TAURUS (April 20-May 20): Writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, columnist Jon Carroll told the story of educational activist Diane Mintz. When she began tutoring elementary school kids in the Bay Area's poorest neighborhoods, she was shocked to realize how thoroughly poverty had shrunken their horizons. Many had never glimpsed the Golden Gate Bridge, a wonder of the world that's a few miles from their homes. Some didn't even know this marvel existed. "Their mental map of their larger community was pinched and drab," wrote Carroll. On occasion, those of us who aren't so destitute suffer from a similar diminishment. For example, I suspect that many of you Tauruses are in danger of letting your vistas dwindle right now. As a pre-emptive antidote, I suggest you make pilgrimages to beautiful people and intriguing sights and exhilarating places that blow your mind in the best ways.
GEMINI (May 21-June 20): Ocean Dome is a huge indoor beach and water park on an island in Japan. Fabricated to create the ideal seaside conditions, it features artificial white sand and machine-generated waves that are high enough to surf. Air and water temperatures never waver from a comfortable range. There's an amusing irony about the place, though: Less than 1,000 feet away from its metal facade, there's an actual ocean and beach. Does this remind you of any situation in your own life, Gemini? It should. In my opinion, you'd get more enjoyment out of the real thing than the synthetic substitute.
CANCER (June 21-July 22): Thanks for being one of the 9.4 million readers who are making 2006 another record-breaking year for Free Will Astrology. The number of people turning to this column for guidance and amusement continues to climb. My Google ranking among astrology sites on the Web is holding steady at sixth in the world. Recently I also received the coveted Nostradamus Lifetime Achievement Award for Prophecy and Divination. Should I therefore ask for more money from everyone who publishes my column? I've decided against that because -- surprise! -- I'm quite happy with how everything's going. You, on the other hand, should think about raising your rates. Those of us who are born under the sign of Cancer the Crab are in a phase when it makes sense to acknowledge our accomplishments and make sure we're being compensated properly for them.
LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): "Sometimes it's not how good you are but how bad you want it," read the T-shirt of a guy buying a lottery ticket at the convenience store. While I don't think he was making the best use of that philosophy -- playing a game of chance heavily weighted against his success -- I do think it's a principle worth meditating on, especially for you right now, Leo. Your skill and understanding are certainly not irrelevant as you push to the next level of your quest, but they are less important than the intensity of your longing.
VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): "If you are going through hell, keep going," said Winston Churchill. Let that advice be your inspiration in the coming week, Virgo. But wait. Before you jump to conclusions about what I'm saying, know this: Your tests and trials will be far, far less hellish than the ordeals Churchill faced as he led England through World War II. It's true that you may feel a bit tortured in the heat of the moment, though. So don't you dare slow down to feel sorry for yourself or scream at the chaos-makers. Keep plodding forward, secure in my assurance that you'll cross the border and exit out of the infernal regions well before you're exhausted.
LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Elizabeth Bishop was determined to let each of her poems fully ripen before she published it. Rather than give her gifts to the world prematurely, she was willing to wait decades to make sure she had truly captured their diamond essence. I hope you're prepared to be as patient, Libra. You've been gestating a valuable labor of love, and it deserves to be blessed with the lavish totality of your careful attention before being unleashed.
SCORPIO (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): The Colorado Legislature tried to pass a law requiring public schools to put wholesome food in their vending machines. But the governor vetoed the bill, declaring that schools need the revenue from nutrient-free chips, sodas, and candy bars to finance their sports programs. Besides, he said, kids would much rather snack on junk food than the healthful fare. If you're faced with a similar choice this week -- whether to do what's good for you or else indulge your vices and seek out meaningless experiences that provide no fulfillment -- please go for the former option. The astrological omens suggest that this is a turning point, for better or worse, in your relationship with your bad habits.
SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): In 1993, my American friend Mark started playing music on the streets of Copenhagen. His parents regarded it as a tragedy. "This is what you do with the fine education we bought you?" they mourned. "What a waste!" grumbled his siblings and college friends. Mark was hurt, but didn't shrink from his mission, eventually expanding his open-air performances to Ireland and Holland. Thirteen years later, Mark has accumulated so much wealth from his gig that he has been able to buy homes in Ireland and Hawaii. Though he still busks part time, he spends nine months of the year writing books. He's your patron saint in the coming weeks, Sagittarius. May he inspire you to follow your dreams no matter how much that bothers the people who think they own you.
CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): Are you a force of nature right now, or are you a freak of nature? I think the truth is that you're a freaky force of nature. You're just about as anomalous as it's possible for a Capricorn to get, and yet you've also got the equivalent of a thunderstorm's energy at your command. The funny thing is, the two factors are related. Your eccentricity is feeding your power, and vice versa. My advice is to refrain from questioning and worrying about this unusual state of affairs, and instead just capitalize on the odd advantages you have at your disposal.
AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): This is a favorable time for you to conjure up an imaginary friend who also happens to be a muse. You can pretend that he or she is perfectly real, just invisible. Or you can fantasize that he or she is a mostly buried part of you that you rarely express, or maybe your ideal of what a friend should be. I urge you to give this ally a name. Visualize his or her vivid personality and appearance in detail. See the world through his or her eyes. Have dialogues, exchange confidential information, hold hands, and soak up the balm of your tender communion.
PISCES (Feb. 19-March 20): "Some of the most gorgeous animals on the planet are also the most toxic to eat," writes Carol Kaesuk Yoon in The New York Times. Iridescent butterflies and fluorescent frogs are among the beauties that fit this description. Many are downright poisonous, and others are just plain foul-tasting. Keep that in mind as a helpful metaphor during the coming weeks, Pisces. Attractive people and enticing invitations may not always be what they seem. Sometimes they may be exactly what they seem, however, which is why it's so important for you to be exceedingly discriminating. Enjoy the view for a while and get a sense of what's beneath the surface before you taste them. Here's this week's homework: Imagine you have time-traveled to one of your favorite places in the year 2020. What do you see? Tell me at