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Chinese Etymology: Dr. Wieger's book

Here is a pdf copy of the 1916 book from the Jesuit missionary Dr. Léon Wieger, discussing Chinese etymology mostly based on the Shuowen (Etymological dictionary from the Han dynasty), but with some critical view of it.

Fascination reading, which debunks some myths. For example, 明 combines 囱 + 月, the moon light through the windows, but no sun! Uncle Hanzi confirms this.
He also proposes that 字, showing a child in the house, originally meant "give birth", because the 字 are complex characters considered as offspring of the 文, simple characters (see p298).

(click on the picture to open the pdf)

Link back Vietnamese and Chinese with Neo Nom

Neo-Nom a method to transcribe Vietnamese into modern Chinese characters, in order to immediately show the equivalences between the two languages. The aim is to help people learning either language to make connections with the other. It also indirectly draws connections with Japanese and Korean.

pdf here: Introduction to Neo-Nom

Tất cả mọi người sinh ra đều được tự do và bình đẳng về nhân phẩm và quyền lợi.

Continue reading...

Dashboard of suspicious corporations

In our world of increasingly virtual interactions, companies mastering the information technologies and networks are quickly gaining power at several levels. Here is a table to keep an eye on those folks.

A healthy rule is to split our personal information and dependencies across different firms, or none of them if you can afford!




Hardware, physical world






Google News

Search, Ads, Youtube

Gmail, hangout

Android, Apps, Map, Chrome

Servers, Car, Calico (bio engineering)





iOS, Safari, iLife, iWork, iCloud

Apple store, Apple Energy




WhatsApp, messenger




Alexa, Amazon studios


Cloud computing

Physical sales



Xbox, Bing seach

Skype, MSN, outlook, ex-hotmail

Windows, Office, Sharepoint, Linkedin



Yahoo news, Finance, Geoplanet, Answers

Yahoo search, Music, Movies

Yahoo mails

Flickr, Tumblr, Delicious

Yahoo Travel


Tongji web analytics, Hexun finance

Baidu search, knows, Encyclopedia, Music, Image


NetDisk, Map, Browser, Yi OS, Space

Qunar travel



Alibaba movies


Alibaba, Sesame credit rating

Alibaba, AliPay




QQ, WeChat

CRF credit rating, WeiYun, WeiBo


Xiao Mi





Phone, laptops, TV

Hua Wei



Phones, data centers, network

News Corporation

Fox News, National geographic, WallStreet journal

20th Century Fox






Disney, Marvel, LucasFilm, Pixar, Touchstone



Cinema, theme parks

Time Warner


HBO, Warner bros, Cinemax






Universal pictures, Focus





Meanwhile in China, the wondrous Social Credit System looms quietly. Here is the full text outline document in English and Chinese. The keyword to justify it is 诚信  ("honesty", translated here as "sincerity"), a word that Alibaba's champion Jack Ma has been emphasizing a lot in his speeches.

And to attack another weak spot, Alibaba's Ant Finance is starting a cooperation with the UN Environmental Program UNEP to build a platform for individual monitoring of greenhouse gas. A green pretext to monitor the people!

How many languages do you speak?

Here is an embarrassing and wonderful question! Language is about sharing, listening and talking, and that implies inviting the others to speak one of these languages, but crossing the thin line between sharing and showing off is quick…

A fair answer should quantitative, giving the gradual levels of mastery. For me it would be between 3 and 8. Mwaaahaha!

What is Life, Death, and Salvation?

A Bible reading session last month posed the question of the afterlife (Mt 22). After a long exploration of the topic, I came to think that it involves questioning the very definition of life and death themselves! Using my habit of emergent layers, applied to an individual person (cf. numeral symbol by Bernard Werber), I came out with this table to describe what it means to be alive or dead:

Evolution levels

State of Life

State of Death

5. Saint (spiritual)

Hope, Faith, Love

Despair, denial/betrayal, hate

4. Human (mental)

Personality, intelligence, humour

Madness, mental handicap

3. Animal (emotional)

Sensory and emotional reaction, desires

Lethargic, vegetative state

2. Plant (biological)

Biological life, health

Handicap, decease

1. Mineral (physical)

Body, physical presence


0. Others (vicarious)

Name, stories, cult, statue


This table matches the cardinal cycle and the 4 fields of education, with 2: sport for the body, 3: art for the heart, 4: science for the mind, and 5: wisdom for the soul. I also add a “zero” level which corresponds to our life (and survival!) through others: how we are known and remembered. With this table, it appears that death is often gradual: being handicapped, desperate, and ignored, already cripples the wholeness of our life. Often the death of the higher levels would cause the lower ones in turn to crumble. However we can also imagine the death of an unknown person, keeping quietly his wisdom and conscience till the end.

