25 August 2008

This Is What Comes Out of Being a Hippie Nerd

It's funny how very different, but equally geeky, interests sometimes come together. I spent a lot of time last weekend setting up an environment for producing PDF natal charts (i.e. horoscopes) with LaTeX.

The first step was to get Astrolog working on my Mac. Astrolog is an old, but powerful command line astrology tool. Because of its age, it doesn't work on Mac OS X out of the box. I had to manually compile it after making a few changes to the makefile and sources. Google was a big help in getting it to work. I had to leave out X support, but I can live without it.

Next I discovered a LaTeX package for typesetting nice looking wheel charts, called horoscop. I think I actually first run into it while googling for info on how to get Astrolog to work on a Mac. What's more, the package is made by Matt Skala, the author of Bonobo Conspiracy! It uses Astrolog (or alternately Swiss Ephemeris) to calculate data for the charts.

Of course there were more obstacles to overcome. To get the most out of horoscop, I needed to install a font for astrological symbols. Installing fonts for TeX, if you've never done it before, is not entirely unlike trying to reach Mt Doom through a maze of orc-infested mountains. It involves copying certain files into the right places, editing certain configs and running certain commands. The problem was finding the right places for the files and the right config to edit, but in the end I had a working font.

Now I could proceed to work on a LaTeX template to draw a good looking chart with all the information I want. This took a lot of tweaking and learning about the features of the package. I'm pretty happy with the version I have now.

Astrology is a fairly recent interest for me, I've only been looking into it since last spring, more or less. Honestly, I've barely gotten started, and I've got a long way to go before I'd try to interpret anyone's birth chart.

I find astrology fascinating. No, I don't really literally believe that arbitrary positions of distant rocks or balls of gas affect peoples' lives. Like with Tarot, the symbols communicate with one's subconscious. It's the process of interpretation that really counts, not what is interpreted. And of course it also gives me an excuse to satisfy the nerd in me by playing around with LaTeX and other cool software.

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