’t know.” At the same time we record the data confidence or quality (like a Rodden Rating [pioneered by AstroDataBank founder Lois Rodden]). This way users can enter the system and get started without knowing their exact birth time.

Their compatibility scores are initially penalized due to the uncertainties associated with the data. Once they’ve had a chance to call Mom or check their birth certificate they can lock in their actual birth time.

What compatibility factors does your program look for? I’m thinking of Sun/Moon conjunctions, trines between Venus and Mars, and contacts involving Saturn, often the “glue” in long-term relationships?
Our compatibility engine runs a number of analyses in order to calculate each individual pair’s overall score. We look at a number of planetary interactions, including the ones mentioned, the nature of the aspect, its orb among other things. We consider composites as well as synastry.

For the time being, we have minimized Saturn’s influences due to some of its interpretive subtleties. To cater to our users with more astrology experience, we plan on incorporating features to allow more advanced users to customize the factors involved in their compatibility calculations. There is still a lot to do and this will likely not be our first priority, but we take these kinds of concerns seriously and will work towards the most comprehensive matching possible.

What other factors besides astrology are used to match people?
At this time we are focused on identifying matches based solely on astrological factors. This is in part a conscious choice; we want to differentiate ourselves from other matchmaking services that require users to answer so many questions to find their matches. We always encourage feedback from our members and will respond if people express a desire to consider other factors as well, but ultimately it is our intention to keep the site focused on astrology-based factors.

How does the system work?
As soon as a new user registers on the site, our compatibility engine calculates match scores for all members within 50 miles. New members are encouraged to fill out their profile information, but can immediately start reviewing their matches if they choose. If you don’t find someone right away, Starlinked can notify you of new matches as often as every day, once a week, or once a month if you prefer. Once you find your match, simply fill out a few forms to subscribe and start communicating with as many other members as you want.

Does it cost money to join?
It is free to sign up, create your profile, and view your matches. Then you can subscribe to the Starlinked service when you are ready to contact other members. A Starlinked subscription is $29.99 a month or three months at $19.99 a month.

Who are the brains behind Starlinked and what are their credentials? I’m particularly interested in the astrological credentials.
Starlinked, before it was named as such, came to me after watching a number of friends and family use online dating and matchmaking sites. It just seemed like an astrology-based solution should be available.

Then, as a classic Mars in Taurus, I considered working on the project, poked at it, and found myself spending more and more time on it until finally the floodgates opened and BLAM: Starlinked! I’ve had tremendous help from people along the way. I think we have built quite a pool of energy behind this project.

One thing I am particularly excited about is using the collective wisdom of the community to refine the compatibility engine. For instance, what happens if I take five astrologers and ask them to tell me about a potential relationship between two people? What happens is that the same major planetary aspects and contacts tend to make appearances, but everyone weights and interprets their importance and influence slightly differently.

Rather than hide, ignore, or run away from those variations, as some other computerized analysis systems do, we embrace them and use some powerful computational techniques to harness that information. In the end we are able to provide results that best resemble the opinions of the community.

We don’t claim that these numbers are the end-all and be-all of astrological compatibility, but rather a great place to start based on some real traditional techniques. And look, you just met someone with whom you’re probably pretty compatible…why not chat?

It seems to me that more women than men are interested in astrology. How will you get around that?
I think this is definitely the case when you are talking about astro-savvy people who are interested in the inner workings and methodologies of astrology. Take a few steps back and consider folks with a casual interest who might not know what a rising sign is, but do check their daily horoscope. You still have more women than men, but the gap has definitely closed. At one point Match.com reported about 60% male membership. We hope women will strong-arm their guy friends into creating profiles :)

Does the system match gay people?
Starlinked does match gay people using the same compatibility system used for straight relationships. Since we are not relying solely on sun signs and are considering numerous other types of (common) planetary interactions the potential differences in relational interpretation should be tempered. I know there has been and continues to be a lot of research done this area and I would certainly like to see Starlinked’s matches reflect that work.

What do you think Astrology Mundo’s readers should know about Starlinked?
As I mentioned earlier, for many of our users Starlinked is their first real exposure to astrology beyond their daily horoscope. For these people we encourage them simply to register, review their matches, and start getting to know people with whom they are astrologically compatible.

For people with more astrology experience, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved with the project from authoring introductory relational astrology articles to participating in research to improve our compatibility engine. We are also working on establishing a consultancy or referral program for astrologers; when a user wants more detailed or personalized information, about a match or maybe regarding their own natal chart, they can select from a number of professional member astrologers offering their services.

