Thursday, October 9, 2014

State of the Art Astrology Conference--Coming Soon!

State of the Art, better known as SOTA, is...well, why don't I let the organizer, Donna Van Toen, tell you. Take it away, Donna!

"STATE OF THE ART (“SOTA”) is an astrology conference geared to intermediate, advanced, and professional astrologers. As the title implies, its function is to illustrate the state of the art/discipline of astrology by featuring popular speakers and hot topics that exemplify leading-edge thought and techniques. We are unique in North America in that SOTA presents a mix of one-hour, two-hour, and three-hour speakers as well as all-day pre- and post-conference workshops."

This conference will be significant for a number of reasons. It's my first astrology conference ever. When it comes to astrology, I'm definitely a newbie in this crowd. But I'm hoping to pick up lots of interesting information from the presenters, especially my mentor Elizabeth Hazel.

It's also my first presentation at a metaphysical conference of any kind. Now while I'm still new to astrology, SOTA's having an "Open Forum" this year, where people like me who are experts at other metaphysical disciplines get a chance to speak in a 45-minute block. I was fortunate enough to get a speaking slot. 

My topic is tarot; more specifically, I'm doing a presentation called, "Are you a Tarot Misfortune Teller?" This is a topic that I've talked about before in blogs but it will be the first time it's presented to a live audience. I just can't wait to go.

SOTA is held in Niagara Falls, NY, and it's part "business" and part "vacation" for Jen and I, since we've never been up that way before. So you can expect lots of pictures from both sides of the falls, since we'll be going into Canada often during our stay.

A number of my close friends are coming to join us, but even if you're not attending the conference you can join in the fun through Facebook and Twitter!

Twitter: #sota14 or @sotaastrology

I'll be sending along the occasional update from the conference. Likely I'll be spending so much time getting to know new people, soaking up the lectures, or staring at the Falls that I won't have time to blog, but my Twitter (@JohnMaraniTarot) should be pretty active!

I've already started planning what to pack and what I'm going to say during my presentation. Mercury will actually stationary at the time that I'm speaking so hopefully we can avoid any Merc retro nastiness.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

When Mercury Retrograde Attacks: Caught in the Bullseye

So Mercury had his way with me last Friday night. I'm not ashamed to say that it wasn't at all pretty.

I'm a pretty new PlayStation4 owner. I was an Xbox guy for more than 11 years, and while I still have my 360, I looked hard at both next-gen console systems and decided to go back to my roots with PlayStation. When Jen and I first got married, one of our biggest purchases in our first month together was a PlayStation. We traded in our old consoles for it and all our old games at it was still $350, a huge amount of money for us. But we loved it. So I was glad to pick up the PS4.

Anyway, we bought the PS4 over Labor Day weekend with our Target debit card, and we also grabbed one game and a PS4 Network Plus card so I could play online if I wanted to.

We took home the system and set it up, but we could never seem to get it online. Turns out our Apple router must be set up a particular way to work with the PS4's protocols, and this past weekend I finally got around to making it work. Yes, I took the chance and did network changes during a Merc retro and had no problems; that was truly a gamble and this time it paid off. So we're now online, and it's time to put in the code from the PS4 Network Plus card so we'll be good to go online and play for a year. I enter the code and the error message is one that you receive if your card has not been activated at the time of purchase at the store.

Last Friday night, I head back to Target and found that it was time for Mercury to bend me over.

Mercury rules paperwork and I show up without a receipt. But I used my Target card, so they should have a record of all my purchases, right? My iPad app shows me the purchase amount and date but not the items. Tania at the customer service desk takes my information and goes to look for the purchase in a computer to ensure that I was charged for it. I knew that I had been, but of course she had to see the proof. So she left for a few minutes and checked the purchase dates. Since it was over Labor Day weekend the charge didn't post until September 2, so she came back and said she didn't find it. After some research in my phone, I gave her the exact date of the transaction. She comes back about 10 minutes later and says she still can't find it. Then she says, "I don't think we charged you for it, which is why it's not working."

I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I had paid for it, and that card is $50, so I'm not going to go away quietly, but I'm trying to be very patient because I know they're doing their best. Tania asks me how much everything was that day, which I remembered, but she contends that it doesn't add up if I also bought the card. So we head over to electronics and she realizes that she had the wrong price on the PS4, that the math does check out, and that I did indeed buy the card. So we go to the electronics desk where the standard group of 20-ish guys is standing around waiting for some customers, and we meet Chris. Tania explains our problem and Chris says he's seen it before. The best solution, according to him, is to return the defective card and give me a new card. Sounds perfect to me. So we traipse back over to customer service to do the return.