The above table may seem to over-analyse life and death, cutting it into thin nuances, but actually the Greek vocabulary of the New Testament also does so! One of my cousin underlined that in the Gospels there is a distinction between 3 forms of life: Bios: life of the body (2) and (3), Psyche: life of the mind (4), and Zoe: eternal life of the soul (5). We can also match these with the 3 loves: Eros of the body, Philia of the mind, and Agape of the soul. As I like to believe, vocabulary and grammar help with philosophy!

From the etymology angle, resurrection comes from the Latin "resurgere", "to spring up again", akin to "source" but without the idea of "origin". In Chinese 復活 is "return to life", in Vietnamese Phục sinh 復生 is "rebirth". In Greek Ανάσταση: "stand up". It sounds sometimes like a return to our previous life, or the start of a new one.

If we consider that, in the face of his death, a man’s salvation consist in keeping his life, it seems that most cultures tend to focus on the lower levels: a grave, a legend, a statue to remain in people’s head (0), and sometimes a mummy to keep the body. Then many religions and beliefs promise to restore the body (1), bring it back to physical life and health (2), enjoy a paradisaical existence of pleasures (3),  and optionally some grand revelations (4).

What if it were the other way around, eternal life through the higher levels? Simply survive as spirits (4), free from bodily life and heaviness, taking with us the most precious fruits of our soul (5). Like the butterfly leaving the caterpillar cocoon. In Christian context, the realization of divine salvation implies the irrelevance of hope and faith: only love is to remain.

Could this utlimate bliss scene also mean to abandon our individuality? Meeting face to face with God should be a fantastic love burst, surely calling for a fusion, following the example of the Trinity. That would mean that even our own self (4) fades out as we merge back into the source of light.

Even further, if this salvation leads to an eternal state of perfection, could time disappear? Time would mean motion and evolution, but hard to imagine a dynamic perfection lasting forever! It would necessary imply fluctuations around the optimum, and the absence of overall increase of excellence would mean terrible boredom for the spirits endowed with memory. Even if their memory were wiped regularly so that they may enjoy the same perfect (groundhog) day forever, that would be a kind of time-loop, not be so different from a mere interruption of time. Hard to imagine what could be existence without time, our intimate and yet mysterious life drug! We could be either without time (hit into a bliss wall the end of the road, just like the Big Bang sprung from nowhere), or beyond time, seeing it from above like a spiralling track from its beginning till its end.

Poème : Psaume 2 sur musique de Tallis

Le psaume 2 est particulier par son intensité et sa concision en 12 versets. Plusieurs mises en musiques ont été réalisées, et c'est la mélodie de Thomas Tallis qui m'a inspiré cette traduction versifiée :

  1. Pourquoi ce bruit dans les nations? Ces peuples aux projets vains ?
  2. Pourquoi les rois ont défié l’Éternel et son Oint ?
  3. Brisons, disent-ils, leurs liens, leurs chaînes ! Du joug, soyons sauvés!
  4. Mais Dieu dans les cieux se moque bien d’eux, de leur orgueil insensé.
  5. Puis il leur parle en sa colère, fureur et épouvante !
  6. C’est moi qui ai sacré mon roi, sur Sion, montagne sainte.
  7. Décret du Seigneur : Tu es mon fils, engendré en ce jour.
  8. Demande-le moi, je te donnerai les nations pour toujours.
  9. Sceptre de fer, tu les bris’ras, tel le vase du potier.
  10. Maintenant, rois, devenez sages ! L’instruction recevez !
  11. Servez l'Éternel avec crainte, tremblez de joie suprême.
  12. Embrassez le Fils, craignez sa colère. Heureux qui l’aime !

Voici le chant original, en anglais :

Another choir video , and here a cello version.

(1) Why fum'th in fight the Gentiles spite, in fury raging stout?
Why tak'th in hand the people fond, vain things to bring about?
(2) The Kings arise, the Lords devise, in counsels met thereto,
against the Lord with false accord, against His Christ they go.

(3) Let us they say break down their ray of all their bonds and cords
We will renounce that they pronounce their laws as stately lords
(4) But God of might in heaven so bright Shall laugh them all to scorn
The Lord on hie shall them defy they shall be once forlorn?