We are excited about Starlinked and love to hear from our users on how we can improve the system. We have a number of things in the works and are always glad to take some direction from our community. Come on by and check us out!

McCain’s ‘New’ Chart: The View From Brazil

Here’s Gian Paul’s analysis of the natal horoscope of GOP Presidential candidate John McCain, using the new birth time of 6:25 p.m. on Aug. 29, 1936 in Colon, Panama. The data comes from a State Dept. document that has suddenly surfaced on the Internet as Mercury is preparing to go direct.

You may recall that in his first post for Astrology Mundo, Gian Paul predicted that McCain will be the next President. (See “Why McCain Will Win: The View From Brazil”). He’s not backing away from that theory. Here’s why:

I gave McCain’s “new” chart a test run using three events in the man’s life. I will even speculate on the next one, which will take place on Nov. 4.

1) McCain escaped a serious explosion on the aircraft carrier Forrestal on July 29, 1967. Although there were several casualties, he escaped with his life. The North Node/Moon was then transiting his Uranus. Jupiter was conjunct his natal Mars in the sixth house of health in the latest chart. Nice protection health-wise!

2) McCain was shot down on Oct. 26 1967, and captured by the North Vietnamese, as he recently reminded us by addressing voters as “my fellow prisoners.” What’s striking to me is that McCain has Saturn retrograde at 20 degrees of Pisces in his first house.

Because this house represents the physical body, it is not unexpected that he would become a prisoner of some sort at one or seven several times in his life. The question now: Has he become a “prisoner” of Sarah Palin, his vice-presidential nominee?

The transits of when McCain was grounded and was captured also provide support for the new chart. The Moon (change) was transiting his Pluto in Cancer and the fifth house. I interpret this as “an end to creativity and play.” As a prisoner of war, McCain could hardly think of having children!

Venus, being exactly conjunct his natal Neptune in in the seventh house of relationships an marriage, indicates that at some time Venusian “aspirations” would have to be relegated to the realm of fantasy.

3) On Mar. 14, 1973, McCain was released by the North Vietnamese. The Sun was then transiting his troublesome retrograde Saturn in the first. The Moon, again over his Pluto in the fifth house, was this time accompanied by a strong and favorable transit of Jupiter to his natal Moon in the 12th house of forced confinements.

From my point of view, these three events amply confirm that this time we have the correct birth time for McCain.

Concerning Nov. 4, Election Day: I prefer using 0 hours of Nov. 5, for practical reasons. By then, the entire U.S., including Alaska and Hawaii, will have had its say.

I will restrict my interpretation exclusively to McCain and his current chart, using transits of zero hour of the day after.

The man is in for trouble, first with women, than with an enormous load of responsibilities. I believe that McCain will be your next President in an extremely trying world.

Let me explain: Saturn is exactly opposite his natal Saturn. A new half-cycle (Saturn) is starting. As Saturn is also closing in to conjunct his Venus in Virgo (not a comfortable aspect), I presume that some “feminine stresses” are to be expected.
.
Confirming this is a square of transiting Venus to his natal Saturn/Venus opposition, forming a T-square. If he gets elected with Palin, he will have to deal with two women, at least — his wife and his vice-president. We’ll see how that will work out.

But transiting Venus is in McCain’s 10th house. On Nov. 5, it will have just completed a conjunction with his Jupiter in Sagittarius, the ruler of his natal chart. (According to my style of astrological interpretation, a planet in its ruling sign becomes the chart’s “governor.”)

Another salient transit on Nov. 4-5: The Moon is exactly over his natal Moon, in
Aquarius, and Sarah Palin is an Aquarius.

One last point: Uranus, which turns direct on Nov. 27, will exactly conjunct McCain’s Saturn in the first house around Jan. 20, 2009, Inauguration Day. He may finally feel free from the restrictions of Saturn. Being the boss can do that for you.

Or he may feel imprisoned by the media circus (Uranus) that surrounds his new jail at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue!

Warren Buffett is Not a Buffet

With the Dow Jones industrial average closing down today 678 points, to 8,579 (a 7% drop), you’d think I’d have something better to rant about than the repeated misspelling of Warren Buffett’s name.

As I like to point out to my astropals, even though the Oracle of Omaha has a cornucopia-like Jupiter/Pluto conjunction in Cancer, he is not a “buffet.”

This past week, Buffett’s name has been misspelled by everyone from astrologer Michael WolfStar at StarIQ to The Wall Street Journal, which got the name wrong in an opinion piece by Vernon L. Smith called “There’s no easy way out of a bubble.”