Target keeps your transaction data for 30 days. But it has been more than 30 days, so of course when they go to process the return they can't find the card. They try my card, my license, and what I'm sure was either the first ten pages of "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" or the complete works of Charles Baudelaire before they realized it wasn't going to work.

Enter Jodi, who has executive level privileges on the cash register. She's hoping she can help make this work. She gets further than anyone else so far as Chris looks on; Tania decided she would be more helpful elsewhere and bowed out. I'm thinking, "Awesome! We're in the home stretch." Stupid me. Before the final step of the return, however, the register freezes up and kicks her out. Clearly perplexed, she moves down to the next one and tries again. This happens a second, third, and fourth time before she starts wondering if Target's entire network is down. So she does exactly what she should have done: She called Target's tech support.

She clearly and calmly explains the situation to the tech rep, who tells her to process the return. When Jodi explains that she cannot do so because of what the register is doing--which is why she's calling, of course--the tech rep tells her that s/he sees that I didn't use the card, so they should just process it as a return and everything will be fine. Once again, Jodi explains that she CAN'T process the return, which is why she was calling to begin with. Five minutes later, Jodi is laughing at the stupidity of the situation; the rep didn't get what Jodi was saying and kept repeating how to do a return. Having been on both sides of such a call, I understand Jodi's frustration. Jodi tries once again after rebooting the machine entirely with no success. Without even saying goodbye, Jodi hangs up the phone, still laughing and shaking her head. Apparently they've had some technical problems with the registers recently. "Oh really?" I reply, with a smile. "I've heard there's a lot of that kind of thing happening these days."

I've now been trying to get this problem resolved for nearly 90 minutes, and to their credit, Target's team did a great job. But I've still got no card to show for it. Jodi explains she has no idea what is going on, but that she can give me a card for free to replace it. Before I say yes, though, she tells me that because of they way they have to process the transaction it's going to show that I didn't pay anything for this card, and if I come back with a problem on this card, I'm fucked and likely they won't be able to help me (my words, not hers!). So I can take the card and take my chances or I can have no satisfaction at all and be stuck with a card that doesn't work and go buy another one anyway. This Scorpio would not accept defeat; I took the offer and took the card home. (Warning: I'm thinking that was not a smart idea, but it's the one that made the most sense.)

At this point I'm thinking, "This is going to work or I will be really pissed. But I've gotta try." I get home and Mercury decides that he's got one final challenge for me to complete. You scratch off the back of the card for the code, but I peeled it off with my fingernails. Remember that Mercury rules paperwork? I really should have scratched it off with a coin, because half the letters came off and half stayed on. We could see some of them but the rest didn't come up. So I run to Jen, and she gets most of the rest of the letters, but there are one or two we don't know. So we spent parts of the next day looking for the right combination of letters and numbers; luckily we could make educated guesses.

After a number of attempts with the wrong letter/number combination, the code finally goes in and we've got PSN Network Plus for a whole year. And there was much rejoicing! YAAAAAAY!

The moral of the story: When you're Mercury's target, try as best you can to push through. If you can't, then you hunker down. That's all.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Embracing the Mercury Retrograde Fuckery: Is a Titanic Retrograde in Store?

Well, this doesn't exactly bode well for the upcoming retrograde when I have someone ask me, "When is it over?" Then I have to look like the asshole for saying, "Well...technically, it hasn't even started yet."

 We're still in the storm, which appears in some corners to have already earned the "shitstorm" title. 

One person shared her story with me. Her iPhone fell into a toilet. Luckily, everything works but the thumbprint scanner, so while it sucks, the worst of the damage was hopefully avoided. 

This same woman tried to make a deposit into an ATM that was possessed. I guess it needed a little extra cash, because when the woman tried to make a $300 deposit, it cancelled the transaction and took $120 for itself, leaving the rest for the woman. So now the woman has to wait 1-2 days before her claim for the money is processed and the stolen funds are deposited into her account. 

She's an Aquarius and asked me to warn everyone to be wary of using ATM machines during Mercury retrograde. And that receipt you normally throw away? Yeah, maybe you should get one...JUST IN CASE. 

I also experienced Merc retro, as a meeting between two executives and their various teams at work fell apart a day before it was supposed to happen. But you know what? I expected it from the beginning so I wasn't at all disappointed. At least I don't have to attend it myself. What's more, there was no agenda before, and now there is one, so at least people are starting to notice things. 

