Plant Growing in Man

Doctor finds plant growing inside man’s lung

Reminds me of a recent horror novel entitled The Ruins, by Scott Smith (made into a movie). In this book, the origin of the evil plant is never made clear, although a tantalizing hint is given: something about the indigenous people having a legend that a people made of wood were created before human beings were created.

I believe this is a reference to the Mayan creation myth, in which the gods had created humans in three tries. The first attempt was with mud, and was an immediate failure. The second attempt was with wood and was more promising, but ultimately the gods decided to scrap this attempt and destroy the People of Wood. The third attempt was with corn, which was successful — leading to us. In The Ruins, it is hinted that the evil plant is a survivor of the People of Wood. Resentful of the People of Corn, this last surviving remnant of the People of Wood wishes to have revenge. I am sure that Mr. Smith was referencing the Mayan creation myth.

I am currently listening to an audio course entitled Myth in Human History. (If you’d like to purchase it but it isn’t on sale right now, just wait; The Teaching Company rotates sales on their titles.)


People of the Wood reminds me of the element Wood in the Chinese Five-Element system.

And People of Corn reminds me of Stephen King’s short story Children of the Corn.

Colors of Magic, Especially Yellow Magic

For K.C.

According to Chinese medicine, when the five elements (water, wood, fire, metal, wind?) are out of balance, as manifested thru organ dysfunctions, disease results.

Hmm, I’ve heard of something called “five agents theory,” I believe with respect to ancient Chinese folklore. I wonder whether it’s related to the five elements. Maybe it’s the same thing.

In the card game Magic The Gathering (MTG), there are five colors. Maybe there’s a mapping between the five colors and the five elements: blue:water, green:wood, red:fire, black:metal, white:wind? (Speaking of which, if you see the movie Sorcerer’s Apprentice, watch the background for Drake Stone’s Magic The Gathering posters. Apparently, Mr. Stone has his own MTG cards. Also, drake = “dragon”.)


Here is a 1978 paper by H. Nickel (And Behold, A White Horse… Observations on the Colors of the Horses of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Metropolitan Museum Journal 12:179-183) which mentions the five-color system of ancient China. It would’ve been interesting if Magic The Gathering had used the same five colors as the ancient Chinese system, but alas no: instead of white, blue, black, red, and green, the Chinese had white, blue, black, red, and yellow. The following table shows the mapping from cardinal direction to color in the ancient Chinese color system.

Cardinal Direction Associated Color
South Red
North Black
East Blue
West White
Center Yellow

As you know, in MTG each color is associated with a general theme. White is associated with righteousness, law, and protection; blue with the mind (especially wisdom and intellect), time, and deception; black with death, decay, and greed; red with chaos, impulsivity, fire, and lightning; and green with nature and life. It’s fun to wonder what the theme of yellow magic would have been, if there had ever been such a thing in MTG! (Maybe yellow magic would map onto colorless mana, which is associated with artifacts in MTG?)

(As an aside, in the MTG color pentagram, each color is positioned opposite its two natural antagonistic colors. Thus, e.g., white’s natural antagonists are red and black.)

The ancient Chinese (at least, the emperor Wang Mang in the year 9 A.D.) favored certain colors. H. Nickel writes:

Thus, the emperor seated on his throne faced the south, where the sun was brightest and highest in the heaven. Consequently, the South was considered to be the foremost of the cardinal directions, and therefore the vanguard of the “Generals in Charge of the Enforcement of Imperial Power” was clad in the red of the South direction and mounted on red sorrels.

H. Nickel goes on to write:

In 201 B.C., the Han emperor, Kao, personally led a great campaign against the Hung-no… The finishing touch in this cosmological color scheme was that the center was occupied by the hapless Chinese army with their emperor, whose sacred color was yellow.


It’s fun to wonder what the theme of yellow magic would have been, if there had ever been such a thing in MTG!

Yellow Magic, Inc.

Yellow Magic Orchestra

Yellow Magic Cleaner

The King In Yellow (Victorian gothic horror by Robert W. Chambers, which influenced H.P. Lovecraft)

Yellow Lobster (yummy!)