(9) With iron rod as mighty God, all rebels shalt thou bruse:
And breake them all in pieces small, as sherdes the potters use
(10) Be wise therfore ye kinges the more, Receive ye wisdomes lore:
Ye judges strong of right and wrong, advise you now before

(11) The Lorde in feare your service beare, with dread to him rejoyce:
Let rages be resist not ye, him serve with joyfull voyce
(12) The sonne kisse ye lest wroth he be, lose not the way of rest:
For when his ire is set on fire, who trust in hym be blest!


Voici enfin la flamboyante version de Heinrich Schutz , baroque, sur les paroles de la bible Luther :
(1) Warum toben die Heiden und die Leute reden so vergeblich?
(2) Die König im Lande lehnen sich auf und die Herren ratschlagen miteinander wider den Herren und seinen Gesalbten.
(3) Lasset uns zerreißen ihre Bande und von uns werfen ihre Seile.
(4) Aber der im Himmel wohnet lachet ihr. Und der Herr spottet ihr.
(5) Er wird einest mit ihnen reden in seinem Zorn und mit seinem Grimm wird er sie erschrecken.
(6) Aber ich habe meinen König eingesetzt auf meinem heilgen Berge Zion.
(7) Ich will von einer solchen Weise predigen, dass der Herr zu mir gesagt hat: Du bist mein Sohn, heut hab ich dich gezeuget.
(8) Heische von mir, so will ich dir die Heiden zum Erbe geben und der Welt Ende zum Eigentum.
(9) Du sollst sie mit einem eisern Zepter zerschlagen, wie Töpfe sollst du sie zerschmeißen.
(10) So lasst euch nun weisen, ihr Könige und lasst euch züchtigen, ihr Richter auf Erden.
(11) Dienet dem Herren mit Furcht und freuet euch mit Zittern.
(12) Küsset den Sohn, dass er nicht zürne und ihr umkommet auf dem Wege. Denn sein Zorn wird bald anbrennen. Aber wohl allen, die auf ihn trauen.

Compo : Stille Nacht

If you're preparing your Christmas choir, here is a colorful arrangement of the famous "Silent night" (Douce nuit):

Click on the picture to listen (to the ugly piano rendering)
The pdf score is here!

Ads, Adore, and Addict: cultural shifts

As media and trends move faster, our consumer societies sometimes undergo spectacularly quick transformations. I have recently noticed 3 notions where cultural conceptions worldwide have been toppled upside down: the consumer will “Adore”, will be “Addicted”, and Ads are here to know what you like and become viral.

I’m starting my story the way it came to me. Living in Vietnam, I partly witness the transition and contrast from pre-war generation (under French influence, respectful of Confucian and Buddhist traditions), post war generation (pro USSR, but still keeping Confucian and Buddhist as part of Vietnamese identity), and the young generations (embracing exhibitionist consumerism, iPhones selfies and hipster styles).

Throughout Buddhism, “passion” and “enthusiastic fascination” (迷, Mê) is considered evil as a source of suffering. It receives similar treatment in Plato’s philosophy. This word has a negative connotations in Chinese and Vietnamese (e.g. 迷信: superstition, 迷惑: confuse, 迷宫: maze, 迷路: loose way, 痴迷: crazy, 低迷: depressed, 迷醉: intoxicate, etc.) However nowadays, the word is gaining glamour, and is considered as a desirable sign of enjoyment. In this advertisement here-below, it rhymes with Yêu, love.

A comparable shift happened long ago in English and French, when the word “adore” became a mere synonym of liking something very much. Considering the 2nd of the Bible’s 10 Commandments, forbidding the adoration of idols, we can see that the word has gone a long way up until now!

More surprisingly, as several studies start to warn about the addictive dangers of video games, apps, TV series and others recent digital medias, the very word “addictive” managed to become a marketing catchphrase! Countless ads praise the latest online “addicting games” that will “take control of your life” and “keep you awake all night”.

How incredible that the selling pitch of a product uses the exact same language as those denouncing their dangers! Have we gone to the point where self-indulgence, decadence and selfish craving can be openly glorified? Maybe these evils have been blamed too heavily in our traditional cultures and the feeling of guilt now swings back to the other extreme: claiming egoist hedonism and self-intoxication as a new way of life?

I remember 20 years ago, advertisement was still vastly regarded as a one-way marketing hunting tool, trying to urge consumers to buy a product or service. Every company was praising its own product and pushing them to the market. Later on, several studies showed that TV audience actually likes ads, for their catchy style and entertainment.

