Was Houston Flood the Fault of the Stars?

Video of Houston Flood

If you’re a fan of The Old Farmer’s Almanac, you’re most likely aware that it contains weather predictions as well as advice regarding when to plant, harvest, and numerous other activities. Most likely anyone who’s drawn from its wisdom hasn’t questioned its source or wondered what it was. If that’s a burning question you’ve had for most your life, then I have good news for you because I’m about to tell you where that advice comes from.

Ready? Are you sitting down? Okay. It’s astrological.

Whether or not you believe in astrology makes no difference. It works and doesn’t much care whether people recognize it or not and neither do I.

As an example of how it works for weather, I couldn’t resist doing another extreme weather blog regarding the astrological influences in effect at the time, in this case, the massive flooding event in Houston, Texas. This blog, like numerous others involving astrology, is in the category best known as “You can’t make this stuff up” or “What are the odds?”

As a professional astrologer I tend to speak in astrologese, which of course makes no sense to anyone unfamiliar with its terminology. I will do my best here to explain things in lay terms which will of necessity include a few brief, albeit essential, astrology lessons.

First of all, what you see below is the “birth chart” of Houston, Texas. Since it is a major city, detailed information about it’s founding is available in the historical record. In reality, the worst part of this recent flood was centered slightly northwest of the city in a city called Katy, but an actual date much less time of its incorporation or naming (which occurred when they applied for a post office in 1896) were unavailable. Houston felt the effects too, so thus, we’ll look at Houston.


Planets, signs and houses (of which there are twelve as you can see from the numbers around the smaller inside circle) each represent a variety of things. Planets and signs have their own distinctive energies while houses indicate different categories relative to life.

If you look at the city’s horoscope, which represents the location of the Sun, Moon and planets at that moment in time, you can see a variety of different lines in the center. These indicate relationships known as aspects between the Sun, Moon and planets. In general, the red ones are stressful, the green ones favorable, and the blue ones somewhat unstable, except when two of them come together, like they do here, with a green line connecting them at the base.

This aspect pattern is known as a yod or “finger of god” and typically has a fated flavor to it. From time to time, as the actual location of the planets in our solar system form other aspects to these natal planets, events are triggered. Seriously. The yod is comprised of Houston’s Virgo Sun, Cancer Mars and Aquarius Neptune, which is represented by a glyph that looks a lot like Neptune’s famous trident. Neptune is in a position in the yod known as its eye, which is where the Sun’s energy (Sun being indicative of personality) and Mars’ energy (symbolic of activity) are directed.

If you know a little about mythology, you know that Neptune is the God of the Deep. In astrology, he rules anything related to liquids among other things. Houston’s nickname is “The Bayou City.” The Houston Ship Channel is a major influence on its economy. Oil, another biggie for Houston, is also ruled by Neptune. Being not too far from the Gulf of Mexico, Houston is often troubled by hurricanes, such as Ike in 2008.

So we have Neptune very prominently placed in Houston’s horoscope and it’s easy to see its influence has been a big one on this city as expressed by the yod, which basically states that the city’s personality and activity is going to relate a lot to Neptunian matters such as water and oil.

Get the idea?

Coincidence? Maybe. Let’s see what else is going on.

Neptune is also related by aspect to some other planets as well. Note the red triangle, an aspect pattern known as a T-square. These are stressful. The other planets involved are Saturn, which represents structures, responsibility and tradition, and Jupiter, which tends to exaggerate and inflate matters. Saturn is in the 11th house which includes groups and organizations and Jupiter is in the 8th house, which includes matters that are intense, transformational or involve shared resources. It also includes death and is usually involved for severe weather events. For Houston, this house is particularly sensitive to the Moon.

Thus, this T-square can easily be related to major storms and floods that damage structures of both a physical and societal variety with extreme impact on the infrastructure as well as the potential for loss of life.

The green lines that look like a big triangle is what is called a Grand Water Trine. I swear I’m not making this up. That is because the three planets involved are in Water Signs which include Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces. The smaller green triangle on top of the big one, which makes the entire configuration look like a kite, ties the Sun into the Grand Trine. While this configuration is often favorable, all it really means is that the planets all communicate their energy well, so if that energy isn’t good, then the influence isn’t, either.