Yellow Submarine

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker


Addendum (08-01-10): Native Americans also had mappings from the four cardinal directions to colors. I think that the Cherokee color system is particularly interesting (here’s another source):

Cardinal Direction Associated Color
South White
North Blue
East Red
West Black

The reason this is interesting is because it’s very similar to the Chinese color system — only, the colors have been rotated ninety degrees counterclockwise. I.e., the two systems are π/4 out of phase, like sine and cosine, and therefore their cross-correlation is zero. (Wow, that was geeky.)


Addendum (08/02/10):

It’s interesting to compare the MTG color pentagram with this color pentagram of the five elements. Here’s another diagram of the Chinese five-element system, courtesy of Wikipedia:

Five Element System

This time, there doesn’t seem to be a pure phase shift, like we saw when we compared the Cherokee vs. the Chinese color system.

Another interesting thing about the five-element pentagram above is the dual cyclicity: there’s a creative cycle as well as a destructive cycle. This dual cyclicity reminds me of the Outer God Ubbo-Sathla, a creation of Clark Ashton Smith. In his creative cycle, Ubbo-Sathla acts as the source of all life on Earth. And he is destined, in his destructive cycle, to someday resorb all life. (I will write more on this intriguing Outer God later.)

The destructive cycle is also reminiscent of a certain game.


Addendum (08/07/10):

The Five Elementsā€¦ Which One Are You?
(Myself, I’m primarily Water, with Metal a strong second. Definitely NOT Wood.)

The Five Colors of Magic: Which One Are You?
(I’m most definitely blue.)


Addendum (08/08/10): How about… purple magic?!


Addendum (08/08/10):

Wikipedia’s article on the cardinal directions includes a table showing how various cultures mapped colors to the cardinal directions. Apparently, the Turkic system has the same five colors as in Magic The Gathering: black, blue, red, white, and green. (Note that the Wikipedia article’s reference for the Turkic system does not seem to confirm this!)

Hmm, according to this web page, the Cherokee system also included green for the center. So the Cherokee system also maps to the five colors in MTG.


Addendum (08/08/10): See also the “five-factor model” of personality, sometimes called “Big Five.” My understanding is that the “big five” were determined using a multivariate method called factor analysis (not principal components analysis, or independent components analysis?).

According to this, the Big Five have been labeled as: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism. How would you map the five personality types to the five colors of MTG?

Take the Big Five test.


Addendum (08/08/10): Above, I had given a link to the old Rock-Paper-Scissors game. I just discovered that this game has been extended to include two new “weapons”: lizard and Spock. Now with five “weapons,” it forms a nice pentagram.

Here’s a diagram showing a 7-weapon version of RPS (although it’s captioned “Rock Paper Scissors Lizard Spock”).

Here’s a 15-weapon version.

And a 101-weapon version!


Addendum (01-15-11): I saw this news story about the world’s foremost expert at vomiting. I wondered what his name would be if he were to be a super-hero. Then I remembered that black dragons in Dungeons and Dragons spit acid. So, his name could be Black Dragon, or perhaps Ancalagon.

Then I remembered that the evil “chromatic” dragons in Dungeons and Dragons came in the following five colors: black, white, red, green, and blue. Just like the colors of magic in Magic The Gathering. Here’s a list of the five chromatic dragons and their breath weapons, along with some other characteristics.

Color Breath Armor Class Hit Dice Damage / Attack Size Alignment
Black Acid 3 6-8 1-4 / 1-4 / 3-18 30′ Long Chaotic Evil
Blue Lightning 2 8-10 1-6 / 1-6 / 3-24 42′ Long Lawful Evil
Green Chlorine Gas 2 7-9 1-6 / 1-6 / 2-20 36′ Long Lawful Evil
Red Fire -1 9-11 1-8 / 1-8 / 3-30 48′ Long Chaotic Evil
White Cold / Frost 3 5-7 1-4 / 1-4 / 2-16 24′ Long Chaotic Evil

Amah and the Eleven Brothers

(Source: A.D.)

