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The first two videos in my Learn Tarot series on YouTube are online! If you've always wanted to learn how to read Tarot, the time is NOW.

Best Tarot Decks for Beginners
If you want to read Tarot cards, you'll need two things: A deck of Tarot cards and a blank journal. This video shows a side-by-side comparison of the two decks I recommend for new students.

Deciphering Your First Tarot Deck
Once you have a Tarot deck, you'll need to quickly determine which card is which. Here is a quick trip through the two major parts of the Tarot and a little homework exercise to help you recognize every card at a glance.

If you enjoy the videos, please like them on YouTube. And if you really like them, share them.

Rough transcripts of the videos will be posted to the Files section of our Facebook group "Oracle Club: Improv Intuitive Arts." If you're not already a member, send me a Facebook request and I'll add you right away!

It's My Party And I'll Scry If I Want To

Operation "It's My Party And I'll Scry If I Want To" is in its planning stages. We have a venue. We have some workshops sketched out. (How to *really* understand Court Cards, How to use Lenormand with Tarot, Astrological Correspondences for the Major Arcana). Stay tuned!

The Minchiate Tarot by Brian Williams

It breaks my heart that this deck did not get the love and attention it deserved when it was published by Destiny Books/Inner Traditions International in 1999. Minchiate decks are quite rare and the historical work that Williams did in the accompanying book to this deck was extraordinary. Some faulted the deck for being too bland, while others voiced disappointment over the scant divinatory meanings in the deck's accompanying book. For my own part, I found that the deck was physically unwieldy; 97 slickly laminated cards are a lot to shuffle when you have small hands. The deck incorporates most of what we would recognize as a standard Tarot deck, plus cards representing each of the twelve signs of the Zodiac, a card for each of the four classical elements, and cards representing the virtues of faith, hope, charity, and prudence.

I did a simple 5 card Past/Present/Future spread, asking the cards how I should use them. (Yes, you can ask a deck how it should be used.) The first two cards represent the past. The middle one represents the present, and the last two represent the future. From left to right the cards are Five of Cups, The Fool, Eight of Coins, Nine of Staves, Leo.

The Past
Five of Cups. The card of mourning aptly describes the past situation. Williams died in 2002 and three of his decks were not well received commercially by the Tarot community: The Po-Mo, this Minchiate deck, and the Ship of Fools. That said his traditional-looking Renaissance Tarot was quite popular, as was some of his non-Tarot works.
The Fool. Williams' last published deck, Ship of Fools was a particularly challenging deck for the Tarot community. Every card had a Fool on it and the artwork was done as simple line drawings to evoke woodcuts. I know only two other people who own that deck. (And one of them confessed that she bought it on sale.)

The Present
Eight of Coins. Skill and mastery of material. I've already mentioned that the companion book to the deck is amazing. I believe this card is saying that now is the time to reintroduce this deck to the world. The current Tarot market is much more accepting of unique and non-traditional artwork.

The Future
Nine of Staves. Culmination of ambition. The Minchiate Tarot is, I believe, Williams' most important Tarot work. He was at the height of his skills as both a historian and an artist for this project.
Leo. This card indicates to me that the deck should be brought before the public again and that this time it will find an appreciative audience.

So what do you think? Do any of you own this deck (or other decks by Brian Williams)? Is it time to start a petition to get the Minchiate Tarot back in print?

No graphing calculators allowed?!?

It was surprising to me to find out that graphing calculators are NOT ALLOWED at UTD. At least that's what it says on the syllabus for my MATH 1316 Trigonometry class.

Damn. I was really looking forward to using Bruce's old graphing calculator. I consider it my Artifact (Warehouse 13), my good luck charm, my Grad school student pacifier. And they say I noe can haz. Waaaah!


I looked at some of the low-end Texas Instruments models, but I found the wobbly, crooked keys very distracting. The high-end is the TI-36X Pro Scientific Calculator. The reviewers on Amazon.com confirm that most universities do not allow graphing calculators and they highly recommend the 36X Pro. Before I actually purchase one though, I want to see/paw/poke at one in a retail store. Tomorrow I will take a trip to the Campus bookstore to see if they have any in stock. (I have to go there for textbooks anyway.) If they don't, then I'm off to Staples.