The glyph at the bottom of the Grand Trine, which looks like an old-style television antenna, represents Uranus. This is appropriate since Uranus is associated with technology. He is also related to surprises, unexpected events, upsets, rebellion, explosions, freedom and so forth. Uranus, in turn, is connected back to Neptune by an aspect that tends to denote friction. The implication is for numerous unexpected and disruptive events related to water. The main point here is that so many planets are connected such that when one is affected it will reverberate throughout making things a bigger deal than if they weren’t tied together.

If you’re wondering what the planet labeled “Pos” represents (probably not what you think), that’s the asteroid named Poseidon, also associated with water. We’ll get to him in a moment.

There are certain cosmic events that tend to have tremendous impact astrologically. One of those is eclipses, which are even recognized by stock market gurus as influential. Look it up some time. In March there were two eclipses, one a solar eclipse and the other lunar. The location of the Sun and Moon for the lunar eclipse was in a zodiacal degree that slammed Houston’s Neptune creating an astrological tsunami.


Neptune was aspected by the Moon and the Sun, both of which were in houses that typically indicate important events, which in this case include a lot of public attention and the property and residents of the city itself. Uranus, master of the unexpected and upsets, was involved as well. Part of the “You can’t make this stuff up” department, and why I love the asteroids in astrology, is that Poseidon’s current position is irritating Uranus PLUS opposite Houston’s Sun, kind of an “in your face” kind of aspect, to say the least.

Jupiter’s current location is at the top of the chart, which indicates major attention from the public, in this case worldwide.

You’ll note that the eclipse was March 23 while the flood didn’t occur until April 17, but eclipses set events in motion with their effects strong enough to last for months. The night the rain began that started this debacle, a few things had changed in the planetary configurations which were far from helpful.


This looks like a relatively quiet chart until you look a little closer. Out in space, Jupiter and the Moon were aligned and parked on Houston’s Mercury, which is all about news and movement. Neptune’s cosmic position was opposing them, making it a key player. The Moon is always important, but as noted earlier,it’s particularly influential for Houston’s ominous 8th house of death and such. So first there’s a lunar eclipse, now the Moon is stirring things up some more.

Holy guacamole! On top of all that, the asteroid, Poseidon, is in a different zodiacal sign but in the same degree as the natal chart, increasing his energy, plus he was cozied up to Neptune, so both mythological gods of the deep were in cahoots, too. Saturn, which relates to structure, as noted earlier, and Pluto, god of the underworld, were also combined in a malefic blast, though Venus did provide some intervention, enough to keep this from being a lot worse than it already was, such as the fact most of the rain came down overnight when less people were out, though Houston is definitely another city that never sleeps.

There are various other indicators in these charts that tie in even more of Neptune’s soggy influences as well as several others that I won’t go into, because I think I’ve made my point and there’s a good chance you didn’t even make it this far and if you did, your eyes have long since glazed over and you’ve set this aside for bedtime reading.

So be it. Once again, at least as far as I’m concerned, astrology has not failed me, if nowhere else in the domain of “What are the odds?” Poseidon, if nothing else, is the coup de grace, much as the asteroid, Marathon, was for the Boston Marathon bombing several years ago, where he was in a key location of the event chart.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Use Orion’s Belt to find Mercury | EarthSky.org

Here are some hints on how to find Mercury in the sky tonight, weather permitting, of course. By the looks of things, here in Central Texas that ain’t gonna happen.  Mercury at maximum elongation also means that he will be stationing retrograde, too, a time those familiar with astrology tend to dislike. More on that later this month.

Mercury’s greatest eastern elongation – its greatest distance from the sunset – is today. But how can you tell which object you’re seeing is Mercury?

Source: Use Orion’s Belt to find Mercury | EarthSky.org

The Astrolabe: Ancient Analog Computer with 1K Apps


Figure 1. Planispherical astrolabe. Marocco, 16th century. Engraved brass. On display at Paris naval Museum.