Further down the line, we saw Facebook asking us whether we find such or such ad interesting, relevant, or funny to us. That is another great shift: ads are supposed to become “relevant”, and to do so, each of us is supposed to allow Google and Facebook to know our tastes. Now, since most of us can’t really figure out what we would like, Google offers to plays the Gestapo-psychologist and spy on us to predict our behavior, and convert us into consuming appendices of the supply chain. No need to think further, mother Google will tell us “what we like”.

That’s it.
Now it’s time to ask ourselves whether we really want to go down that path:

Craze and crave in your cradle-grave, with umbilical cords to crate you as slave.

Maybe at some point, rejecting the machine assistance to consumer decision could be considered as a seditious act blamed for destabilizing the computed economy?

Actually to be fair, modern ads are not purely turning us into passive consumers, but also convert us into ambassadors, to share the ads in turn, either for its fun, or because we genuinely want to share the word. This implies more commitment, and maybe, even critical thinking! Such social interactivity with the ad is the opportunity for freedom of expression through online civil society, promoting or criticizing content.

BONUS: Social Credit Rating
When allowing personal initiative and freedom of speech, one of the next moves of abusive governments is "Social Credit". There are various forms of such rating. So far they mostly focus on the credit-worthiness of loan takers, analyzing their purchase record and contact list to determine whether lending them money is safe. For example the "Sesame credit" 芝麻信用 from Alibaba's 蚂蚁金服 "Ant Financial Service" in China since 2015, with 190 million users. Some dating websites (e.g. 百合 Baihe) encourages users to boast their scores, thus influencing matching, making it de facto a criteria for social segregation. Similar credit ratings are in use in the US (Credit Karma since 2007, and ironically since 2010: Credit Sesame!) Facebook also tried one in 2014, based on social media content, but called it off in Feb 2016 over regulatory issues.

Here is a broader and quite perverted version of social credit: Each citizen would be rated based on the compliance of his behavior with a given standard. Criteria could include purchases, message content, readings, travels, studies, and even non-secretiveness (willingness to show all their life for analysis), etc. Bad grade citizens are penalized when asking for services (loan, study, accommodations, etc.), while good pupils are rewarded. The social credit of whoever you connect with and meet could also affect your own credit, thus preventing social class mix and dialogue.

That would be a lovely way to manipulate populations by saying: "Yes you are free, but being "naughty" will make your life much harder..." Besides, whatever criteria included in the evaluation must be provided to the rating agency, since "You don't have anything to hide, do you?". Easy to see how it can go wrong.

In Vietnam a still distantly comparable rating system is used: "Gia đình Văn hóa" : 家庭文化: "Family with (proper) culture", which rewards compliant and orthodox families with a public signboard. Areas with above 80% of such families can also apply to receive the award. Luckily, it's a voluntary system and not everyone is monitored.. at least in principle.

I hope for an economic model rather centered on demand, where each of us can creatively express his wish about a new product or service, and build up a group of interested buyers. A kind of crowd funding, but only bringing forward ideas to the supply side. The next steps would aim toward a Venus Project model, where mass automation coupled with renewable energies and recycling enables a society of abundance, without money, less work, more freedom, creativity, and meaning.

Polyglot Adventures

This week I've got some ideas about playing cards to stimulate multi-lingual workshops! The principle is basically to tell stories using several languages..

It is played with "Story cards" showing pictograms suggesting several ideas and words, "Language cards" indicating the tongues to be used, other "Mode cards" indicating tense (past present future) or focus (work jargon, emotions, slang, formal, etc.), and "Action cards" consumed to switch languages and modes.

Several playing styles came to my mind as i was crafting the first items:

  • Circle of Interpreters: players form a circle, languages are chosen as link between each player of the loop. Each has 3 story cards in hand. One by one, they lay a story card, and tell the scenario to the player on their left according to the required idiom. The next one adds another story card to the sequence and translates the whole narrative again to his neighbor. This game is rather collaborative, but we may give penalties to incorrect interpreters! This playing style only requires each player to speak 2 languages.
  • Free for All: players sit around 3 central decks of cards showing Languages (those that all players can speak), Modes, and Story. Each player has 5 story cards and 3 action cards. A first speaker is selected randomly, and starts telling a (logical!) scenario by laying down his story cards on the story deck. At least one sentence must be made for each card. At any point of time, another player can raise one of his story cards, and will take over the speaker at the end of his sentence. Logical junctions and grammatical correction are necessary, but complains from other players must be made in the same language! If the contribution of the contender is proven incorrect, he takes back his card. Any player can use action cards to switch tongues and modes, even in the middle of a sentence! The winner is the one using up all his story cards.