Parking permit and course registration

More stressful to me than schoolwork is finding parking on campus. To easy my nerves, I bought the fancy, super expensive parking pass ($211) that will allow me (space permitting) to park in the coveted Orange spots after 5:00 pm and any Extended, Green, and Gold spots any time.

To give you some idea as to what that means, the Orange spots are right next to the buildings. The only thing better than Orange is Purple. Purple spaces are very few and reserved for faculty. Probably tenured faculty. Lucky bastards!

Green and Gold spaces are reasonably close to the campus buildings, while the Extended areas are far away from human contact. There is always parking for those willing to walk, but I sure as hell ain't gonna do it in 90+ degree heat when I'm wearing heels. Aff that.

After waiting on pins and needles for my official letter of acceptance to UTD (which arrived an hour before the general grad student orientation -- grrrr!), I'm pleased to report that someone somewhere finally flipped the switch to allow me to register electronically for undergraduate classes. Grad students can add undergraduate classes without advisor approval. But until just now, I was not able to access that part of Galaxy (UTD's online registration tool).

Unfortunately, the two math classes that I really want have a test prerequisite. That will require permission from a real live person. Hopefully my advisor will clear that for me when I show her my framed B.A. diploma and transcripts from UC Riverside on Tuesday. I don't want to take placement tests. I'm still suffering from post-traumatic GRE stress.

So no College Algebra (MATH 1314) and Trigonometry (MATH 1316) for me yet. The morning sessions I wish to take are nearly full, so I might end up taking one of them in the afternoon. That means finding parking on campus twice a day, on Mondays/Wednesdays/Fridays. That would suck, but that is why I bought the fancy Orange parking permit.

The good news is that I successfully registered for Introduction to Programing (CS 1325). The class meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays. No possible conflict with the Monday/Wednesday/Friday math classes, even if I get a weird section that starts in the afternoon. Hooray!


I got accepted to grad school!

It's not official until I get the paper letter and accept online, but that's a formality. I got accepted to The University of Texas at Dallas' Electrical Engineering Graduate Program!

Yes, and this is even after I totally blew the Quantitative Reasoning portion of the GRE. I really thought that I had no chance of attending school after that. But as my boyfriend Bruce said to me, maybe schools are looking for mature students with very good communication skills. (I aced the essay and verbal sections of the test.)

Grad school orientation for future engineers is Tuesday, August 21. That's only a few weeks away! I must have been the last person accepted into the program.


For Science! Muah-ha-ha!

I had a really nice long lunch of Pho with my friend Michelle on Thursday. Michelle is the only woman I know with a college degree in science. She works in a blood lab down in San Antonio. I had warned her in advance that my concept of laboratories was limited to what I learned from Bugs Bunny cartoons. She gave me a grand tour of her lab.

First off, there was no blinking neon sign that read "EVIL SCIENTIST - BOO!" And while there were no open flasks of colored water boiling over Bunsen burners, there were two sealed containers filled with two different solvents that fed into a top-of-the-line mass spectrometer. Michelle programs what percentage of each solvent goes into the machine. (I believe she was looking for Vitamin B in particular that day.) It takes up to 12 hours to gently separate the part of the blood she needs to test from the rest of the sample. The lab is also equipped with a nitrogen generator, and has a workstation equipped with a fume hood. She uses the nitrogen to force blood serum through a sieve.

Once you know what the machinery is and what it does, it's actually a very simple procedure. Refrigerate blood. Separate with nitrogen & sieve to get blood serum. Fill plastic tray with tubes of serum (2 blanks, 4 controls, followed by the actual testing samples). Seal tray and put it into spectrometer. Set the controls and adjust the range for what you are looking for. Send the waste to the biowaste bucket. Read results. Print and distribute results to doctors.