Whether you’re an astronomer, astrologer or steampunk fan, you’re bound to fall in love with this ancient analog computer.  Even better, you can make one for yourself by downloading the directions from the Resources section below.

The astrolabe is an ingenius device used for nearly two thousands years, from the time of Hipparchus (c. 190 – 120 BCE) until the turn of the 17th century.  It’s typically a disc constructed from wood or brass, about 10 – 20 centimeters in diameter, and a few millimeters thick.  In 1391, medieval writer and poet, Geoffrey Chaucer, wrote a treatise on the subject for his son, describing how to build one as well as its use.  Astrolabes had over a thousand uses, including timekeeping, navigation, surveying, solving equations, and so forth.  Mastering them all required an entire university level course.

While at first appearance an astrolabe is intimidating, breaking it down into its components, combined with the information contained on each one, brings a strong sense of familiarity if you’re an astronomer.  Appreciation for the knowledge ancient civilizations acquired of the stars and their relationship to the Earth quickly follows at the thought of designing, much less crafting, such a clever precision instrument.

The main components of a planetspheric astrolabe are the mater, climate plate or tympan, and rete, which all function together, demonstrating how Earth’s place in the cosmos provides the ultimate reference frame.

Astrolabe (Front)

scan-astrolabe-front copy

Figure 2. Astrolabe Front: The Mater

The front of the astrolabe, called the mater, (which means mother and is sometimes referred to as such) looks mind-boggling, until you break it down into its components.

Starting from the outside, you see most of the letters of the alphabet around the circumference.  These represent the twenty-four hours of the day, more specifically, the equal hours system, which is what we use now, i.e. each hour is 60 minutes long.  However, at one time, there were twelve hours of daylight and twelve hours of darkness.  Needless to say, unless you live on the equator, the days and nights are NOT of equal length except at the equinoxes.  Thus, the unequal hours system meant that the duration of hours were adjusted, according to the time of year.  The astrolabe thus accounted for them as well, as shown by the designated lines in Figure 1.

The numbers just inside the letters represent degrees from the horizon, where’s it’s zero, to a maximum of 90 degrees at the zenith (Noon) or nadir (Midnight).

The horizon is represented by an oblique line. Unlike most of the maps we see these days, East is on the left, West on the right, North at the top, South at the bottom. ( If you’re familiar with astrology, you should not be surprised that these are the same as a horoscope with the ascendant on the left, Midheaven (Noon) on the top, descendant on the right and Imum Coeli (Midnight) on the bottom.) Just below the horizon is a dotted one, which is somewhat difficult to see at this scale, but represents the period known as Civil Twilight, or the time in the morning or evening when the Sun isn’t above the horzon, yet there’s a certain level of light.

So, to recap, so far we have 24 hours around the outer edge, perpendicular lines representing the cardinal directions, and an arc indicating the horizon.

Due North, represented so conveniently by Polaris, a.k.a. the North Star, is located dead-center.  Its position in the sky varies with latitude, indicated numerically on the vertical line extending upward from the climate’s center.

The climate, sometimes referred to as the tympan, comprises the section that looks like a spider web with a center just North of Polaris, which represents the zenith, or portion of sky directly overhead. The curved lines mark azimuth readings, while the concentric rings are lines of constant altitude or almucantars. These vary with latitude, like the view of the night sky, so astrolabes used in multiple locations required suitable climate plates, which fit into this area. Note the degree markings along the edge of the azimuth lines, which you’ll use later.

A rotating ruler with degree markings which represent declination, the altitude above the celestial equator, is attached to the center of the mater. It’s also used as a convenient pointer in the process of telling time, as explained further below. [NOTE:–The concentric rings, which are unlabeled in Figure 1, are duplicated on the rete and therefore explained in that section as well as defined in Figure 3.]

Astrolabe (Back)

Astrolabe-Back-Labels copy

Figure 3. Astrolabe Back: Calendars and Shadow Scale.