Practically speaking, printed paper was fixed on beautiful poker cards with tape. Kings Queens Jacks are kept to serve as "Action cards". Jacks and Queens switch to the next language of the pile, while Kings allow to select any tongue directly.

Here are all the graphics !

Facebook post

Etymology of Chinese Characters

Like other written languages, Chinese has built a system of connections between meaning, sound, and shapes. Its partly ideographic nature enables some direct links between meaning and shapes.

It has been proposed in one of the earliest Chinese dictionary (Shuowen 說文解字) that Chinese characters are created following 6 methods (LST 六書通). Here I'm proposing 3 more!

Continue reading...

Further Improvements to Esperanto / Plibonigi Esperanton !

Esperanto, the most successful created language for international communication, has been a wonderful encounter for me! It is the easiest language I know, while still being very accurate and elegant. But above all, its simple and powerful structure gave me the passion of learning foreign languages (and also create some..)

As a living language, it is subject to evolution, under the guidance of the Akademio.

Below are few ideas. Some are reasonable evolutions <Konsentebla>, others are downright utopias <Revolucieska!>

Continue reading...

A Map for Sci-Fi Movies

Science Fiction is a broad church, made of many sub-genres. For me it is a wonderful source of inspiration, talking about the future, technology, philosophy, psychology, politics, etc.

In the map below, i've proposed some topics in green. Non-SF but still akin movies are in grey.

Emoto-rice, I love you. Neither do I.

After my first attempt to test the influence of emotions on microbial life, here is a short update. Now using 7 test tubes, i can compare the decay of 3 "cursed" and 3 "blessed" rice samples against a reference. Funny results.. maybe I should stop trying to give love? :)

Continue reading...

Compo : La Marseillaise, Musique et Paroles

Y'a beaucoup à redire de notre cher hymne national. La musique est belle, avec un grand potentiel pour des harmonies intéressantes. Côté paroles... il y a débat !

Je commence par ma proposition musicale: Marseillaise pour 3 voix sa partition.

Pour les paroles, voici une idée:

Allons enfants de la patrie, toujours l'espoir à nos côtés !
Liberté, liberté chérie, l’étendard de France t’est levé.
L’étendard de justice et de paix !

Que dans nos cœurs brille la flamme, ô frères maintenant rassemblés !
C'est elle qui nous fait désirer vivre ensemble, égaux, hommes et femmes.

L'espoir, ô citoyens, inspire notre horizon.
Marchons, marchons, vers l’harmonie prospère des nations !

Compo : La Belle Sérénade

Voici une adaptation musicale d'un poème de mon professeur de musique et ami Nguyen Van Quy:

(Cliquez sur la partition pour l’écouter !)

Credo in picture

A picture can translate a music, a poem... and why not a creed?
Here is what the Christian credo could look like:

(Click to open the file with explanation labels)

Chinese Characters with 亼

亼 represents an inverted mouth, pointing downwards, while 口 is an upright mouth. The characters using it generally bear the idea of gathering and harmony.