Speaking of seeing things, one of the Mercury retrograde challenges that I just learned about recently has to do with more difficulty in seeing what is right in front of your face. It can be harder to figure out what's going on. 

Everyone knows the story about how the Titanic just kind of plowed into that iceberg? If you're like me you were saying, "Why the fuck didn't they SEE it?" I took a look at the chart of the Titanic a month or so ago guessed it! Mercury was indeed retrograde. 

Also, did you know there was a ship that was 15 minutes away from the Titanic but never came to its rescue? That's right. The crew of the nearby Californian saw the flares from the Titanic and woke their captain, but he issued no orders. Also, the ship's radio operator would have heard the distress signals from the Titanic, but he had already gone to bed! Talk about two HUGE communications breakdowns! If the Californian had responded, a lot more people might have survived. 

So while I won't go on record to say that Mercury retrograde caused the Titanic disaster, it made it a lot worse than it could have been, starting with the mere 37 seconds the crew had to get the ship out of harm's way that night. They just didn't see it in time. 

Your problems with Merc retro might not seem as bad as Titanic's, but it's a sad and great example of how Mercury retrograde can fuck up your world. 

I hope that you're hanging on, and that Merc retro has been mild so far. Keep in touch! 

PS: Rose could have saved Jack. That plank was totally big enough. JUST SAYIN'! :)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Warning: Mercury Retrograde Begins Tomorrow!

Let the fuckery begin again! That's right, ladies and gentlemen...our favorite time of the year is coming again: Mercury Retrograde!

Friday, September 26, is when the storm begins. The "storm" is the period before the retrograde when Mercury, an extremely fast planet, starts to slow down. 

The retrograde's effects begin with the storm, as in tomorrow, so you need to make sure you take the proper precautions now. These may include:
  • Backing up all computers and electronic devices. NOTE: With the recent release of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, I'd suggest waiting until the retrograde is over to upgrade.
  • Checking all software for patches and upgrades and apply them now. Once again, iOS users should have already done this, but if you haven't, now is the time. 
  • Locating important paperwork you may need over the next month, like marriage licenses or other important transaction-related documents. 
  • Providing a place to note down new ideas so they can be evaluated after the retrograde is over. 
  • Updating your personal calendar--written or electronic--to ensure no appointments or important dates are missed.

In short, if it has to do with an electronic device, computer, network, or important document, the time to take care of it is RIGHT NOW.

This Mercury retrograde will start off in Scorpio--it will enter Scorpio on September 27, right after the storm begins, actually--and then it will back into Libra on October 10. So it will spend about half the time in Scorpio and half the time in Libra. Mercury turns direct on October 25, but will be out of its storm rather quickly and by October 29, everything should be moving back to normal.

The last Merc retro for me started off pretty shitty, but it ended pretty well so I can't really complain that much. But I have an important presentation during the weekend of October 24 and we'll still be in retrograde, and it will be during a vacation for me. So you can bet I'll be checking everything twice before I leave and before I open my mouth. 

I'll be attending the State of the Art Conference in Niagara Falls, NY, as an Open Forum presenter on tarot. SOTA is an astrology conference that's branching out into other metaphysical areas, and I'm so looking forward to not only attending the conference but presenting. Hopefully I can do well enough to earn a full two-hour slot next year!

The best way to deal with the retrograde is to 1) take the precautions above, 2) communicate slowly and simply for maximum efficiency, 3) be very patient and 4) confirming receipt of messages. In other words, DO NOT assume others have received messages; Merc retro is the time to give people the benefit of the doubt. Hopefully others will do the same for you.

Good luck! As always, I'm here to listen to your Mercury retrograde fuckery! Here's to hoping you don't have anything to tell me.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

There's Trouble Right Here in Front Royal...Again?

Wow. Front Royal, VA, is in the news again, and not for being a top tourist spot. And so soon! I would have thought that after the whole divination thing they would have decided their town had had enough bad press for a while. 

To be fair, this appears to be just a fringe element of the population of that fair city. But now they've gone after a sixteen year-old high school student who has not only started her own business, but who also supports other local businesses and gives money to charity. 

Tiana Ramos has had trash thrown at her--literally--and has been threatened by a local Catholic group for advertising in a local newspaper. The group threatens to boycott the shop. Other people make disparaging comments about the way the employees dress and make the idiotic assumption that they're going to look slutty to attract only male clients. 

There are lots of people in the world that deserve your anger, your ire, your vexation, your pissiness, call it what you will. But this business, "Naughty Girls Donut Shop," does not. If anything, Tiana Ramos deserves your support, your encouragement, and your business. 