KAIMAH1 was married to a well-to-do merchant, and lived a comfortable life. She lived in a big house, and had eleven sons. But still Kaimah was not happy. For she wished very much to have a daughter.

And so Kaimah made a pact with God. “Please, God,” she prayed, “I very much want to have a daughter. Please give me a daughter. I would give up my eleven sons just to have one daughter.”

And it came to pass that a daughter was born to Kaimah. Now she had eleven sons and one daughter! And she hoped that God would not remember the pact.

But God did not forget.

For the day came that one son went on a voyage overseas, but never came back, lost at sea. Other sons were sent to look for their lost brother, but they never returned, also lost at sea. Yet other sons were sent out to look for their lost brothers; but they, too, never returned. In the end, all eleven brothers were lost at sea. And Kaimah was left with only one daughter. This was Amah.

Amah married and had one son and four daughters.2 And from then on, Amah always warned her family to distrust water, and to avoid travel on boats:

        Fear the sea, that devours your kin. Fear the sea!


1 Kaimah is A.D.’s great-grandmother, and Amah is her grandmother.

2 One of the daughters was A.D.’s mother. Another was V.T.’s mother.

Published in: on 9 June 2010 at 7:58 am  Leave a Comment  

Safeway Nicknames in the DC Area

After moving closer to the DC area, I discovered that the local Safeways have nicknames. I happen to live close to the Underground Safeway. Intrigued, I tried doing searches on the Internet for other nicknamed Safeways in the area, but I didn’t find any.

That was back in 2003, and since then much more information on local Safeway nicknames can be found online. The other day, I repeated my web search and found this page on the Gawker website, as well as this page on the Yelp website. Especially helpful was this 2004 post on the DCist website (which led to this online interactive map), as well as this 2009 Prince of Petworth blog post.

Here is a list that I have compiled from these sources. You’ll notice that the nicknames tend to use adjectives that start with the letter ‘S’, for alliteration. I have included links to Google Maps’ Street View to show what the Safeway looks like from the outside, and have excluded nicknames that don’t seem to have stuck, or that don’t seem to be established in the local folklore quite yet. (I’m filing this under “Folklore and Literature.”)

Nickname Location
Secret Safeway 1800 20th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009. So named because it’s hard to find unless you know where to look. It isn’t even labeled “Safeway” from the outside, so I had difficulty finding it on Google Maps’ Street View.
Really Secret Safeway 4203 Davenport Street Northwest, Washington, DC, 20016. Another hidden Safeway.
Senior Safeway 2550 Virginia Ave NW, Washington, DC 20037. I had trouble finding this one on Google Maps’ Street View. It may be buried within the Watergate Complex; it is also known as the Watergate Safeway.
Social Safeway 1855 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC 20007. This seems to be one of the best-established Safeway nicknames. Looks like the Google Maps Street View van caught this Safeway in the process of renovations. Possibly also called Singles Safeway.
Soviet Safeway 1701 Corcoran St NW, Washington, DC 20009. Another well-established nickname.
Spanish Safeway 1747 Columbia Road NW, Washington, DC 20009. Also known as the Sandinista Safeway or the Sketchy Safeway, but as far as I can tell Spanish Safeway seems to be the most generally used monicker.
Stinky Safeway 3830 Georgia Avenue Northwest, 20011. An unfortunate nickname.
Underground (Subterranean) Safeway 1525 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA 22209. The cashiers here are really nice people.
UnSafeway 1601 Maryland Ave NE, Washington, DC 20002. Also known as the Sixties Safeway, and possibly the Saigon Safeway. Apparently defunct as of last month. šŸ˜¦

The information in this list isn’t written in stone, and has some associated variability/uncertainty. For example, more than one Safeway might be called by the same nickname. Some nicknames might not be well-established. And some Safeways are closed (e.g., the UnSafeway), while new Safeways are opened (e.g., this recent post proposes a new Swanky Safeway).

It’s not surprising that other cities have their own nicknamed Safeways. For example, there is (or at least there used to be; UnSafeways tend to get shuttered?) an UnSafeway in Seattle.