  • 合) . . 合he2 means "conjunction, to fit, together". Here 2 mouths are meeting to talk, hence the idea of union. Characters using 合 for its meaning include: 答da2 "to reply, respond" (where 合 can mean "correspond", with the bamboo key used in 符合), 答da1 "to be in agreement", 翕xi4 "to agree", 㒆chi4 "to gather together", 洽qia4 "to blend with, be in harmony", 䆟ke4 'corresponding, appropriate", 恰qia4 "just, proper", 拾shi2 "to pick up, collect, tidy up", 拿na2 "to take, hold" ("close one's hand on something?" since 合 can mean to close by joining two corresponding parts, like windows.) The idea of closing might have generated these variations keeping both the sound and idea: 盒he2 "small box", 蛤ge2 "clam", 颌he2 "jaw".
  • 侖) . . In the character 侖lun2, the mouth 亼 reads a book 册, meaning "discussion, consideration", and nowadays "logical coherence". The variations are: 论lun4, "debate, discourse" (giving 理论 "theory" and 论文 "thesis"), and 伦lun2 "normal human relationships, coherence". They use 侖 both for its sound and meaning.
  • 龠) . . 龠yue4 is an ancient flute, with the mouth 亼, a bamboo flute body which became 冊, and 3 holes 品. The Shuowen comment underlines the multiplicity of sounds and musical harmony: "樂之竹管三孔以和眾聲也 從品侖侖理也". 龠 is also a unit of volume (50ml) worth half of 合ge3 (100ml). 龠 serves as semantic part for the idea of "blow" in 龡 chui4, the archaic form of 吹.
  • 和) . . 和 is today an homonym and nearly a synonym of 合. 和 means "and, union, peace, harmony", with an archaic writing 龢he2 = 龠yue4+禾he2. 禾 is used for the sound. Just like in 龡, 龠 was simplified into 口.
  • 龤) . . 龠 is also used to write 龤 xie2, which is homonym and nearly synonym of 谐xie2 and 协xie2, "harmony and agreement". We can note here the phonetic proximity between 和, 合, 协, 谐, and 龤, close to the middle Chinese pronunciation preserved in Vietnamese as Hiệp (合, 协, 谐, and 龤).
  • 集) . . 亼 can also be read as an archaic variant of 集 ji2, meaning "collection, to gather". In 集 we see birds 隹 gathering on a tree 木.
  • 令) . . In 令 ling4 "order, to command, to cause", the summoned order, the mouth 亼 is giving order to a kneeling man 卩from above. Here "order" bears the dual meaning of "command" and "organization".
  • 命) . . 令 has its variation 命 ming4 "life, fate, command, to assign", same as above, like a cinema director assigning roles.
  • 會) . . 會hui4, traditional form of 会, is composed of 亼, 曰 (yue1: speak), 丷, and 日. Following these components, we can trace back the logical connections of the various meanings: 聚会 to meet up, 会议 to discuss, 理会 to understand, 会 to know how, can, and future certainty. An archaic form of 会 is 㣛ta4 "to walk, to meet, to gather, to be able, to realize". 会 can also be pronounced kuai4 and mean "accounting, to balance an account", again: gathering and harmonizing!

That's it for now!
If you see some mistakes or important missing things so far, let me know. Thanks!

PS: I call (improperly for sure!) "Variations" of a character the combination of a given source character used both for its meaning and sound, together with a specification key. E.g. :
仑 => 论, 伦
合 => 盒, 蛤, 颌
令 => 命
分 => 份
In cases where the sound changes significantly, the resulting character becomes some kind of 会意字 (compound ideogram), although the construction is clearly in 2 steps (first 亼 + 口 => 合, then 合 => 答, 洽, 䆟, 恰, 拾, 拿, etc.)


  • Pleco Chinese dictionary app

A sense of achievement

Small books to embody intangible creations, three so far. The content can be replaced as it updates.

Around Chopstick Languages (Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean)

Here is a list of documents and works related to Chinese or Vietnamese:

  • Waseikango 和制汉语, a list of the Chinese words created by Japanese during the Meiji era, to describe new western concept. I’ve compiled the list myself from 2 sources.
  • Shuowen 说文解字 , an online XLS copy of the ancient etymological dictionary, with 11,100 entries. I’ve heavily customized it to analyze the text through excel functions and extract data systematically.
  • KoreoViet 韩越南字 , A Korean-inspired phonetic script for Vietnamese.
  • Neo Nom 新喃 , a Japanese-inspired reconstruction of the ancient script Nôm, for learning purpose! If you know a bit of Chinese, that will gives you some keys to consolidate Vietnamese with what you know.
  • Voc Pro, a vocabulary list for professional context (technical, office) with translations in Vietnamese, Chinese, German, Spanish, and Bahasa.
  • Etymology of sinograms, a selection of some graphical etymologies.

Poème coloré "Oracle"

On est souvent un peu perplexe devant un ordinateur.. qui y est le maître et qui est l’élève ?

Everlasting Father: God vs Nature

(Abi'ad, "Everlasting Father", as found in Isaiah 9:5)

A year ago I had this thought: the core conflict between humans and god(s) in ancient mythologies and later in Christianity: autonomy. Humans would always meet punishment after turning away from god(s), declaring themselves free and big enough to be their own masters. Prodigal sons leaving their father...

However, that's what nature teaches us! Fathers care for us and educate us, until we get independent and they grow old, in turn needing our care, and ultimately die. Nature served as model for wisdom and cultures, which teach us to respect fathers, but also to take over from them as we become fathers ourselves, and then do without them as they slowly leave the stage.

If this is the natural model, why isn't God like this? Why are we supposed to behave like dependent children forever?

Maybe the natural model was not meant to be so. In the myth of genesis, humans were first immortal until the first sin. Maybe fathers were supposed to live forever, growing wiser and wiser, always being a reliable source of authority for their descendants. Hmmm... so the whole culture about growing independent would be wrong?