Michelle's one of the few people in the whole area who has this fancy (very expensive) machinery in her lab and knows how to use it. (Can you say job security? Hell yes.) And since the process takes 12 hours, she has a fresh-out-of-college minion who works the night shift. I didn't get to meet the minion, but Michelle has a very high opinion of him. "He made the mistake of majoring in bio, but luckily he minored in chemistry. That got him the job here."

Michelle is very supportive about me going back to school and getting a degree in the sciences. (She went to a small university herself, so she understood why I prefer UT Dallas over UT Austin.) She also says that I will love calculus ("The lights will go on and you'll realize that everything else you learned in math was leading up to it."), and that organic chemistry rocks ("It's p-chem that sucks.") She gave the big thumbs up to engineering. Any sort of engineering. "Because that is something that leads to doing something in the real world." Just before I left, she said that she would write me a letter of recommendation...which was completely unexpected, but totally cool of her to offer. :-)

My next steps are to sign up for Physics, Chem and Math at Austin Community College, and then contact my old place of employment and talk with Real Live Engineers. I know there are at least two female engineers there, but I don't know if they are electrical engineers or something else. I'm not discounting other flavors of engineering, mind you. It's just that I already have an interest in EE.

Speaking of other flavors of engineering, Monday I have a workday with Edwin. He is a board member at large for Scare For A Cure, an interactive haunted house event that raises money for local charities. Edwin is crazy-smart. He's written articles that were published in MAKE magazine and has a pyro license. He manufactures all sorts of weird devices and special effects. You need to cast a realistic rubber hand? He can do that. You need a festering wound that fizzes for your zombie outfit? He can do that. You need giant tubes of fire that will shoot flames to various heights according to the volume of music being played? He can do that. Oh yes, he will be very happy to do that.

If anyone has a blinking neon sign reading "MAD SCIENTIST - BOO!" it is certainly Edwin.
As part of my Year of Commitment, which includes committing to Texas, I just applied for a TxTag. Never again will I be stuck in Round Rock-Austin traffic! It takes me 10 minutes on access roads just to get on I-35. With the SH 130 pretty much at my doorstep, that's an instant time savings.

And when I'm in Dallas, you bet I'm going to use the toll roads. I've sat on SH 75 for 40 minutes trying to go through downtown Dallas on a Friday night. It's an experience that I don't wish to repeat.

Many Texans have never paid for toll roads so the concept of paying for what they've always had for "free" is new and unwelcome. But that's the trade-off for not having state income tax and (outside of Travis County) low property taxes. There's less money for schools and roads. So if you want an education and a road to get you there on time, you will need to open up your pocketbook and pay for it.

Panic in the park

So me and my hoop troupe got together last Saturday for a dress rehearsal. We looked great together. I think we've got the whole "Birth of the Cool" look down for the Blanton Museum of Art event.

During our chat, I noticed Michelle looking somewhere up and to the side of me. "What is it?" I asked. "Is there a big bee by me?" "Oh no," she said, "I just noticed that this is the first time I've ever seen your hair pulled back so I can see your real hair color. I see grey! It looks nice!"


And then a big bee actually did land on me.


Even hoopgirls get the blues

There are some days when even a nice sunny hooping session with friends in the park and a pleasant lunch over Tarot cards isn't enough to lift my spirits.

I hit my first hooping plateau last month and I am feeling major angst about it. I've got the basics down and I've been adding "flair" (frex, high kicks when doing donut step-throughs) and "flow" (smooth transitions and constant speed) to them. But new material like rolling the hoop off of my back, or smoothly reversing directions, or vertical hooping, is eluding me. The only new thing I can do is toss the hoop straight up during vertical-off-the body moves.

To put this in non-hooping terms: I can walk forward, and I can walk forward very fast, but I cannot skip or run.

I should find a video like this inspiring, uplifting, and a whole host of happy words that end in "ing" -- but today it only makes me sad.

I want to be so much more than I am. And my body is not cooperating. :-/



Me - Short red hair

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