The back of the astrolabe is equally daunting at first sight, until you break it down. However, it’s this complexity that allowed this ancient instrument to provide so many functions. For example, the box labeled “Shadow Scale for surveyors” gives a hint of one of its many uses.

The top, called the throne, was used to hang the instrument or hold it in the proper position.

The outer ring has degrees from the horizon, like the front, with zero on the horizontal axis and 90 degrees on the vertical. Just inside the degrees are another ring of numbers, this time corresponding to the degrees of the tropical zodiac signs named in the next ring.

There are two calendars represented, one from Geoffrey Chaucer’s time (1394), which is included since Chaucer wrote a popular treatise on the astrolabe for his son, a copy of which you can find online. The modern calendar, closer in toward the center, is based on 1974, but this is close enough since it takes centuries for precession to change enough to worry about.

Near the center, several Saints’ Days are noted.

Thus, there’s a lot of information, but most of it’s familiar. Another pointing device called the alidade is placed on the back, which is similar to the ruler on the front except it has either pinholes or notches used to sight in the altitude of the chosen star or landmark, if being used for surveying.

The Rete

scan-astrolabe-rete-Labels copy

Figure 4. The Rete

The rete comprises the main component of a planisphere, i.e., a stereographic projection of the celestial sphere on a flat surface. Polaris is at the center with several constellations included with the brighter stars emphasized.

The outer ring represents the Tropic of Capricorn, the one in the center, the Equator, and the innermost ring, the Tropic of Cancer. The hours of Right Ascension are shown along the circumference as well.

A diagram of the annual path of the Sun, a.k.a. ecliptic, is offset from the center and includes markings for the signs and degrees of the tropical zodiac.

For a homemade astrolabe, the rete is printed on a sheet of clear transparency which allows the stars to be superimposed on the mater. Obviously, in ancient times, that wasn’t available, their solution not only innovative but artistic as well. The rete, like most of the other components, would be constructed of brass, but numerous areas cut away so you could see the mater underneath.

Most astrolabes were carefully crafted precision instruments which were much larger than the homemade version, allowing for a more accurate position determination, but nonetheless, a relatively accurate reading is possible with a homemade version, a source of which is included in the resource listing.  The ancient Turkish astrolabe in Figure 5 shows the mater and rete on the front and calendar and alidade on the back.  Note the incredible artistry and workmanship of this 17th Century device.

Planetary Position

To determine the position of a planet, use its relationship to the Fixed Stars on the rete.  By rotating the rete so that the position of the planet is on the horizontal axis, i.e., zero degrees, then following that line to the tropical zodiac on the ecliptic circle, to determine its position. The ruler provides its declination.

Telling Time

This process is relatively simple and shows the genius of using Earth’s position combined with celestial alignments to determine the time of day.

  1. First, using the back of the astrolabe, find the current date and note the corresponding zodiacal degree of the Sun.
  2. Next, select a specific star visible in the night sky that’s represented on the rete.
  3. Using the back of the astrolabe, align the device’s horizon line with the visible horizon and use the alidade to measure its altitude. (Warning: This could be the most

    Figure 6. Sighting in the altitude with the alidade.

    difficult part of the process. Furthermore, in many cases the visible horizon is not the actual horizon due to elevation, buildings, trees, mountains, and so forth. If nothing else, consider that the Moon appears to be, on average, a half-degree across, or approximately the width of your thumb, which you can use to approximate the altitude.)

  4. Identify the star on the front of the astrolabe (rete).
  5. Move the rete so the altitude you measured of the star matches the azimuth scale behind it.
  6. Align the rule on the rete with the zodiacal position for the Sun for that day.
  7. The rule will point to the time represented on the outer rim of the mater, indicated by a letter. (Don’t forget to adjust for Daylight Savings Time.)

If you know any two of the variables (date, time, rete star position), you can always solve for the third.


The innovative talents of the ancients who invented this device provide a new appreciation for their knowledge of the heavens, Earth, and their celestial relationships.