Sociology: a Timeline of Generations

I've been hearing a lot about "Y Generation" and "Z Gen" lately. When I looked into the topic, it reminded me of an old idea : showing both time and age on a diagram, in order to quickly visualize the age of a person (or generation) at each point of time. The aim was to clarify statements like "I was too young for that back then!".

Historical events are shown in vertical, spanning through the age of affected populations. Events shaping a generation are typically occurring in their 20 years old.

I'm now complementing (crowding?) the diagram with the generations' labels, and few more events. In the XLS sheet I'm compiling researches depicting a profile of each generation.

(clicking on the image leads to the XLS file)

Bible quotes and summary

Here is another working document, compiling Bible quotes by topics. The document also contains a Bible summary chapter by chapter. (so far 886 out of 1239 chapters) I don't guaranty the summary's fidelity, but it can come in handy to give a first overview!

(Click on the picture to open the XLS worksheet)

Poème coloré "Éternel Présent"

En référence à la BD de Peeters et Schuiten (Souvenir de l’éternel présent). Hier, j'ai évoqué avec mon prof de théâtre que j'aimais reprendre des souvenirs d'improvisations ratées pour en imaginer de meilleures, et pourquoi pas, réviser mes souvenirs, comme un 1984 personnel ?

Exergy and Emergence, the two universal forces


19th century's physics explained that all closed systems must evolve into states of higher disorder. This disorder can also be also seen as a dilution of matter and energy: electric charges migrate toward lower potential, radioactive atoms disintegrate into more stable isotopes, high pressure expand into broader space, motion causes friction and converts kinetic energy into thermal energy, heat dilutes into matter of lower temperature... Physics quantifies this amount of disorder-dilution by entropy (from Greek τροπή, change) In any closed system, entropy has to increase. This 2nd law of thermodynamics dictates the time direction in which systems will evolve. This arrow of time cannot be reversed, unless no dilution occurred, or if more entropy is produced elsewhere.

Another way to look at entropy is to measure exergy. It is the opposite idea of entropy, short from of "extractable energy". When entropy is created, exergy is destroyed. Energy cannot be destroyed, it is conserved and converted into diverse forms. (In the case of nuclear reactions, following e=mc2, one considers energy and matter altogether as conserved.) Exergy is the extractable, or "useful", fraction of energy in a system, which can be extracted to produce work and drive motion. Electrical and mechanical energies are virtually 100% exergy, but heat, pressure, and chemical potential depend on how they differ from the surrounding. 1m3 of air at 1bar is useless on the Earth, because it is surrounded by the same pressure, but in outer-space is could produce work by dissipating into vacuum. After all exergy is taken from a system (battery, air tank, fuel, etc.), this system is at equilibrium with the environment and cannot dilute further. This can be compared to a spring of energy and matter which expands and dilutes.

It is to be noted that exergy can be destroyed without any "practical" use (e.g. an electric heater in the ocean..). The definition of exergy pertains to physics and is not anthropocentric, but rather independent from human cultural judgement. (I've discussed it in this 2008 article (in French) )

First conclusion: mass and energy dilution, causing exergy consumption, drives the motion of the universe. It fuels all physical reactions which build this movement into... more complex structures.


Emergence is the name given to the phenomenon whereby the complex interactions of many simple elements generate new overall behaviours and entities. For example: life emerges from biological systems. Life involves behaviours such as metabolism, reproduction, adaptation, which are all new compared to the underlying chemical systems, and could not have been predicted by the study of the chemical level. I've discussed this in a 2012 note, linking scientific fields in Russian doll emergence. I proposed the historical generation: Physical => Chemical => Biological => Psychological => Social. We see a rise of abstraction, and gradual irrelevance of "hard sciences" to study higher levels, replaced by humanities.

We can distinguish that the 2 necessary ingredients of emergence are the multiplicity of the entities (quantitative), and their specialization (qualitative). Hence emergence moves on through Zig-zag evolution, gaining complexity through both moves.

Emergence produces entities which survive when the underlying components disappear. For example, in a population of bacteria, if one individual mutates with a new better suited DNA trait, it will be inherited by its offspring and gradually become a trait of the whole population. It will survive in the population even after the death of the first new DNA bearer. An invention or an artistic style can still exists after the death of the civilization that made it.

A time goes by, more complex systems arise, which unify smaller components into a whole. Across history, civilizations consist of several societies, made of individuals. A person unifies organs, which unify countless cells, in turn unifying countless molecules, made of atoms.