The citizens of Front Royal have the opportunity to do the right thing by embracing this local business and stamping out closed-minded people whose parochial views do not reflect the whole of our society. And I certainly hope they will do it. 

I live about an hour from Front Royal, but a number of us in this area plan to make pilgrimages out there to support Tiana's business. If you're out that way, I encourage you to do the same. 

Tiana, if you're listening, YOU ROCK. Keep pushing forward and don't let ANYONE discourage you! 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Welcoming the Mann Show to the Web!

If you're in the mood for a good laugh, my dear friend Alex Mann and his partners in crime have started an Internet radio show known as, oddly enough, "The Mann Show." 

I can already tell that this show will attract a loyal following, and hope you'll also get on the bandwagon and enjoy the hilarity! 

Below is the astrological event chart of the Mann Show:

I'll make a few comments here about it, and save the rest for a future post!

Moon in Cancer: The Moon's in a very strong position here and even accidentally dignified in the 4th house, the house that it naturally rules. There's a strong emotional connection here between the hosts, who think of each other more like family than friends. It will be most successful when recorded in a home. 

Pisces Rising: The show will likely be very imaginative and go places that you don't expect. With one of its ruling planets in the first house, Neptune, it will touch on its share of deep, serious issues as well. 

Mercury vs. Uranus: Mercury is the ultimate communications planet and rules radio transmissions. Uranus is abrupt change. Translation: Try to stay on topic and transition smoothly between them for best results. The occasional tangent, however, will keep things fresh. 

Mars: The ultimate MALE planet, Mars is elevated and occupies a prominent position in the chart, which shows the focus on generally male concerns. 

Venus: Venus is not comfortable here in Virgo, in its fall; it's treated like the red-headed stepchild of this chart. Women who are discriminating will follow the show, but many women may not, writing it off as crude and/or immature. 

I appreciated the shout-out from the hosts last night, and look forward to additional episodes! I'm quite sure Alex is the right Mann for the job. :)

Their information:

Please also follow them on Twitter @mannshowradio and Facebook as well! 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Astrology, Arrogance, and Assholes

I recently saw this article on (one of my favorite sites, by the way!), which talks about the obsession that some fans have with astrologer Susan Miller's work. They get extremely upset when their monthly horoscopes are late. That's actually being kind; if you read some of what they comment and tweet, you'll see that they seem to lose their ever-fucking minds.

Susan has been struggling with medical issues for the past 18 months or so; she's not out on vacation in her yacht in the middle of the Caribbean. She takes immunosuppressants and struggles with her health daily. And people are sitting there accusing her of being unprofessional and just, generally speaking, being nasty and not compassionate at all to her situation.

I'll be the first person to tell you that astrology is an amazing tool and can be applied to so many areas of life with great effectiveness. Being a professional astrologer is a challenging job in and of itself, but think about if a monthly forecast you did went out to millions of people who expected you to be right, who made life decisions based on what you said. If you're not a little intimidated by that prospect, perhaps you should re-think what I just said.

How would you feel if you were at home sick and people were tweeting at you, calling you unprofessional and telling you to "get over it", no matter what your job is? When you're sick, you're sick and your main job is to be recuperating. It's almost like saying to someone "Your job is to serve me, and you can't serve me when you're sick, so get better." Consider the total arrogance of that statement. You would think that someone would have a lot of nerve to say that to anyone. If anyone said it to me, I suspect that I'd have a Scorpio nuclear reaction so severe that it would take a week for that person to realize how badly I had insulted them. But I digress.

Let's put this in even greater perspective. Susan Miller doesn't owe these people anything. These horoscopes are free online. It's good to keep your fans happy, but when they're greedy, arrogant fucks who lack compassion and expect to come before your HEALTH, there's a serious problem.

If you're afraid to live your life without a monthly astrological forecast, then I would question your dedication to actually living life. In other words, life just happens. If you're worried about what is going to happen, you are one of millions of people on this planet; I can't think of anyone who doesn't worry about the future sometimes. Astrology may help us decide when and how to do things, but there is never any guarantee of success. The future is dynamic; even using astrology, nothing is set in stone.

It sounds like it's time for people angry about Susan Miller's medical problems to get the fuck over themselves. Susan, you're amazing and you deserve the time and space you need to recover. I hope it's soon.

If you find yourself lacking in astrological wisdom without Susan's posts, there are other astrologers out there. I highly encourage you to visit astrologer Elizabeth Hazel's weekly forecast--usually posted on Sundays--at And if it's a few days late, well, you'll enjoy it when it gets posted.