Even more astounding, and perhaps even a progenitor or technological cousin of the astrolabe, is the antikythera mechanism, an invention attributed by researchers to Aristotle.  It included the positions of the Moon and planets using a complex system of gears and pins that compensated for their elliptical orbits, plus had the ability to predict when eclipses would occur.  Researchers believe it was lost when General Marcellus sacked Syracuse, then surfaced later via the Byzantine Empire (500 A.D.) where it was most likely the inspiration for Persian astrologers to reinvent the astrolabe, then bring it to Spain in the 13th century via the Moors.

During the 14th century Renaissance, sophisticated gear trains came back to drive astronomical clocks found in various European cities such as Strasbourg, France and Prague, Czech Republic.  The sophistication of these devices demonstrates the knowledge of celestial mechanics and engineering possessed by past civilizations, tangible testimonials to man’s ingenuity, long before such calculations became the domain of application programmers creating smartphone apps.


Directions for Making an Astrolabe


Some Places to Buy Astrolabes



Video on How to Use an Astrolabe


Additional Information

http://www.chronos-manufaktur.de/en/astrolabes_principle.htm (Includes the TED video plus additional resource information)


Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astrolabe

“Building a Model Astrolabe” by Dominic Ford, Journal of the British Astronomical Association, 122, 1, 2012, https://in-the-sky.org/astrolabe/index.php

“Western Astrolabes” by Roderick and Marjorie Webster, Copyright 1998, Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum, 1300 South lake Shore Drive, Chicago, Illinois 60605

Picture Credits

Figure 1: Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike License, By Rama – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.0 fr, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7294462

Figures 2 – 4:  (c) Dominic Ford, 2013, https://in-the-sky.org/astrolabe/index.php

Figures 5a & b: Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike License, By Pom² – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4039477. Description: Astrolabe planisférique Mère et tympan : Turquie ottomane, 1098 H / 1686-1687 Araignée: maghreb, vers 1850 Laiton à décor gravé et incisé D. 10,2cm Paris, musée de l’Institut du monde arabe, AI 86-45 Legs Destombes

Figure 6: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Astrolabe

Copyright (c) 2016 by Marcha Fox, All Rights Reserved


Leo? Here’s your constellation | EarthSky.org

If you’ve never seen Leo, here’s your chance and directions for finding it. Leo is one constellation that is so true to its name you can usually figure it out, anyway. You can actually “see” it’s a lion.  🙂

Late March, April and May are superb months for identifying Leo the Lion. How to spot it, its history, and the telescopic wonders in this region of the sky.

Source: Leo? Here’s your constellation | EarthSky.org

EWG’s 2016 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce

Great guide for which produce items are the best and worst for pesticides, etc.

Check out EWG’s ‘Dirty Dozen’ and ‘Clean 15’ lists to help decided when you should splurge for organic and when you can save money by buying conventional fruits and vegetables.

Source: EWG’s 2016 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce

Moon in Winter Circle on April 12 | EarthSky.org

This is an excellent way to identify these major stars and the constellations they’re associated with.

You can notice a circular pattern of bright stars around tonight’s moon. In the Northern Hemisphere, we call these stars the Winter Circle.

Source: Moon in Winter Circle on April 12 | EarthSky.org

Diet Can Treat Most Common Cat Ailments | petMD

Pet diseases as well as human diseases can often be controlled or even prevented with proper nutrition!

Pets Best insurance Services recently published a list of the ten most common diseases in their insured cats for the last ten years. The best part, with a little creative thinking all ten can be treated with diet. Learn more.

Source: Diet Can Treat Most Common Cat Ailments | petMD

Some Benefits of Backstories


As an author you’re probably already familiar with backstories.  These may reside nowhere but inside your head, but in order to develop authentic characters and plots, they need to exist.  Even if a character has amnesia, such as Jane Doe in the popular TV program Blindspot, he or she needs to have a past.  Life experiences, even for fictitious characters, are what make people interesting, provide motivation and bring out their personality.  As an author, if you don’t know this about your character, it’s going to make it more difficult to tell his story.  Dialog and action may be stilted or artificial without knowing what makes him tick.