Second conclusion: emergence federates the motion of small items into larger, fewer, harmonious, and novel entities. Like a pyramid building bottom-up, higher abstract levels gradually come into existence.

What our History-Universe might look like, from A to Z.

Both principles coexist:
...the destructive dispersing impulse of exergy,
...and the creative unifying rise of emergence.

Following the intuition of the Jesuit palaeontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, we could call Alpha the space-time origin of exergy (probably the so-called Big Bang) and Omega the final unified emerging state of the universe. (I do mean "state" and not "point". This ultimate unification will occur at a given future time, but would probably encompass the whole universe itself.) This model does not imply that a god kicked the alpha and attracts us to the omega... but why not? At the bottom line of a complete picture of the universe, science and spirituality must be in agreement.

PS: Gravity seems to be a bump on the road to entropy... since it tends to aggregate things together, and to sediment solids from liquids, seemingly creating order. In case the universe lacks of momentum, gravity would make it end up in a Big Crunch, all would go back to the Alpha square one! Hopefully we got enough exergy and time to reach Omega, and a godly handshake.

Addenda 2016-07-25: After reading (at last!) Hawking "Brief History of Time", i understand that gravity represents negative exergy, so that the total exergy of the universe is always zero. During the spacial dilution of energy and matter, doubled by space-time expansion, a large share of the original exergy is transferred into gravitational potential exergy. I find dubious that that entropy would be already maximal when the universe will start to contract back again. I'm pretty sure we'll still have few more billion years to surf on the exergy waves and build further the pyramid!

Once again i found that illustrating entropy merely as "disorder" is misleading and limited. A blank hard-drive has more thermodynamic order than the one containing Beethoven's symphonies. One shouldn't confuse the levels of the emergence pyramid. Biological or aesthetic order are far beyond thermodynamics. In that sense, the so-called Theory of Everything would be humbly relevant only to the bottom of the pyramid.

PPS: Vincent Mignerot summarizes (in French) ideas from François Roddier and Eric Chaisson, and pessimistically proposes that emergence is only a mean to creates structures able to destroy exergy even faster. Hmmm.. maybe yes. Then it's a race: I use you to grow up, you use me to blow up.

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Emergence zig-zag

This diagram I made in 2011 explores the relationships between 2 aspects of emergence: the multiplicity of entities, and their specialization.

This 2016 article from a French researcher Vincent MIGNEROT (English text) reminds about the "Technological singularity", a point of no return where we'll have brought computers up to a level where they'll independently continue their emergence and overtake us. (see I Robot, Matrix, etc.) This point however might be less threatening than the "Ecological singularity", a turning point of self-amplifying damages to the environment, which will herald human decline.

Alfuni script: Universal, but not too much

After the 2 scripts of last September, which were adapting the principles of Alfuni to specific situations, here is the latest version balancing a wide range of sounds, with minimalist graphical variation. Some will blame a lack of contrast, but i do like the regularity and harmony it gives!

(as usual, the table links to the TTF font, for those who'd like to write with it, or tweak it further!)

One key originality of this script is to propose a logical link between consonants and vowels. This idea first came in 2008 with the Phono-Braille.

It also proposes a selection of tones and punctuation, but the table is already big..

Sample in classical Chinese:

Link to the language creation forum: Alfuni

Pour Quelques Couleurs de Plus

On connaît les couleurs primaires, secondaires, mais quoi pourraient ressembler des couleurs... tertiaires ?

J'ai cherche une réponse à partir de mes correspondances synesthétiques (à tes souhaits), qui m'ont fait sélectionner 10 couleurs pour les 10 chiffres. Voici les couleurs disposées par affinités, basée sur la roue chromatique :

Au delà des couleurs primaires (Rouge Bleu Vert) et secondaires (Cyan Magenta Jaune), cette roue conduit à envisager une troisième groupe de couleurs tertiaire (Teal Violet Orange), "teal" étant un ton vert canard.

Bon, les peintres avaient déjà une réponse, mais ils se basent sur un autre trio initial (Rouge Jaune Bleu), d’où résultent un trio secondaire (Vert Orange Violet). Les couleurs tertiaires sont alors au nombre de 6.

Composer Timeline: History and Music

Here is a working document i've prepared, showing major composers (133 so far), ranging from Renaissance until today, on a timeline with their lifetime and key compositions. That helps understanding how their style evolved along with their musical environment.

Click on the image below to open the Excel spreadsheet:

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