Even though there’s no easy way out of a bubble, there is an easy way to spell Warren Buffett’s name right. Just say to yourself: Warren is not a “buffet.”

Got that, “fellow prisoners”?

Kim Novak, Astrology, and Search Engines

This is really weird. On Tuesday night, my husband and I watched Kim Novak and Fred MacMurray in a great film noir called Pushover on Turner Classic Movies. Yesterday, I was looking at Novak’s chart and noticing that the August 16 eclipse falls quite close to her 24-degree Aquarian Sun.

Now, I see that at this moment (1:12 p.m. EDT, Aug. 14) Kim Novak is the second most popular search on Yahoo, but I can’t figure out why. When I search Kim Novak, no news stories come up, just her film credits on IMDB. What’s going on with Kim Novak? Does anybody know?

Novak, most famous for co-starring in Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo opposite Jimmy Stewart, was born on Feb. 13, 1933 at 6:13 a.m., according to AstroTheme. You can see the chart here.

In one of my favorite Novak films, Bell, Book, and Candle, the actress is again paired with Stewart. She plays a witch named Gillian who lives in Greenwich Village and has a black cat named Pyewacket. I was fascinated by Bell’s beat influences, African art, and a young Jack Lemmon playing the bongo drums.

The Wiki speculates Gillian was the inspiration for Elizabeth Montgomery’s character Samantha in Bewitched, but I know she was also the model for budding astrologers who dreamed of living in Manhattan and hanging out at nightclubs.

There is a blogger named Kim Novak with a Web cam. Perhaps this is the Kim Novak that everyone is searching for on Yahoo. She and her friends have been staging an Office Olympics, to coincide with the Summer Games in Beijing. One contest is a ring toss that features sombreros, among other competitions.

As someone who spends a lot of time getting schooled in search-engine optimization, the art of generating Internet traffic, I’d say that blogger Kim Novak’s Office Olympics is a great way to get people to her site, especially since so many people are reading about the Beijing Olympics right now. I bet blogger Novak doesn’t even know that the name asteroid Olympia is squaring the North Node right now.

Mind the Quincunx!

Today is jam-packed full of astrological aspects. We’ve got a Full Moon in Sagittarius/Gemini happening at 1:30 p.m. EDT, Mercury is about to go direct, and Pluto is just back into Sag, adding intensity to that Full Moon energy. Uranus in Pisces is also forming a broad square to the Full Moon.

The guys over at StarIQ do fabulous lunar coverage and I’d be hard-pressed to top it. Here’s the link to the Full Moon chart, courtesy of StarIQ, which you’ll find on my blogroll:

http://www.stariq.com/Main/Articles/P0002835.HTM

I want to get the word out that today’s most important aspect may be the one you don’t notice. As I write, a quincunx (150-degree) aspect is almost exact between fun-loving Mars in Leo and erratic Uranus.

What does the quincunx mean? Damned if I know after 24 years of dabbling in astrology. But as someone who was born with Sun in Capricorn almost exactly quincunx Uranus in Leo, my advice is tread carefully. With a quincunx, it’s often hard to integrate the energies of the two planets involved.

Mars/Uranus aspects of all kinds can be explosive. Watch out for computer and mechanical problems today and think twice about pushing the send button if you’re about to fire off a nasty e-mail. You may regret it.

To top it off, Mars is traveling quite close to the soul-sucking South Node in Leo. How do I interpret this picture? Some people will do ANYTHING for attention. If somebody in your orbit is making an outsize bid for attention, give him or her the right of way. You don’t want to end up as collateral damage.

Who Wants to be an Internet Millionaire?

With so many Old Media jobs going up in smoke, some of my friends have been working on Web site/blog/social networking ideas that they hope will generate enough revenue to support themselves and maybe a few loved ones as well.

I’ll leave it to Silicon Valley investment bankers like Frank Quattrone to decide which ventures deserve funding. But in the meantime, I’ve decided to pull from my files the chart of a real-life Internet millionaire whom I’ll call Barbara. I’ve tweaked a couple of details in her chart to protect her privacy, but the planetary positions and house cusps remain the same.

I’m hoping my readers will help me identify what aspects in her chart allowed her to start her own business and then sell it to an established Internet company for $23 million.

I did Barbara’s chart back in the days when I was still calculating charts by hand so the version that I’m going to link to, courtesy of Astrodienst, has house cusps that vary from the original by minutes. That shouldn’t be a big deal.