If you’re having difficulty getting into a character, talk to him or her to find out more about their background.  You might be surprised what you’ll discover.  Character interviews are common these days in blogs, which further demonstrate this principle.  Talking about a character with other writers or your beta readers can bring out all sorts of great ideas as well.  If you get stuck, try this out.  I can have as much fun brainstorming with other writers about their current WIP as I can with my own, whether it involves character motivation or plot development.  Backstories are also great practice for new authors not only to develop their cast but their writing style as well.

It’s worth noting, however, that you shouldn’t confuse your readers by giving unimportant characters a name.  If you do, they’ll wonder later what happened to so and so.  The general rule is that any character who doesn’t contribute to the plot doesn’t need to be there, anyway, except in the case of certain group situations, like extras in a movie.  If they’re important enough to deserve a name, then they should have a backstory, no matter how simple.

For main characters, these backstories tend to come out in the course of the story to a greater or lesser degree, but not always so much for minor characters.  However, if you find a detailed backstory developing for a minor character, chances are he/she/it has something interesting to say.  You’ve undoubtedly noticed how various sit-coms have had spinoffs over the years, typically when a minor character becomes interesting enough to have his or her own program.  One that comes to mind is Frasier, which evolved from Cheers.  Another example would be the ewok stories that evolved from Star Wars.

It used to be that backstories were useful to the writer, but often sat in a file that never saw the light of day.  Now that ebooks are so popular and relatively easy to produce, they can serve a useful purpose for keeping readers and fans engaged, either as your full-length novel develops, between books in a series or even to add additional depth to a story that’s already out there.  Who knows?  It could evolve into another full-length story as you dive into what makes a character tick.  This is often how series and trilogies are born, when there’s a lot more to tell.  Fans who become attached to a character love to hear more about them.  And these are not always limited to the main ones.  How many movies have you seen where one of the supporting actors grabs your attention?  You never know who another person will connect with or for what reason.

Since this background information is often already written up, or could be relatively easily if it’s parked in your brain, it’s worth it to do some editing and get it into ebook form.  Print form works, too, since these books are usually short and make great giveaways or ultra-inexpensive samples.  As expected, the cover is the most expensive element of a book, so they might not be as cheap as you’d expect, but usually your cost will be around $2.  For example, my Star Trails Compendium, which is 135 pages long, costs me $2.48 while The Sapphiran Agenda is only 29 pages but $2.15.

Backstories work well for giveaways and teasers, both before and after a book is released.  My Star Trails Tetralogy series has two, which are free on Smashwords and its outlets and 99c on Amazon.  The Star Trails Compendium comprises all the terms, definitions and cultural background information for the series while The Sapphiran Agenda is a true backstory for a minor character, Thyron, who’s a flora peda telepathis, i.e. telepathic walking plant.  Many readers noted he was their favorite, though at least one found him annoying, demonstrating how you never know how they’ll be accepted.  Thyron has at least one more story to tell which I hope to have out soon.

Put backstories to work for you to gain new fans, retain old ones, and provide short samples of your writing style.  Short reads are popular these days as well, even having their own category on Amazon, which further increases their appeal and potential for finding new readers.  Whether you’re in the middle of a lengthy novel, between books or perhaps stuck with a case of writer’s block, these gems can be fun and easy to write and provide a means to maintain contact with your existing fan base.  If you need ideas or examples, feel free (literally and figuratively) to check mine out at the links below.

StarTrailsCompendium copy

The Star Trails Compendium

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00005]

The Sapphiran Agenda

Top image copyright 123RF


Cat That Swallowed More Than a Dozen Hair Ties Saved After Emergency Sugery | petMD

This is so true!  My cat, Ophelia, nearly died after eating a piece of a leather shoelace.

Hair ties always seem to have a way of disappearing.

Source: Cat That Swallowed More Than a Dozen Hair Ties Saved After Emergency Sugery | petMD

Laser cloaking to hide Earth from aliens? | EarthSky.org

Actually, I think this is too little, too late.  LOL.


If we wanted to hide Earth from alien civilizations, could we do it? Apparently, we could, according to new work by two scientists at Columbia University.

Source: Laser cloaking to hide Earth from aliens? | EarthSky.org