Barbara is a dreamy Pisces with a go-getter Sagittarius rising of 12 degrees. Her Sun is conjunct Jupiter in the fourth house, broadly trining the North Node in the eighth house of other people’s money (OPM). The Sun/Jupiter conjunction in Pisces gives some folks the impression that Barbara is lost in a dream or to be less kind, that she is a “space cadet.” Money has always seemed the furthest thing from her mind.

The North Node squares her Libra in the 11th house of friends, and Barbara has a database of contacts to die for. In fact, it was said that her database of 150,000 names was what made her startup so attractive as an acquisition.

Like other Internet millionaires such as Amazon.com Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Bezos (Jan. 12, 1964, Albuquerque, N.M., time unknown), Barbara is a member of the revolutionary Uranus/Pluto in Virgo crowd, born during the 1960s. This generational signature falls in Barbara’s ninth house of media and education and is opposed by her Mercury in Pisces in the third house.

Being born with a Uranus/Pluto conjunction in Virgo made it difficult for Barbara to fit in at traditional companies, where she was considered to be a wingnut by the corporate clones who populated the cubicles around her. It wasn’t until she left the corporate world in late 1993, as the Uranus/Neptune conjunction in Capricorn was sextiling her Sun/Jupiter in Pisces, that she was able to find herself.

Another difficult placement for corporate success is Barbara’s Saturn in Aquarius, which has a very egalitarian view of the workplace, and sits in the third house of communications. The strict hierarchical nature of corporations was a real turn-off to this gal, who is known for her directness.

Her Saturn is broadly conjunct Venus in Aquarius, which is back in the second house of resources. Venus in Aquarius sextiles the Ascendant. This bestows an electric beauty and charm upon our Internet millionaire that some in the corporate world found a little quirky. Barbara’s a natural blonde, but when Pluto got to her Ascendant, she dyed her hair dark brown and began wearing retro oversized eyeglasses because she wanted people to “take her seriously.”

Barbara’s Venus opposes sexy Mars in Leo, which sits in the eighth house of sex and OPM. Her networking parties, ostensibly designed to further careers and expand Rolodexes, became a mecca for young media types who wanted to hook up — for a night, a week, whatever.

Here’s the link to Barbara’s chart and transits for the day that she sold her company, in July, 2007, as Jupiter was quite close to her Ascendant.

The Dangers of Lying in the Internet Age

It seems to be a human weakness to want to dress up our life experience, to say we were higher up on the totem pole than we really were. A case in point: I used to work with a guy who said he was once a backup musician with a well-known New York punk band. This was back in the early days of the Internet, when a lot of fresh information was being posted for the first time.

My boss didn’t particularly like our former punk rocker, whom I’ll call David. So he Googled David and learned that he hadn’t played with this particular band, but that he had been a roadie for them. Evidently, there was a reunion site where the band members thanked David for being such a great roadie.

Now, it’s not as if David lied and said he was a graduate of Columbia when he really went to SUNY-New Paltz (a fine school, by the way, but not a posh Ivy League name like Columbia). As far as I know, he hadn’t improved upon his academic or professional credentials to get his foot in the door. But our boss certainly viewed David in a different light after learned that he only been a roadie, not a backup musician. David had misrepresented himself in order to impress other people. Once he was discovered, everything he said was suspect.

I’m usually not guilty of embellishing my past. It’s colorful enough already. However, I can think of at least one time that I’ve been guilty of this kind of inflation. I was in a fight with an editor about the right way to spell a word. This was before the days of Microsoft Word’s SpellCheck, but after the advent of dictionaries. However, for some reason one wasn’t immediately available or the word in question wasn’t in our abridged version. Without Merriam-Webster to back me up, I insisted that I must be right because, “After all, in sixth grade, I won the Geary County, Kansas, spelling bee.”

Well, in fact, I was No. 3 in the Geary County bee that year, having misspelled “conscience” in a slip of the lip. I knew how to spell the word, but the letters didn’t come out in the right order. Isn’t that ironic?

I’ve also committed sins of omission, most recently when I neglected to tell my husband that I was attending the United Astrology Conference in Denver, a trip tacked onto a family visit to Albuquerque. Meanwhile, I was busily advertising the fact that I was going to be at UAC on my blog. (See my post, “Houston, We Have a Problem.”)

So I’m not trying to let myself off the hook. But lately I’ve heard of a few instances where people have bragged about their participation in big-name events and others have discovered from the Net that Joe didn’t really finish fourth in the 1978 New York City Marathon.

Would you love your wife any less if you learned that she was not a cheerleader in high school, as she told you, but was merely on the drill team?