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Jim Cambias
I am a writer, game designer, New Orleanian, cook, parent, and cat-slapper.
Recent Activity
As one does on July 4th, I was thinking about the American Revolution. Specifically, about the commander of the Continental Army, George Washington himself. From all accounts, Washington was not a quixotic man. He wasn't the sort to throw away his life and his fortune in a doomed cause. (Unlike... Continue reading
Posted Jul 4, 2018 at Just The Caffeine Talking
Regular readers of this 'blog (you both know who you are) may have noticed that I spend a fair amount of time thinking about Life, the Universe, and Everything. Specifically: where is all the Life in the Universe, and why is Everything so silent? Yes, it's time for yet another... Continue reading
Posted Jun 23, 2018 at Just The Caffeine Talking
Ever since I got rid of my gall bladder I've been thinking about the ancient medical doctrine of the Four Humors. A brief recap: until about 1830 or so, medical theory in Europe was based on the idea that the human body's processes are dominated by four "humors," and that... Continue reading
Posted Jun 18, 2018 at Just The Caffeine Talking
In my last 'blog post I may have come across as a little over-pessimistic. My theme was the fundamental impossibility of telling "realistic" future stories. In particular, I mentioned that by the time humans venture to other star systems, they will no longer be human by our standards. Is that... Continue reading
Posted May 21, 2018 at Just The Caffeine Talking
Most of science fiction is pure fantasy. Seriously. Take my own story A Darkling Sea. It involves humans traveling to another star system and interacting with aliens. That's fantasy, right there. There's no way to actually travel faster than the speed of light, and we have no evidence of any... Continue reading
Posted May 14, 2018 at Just The Caffeine Talking
David McGrogan writes interesting roleplaying games, and he had some interesting thoughts about fictional characters in his most recent 'blog post. You can read it here. If you're lazy and want me to just tell you what it says, his main point is that the urge to bolt a backstory... Continue reading
Posted May 1, 2018 at Just The Caffeine Talking
"Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres . . . " — Caesar A week ago, at about four o'clock in the afternoon, my stomach hurt. The sensation was very precise: a single point, directly under my sternum. I had been out to lunch with my son, so I cleverly... Continue reading
Posted Apr 27, 2018 at Just The Caffeine Talking
This week's Word of the Week is: Cholecystitis. Continue reading
Posted Apr 25, 2018 at Just The Caffeine Talking
My talented wife was leaving early this morning on a trip, and I was getting ready to drive her to meet her ride. She glanced outside and said, "Ugh. It's raining." But then she brightened up and added, "At least it isn't snowing." Five minutes later, as we were about... Continue reading
Posted Apr 19, 2018 at Just The Caffeine Talking
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Why are there so many aristocrats in science fiction? They're all over the place. In books you've got David Weber's Honor Harrington (who works for a Royal space navy and eventually becomes a Countess), Lois McMaster Bujold's Miles Vorkosigan (a Count who works for an Emperor), Larry Niven and Jerry... Continue reading
Posted Apr 15, 2018 at Just The Caffeine Talking
One of the great revolutions in human thought was the concept of "Deep Time" — the notion that the Earth and the Universe are vastly older than recorded human history, and even the origins of the human species lie long before the invention of writing. Charles Lyell, the Victorian geologist,... Continue reading
Posted Apr 12, 2018 at Just The Caffeine Talking
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I do most of the grocery shopping for my family. Yesterday I went on my usual big monthly run to the discount club, to stock up on stuff that comes in large packages. One of the items my talented wife asked me to pick up was cereal. So I bought... Continue reading
Posted Apr 8, 2018 at Just The Caffeine Talking
Can anyone explain why my Thursday post apologizing for missing a week of posting got more than 600 hits? That's about ten times more than anything since my gripe about Marty McFly's dad. Continue reading
Posted Apr 7, 2018 at Just The Caffeine Talking
So here's an article from Quillette about "social constructionism" — in particular how postmodernists have applied the concept to the sciences, and how bad an idea it is. I was amused to see that one of the examples cited in the piece is Bruno Latour and Steve Woolgar's book Laboratory... Continue reading
Posted Apr 6, 2018 at Just The Caffeine Talking
Apologies for my absence. I was traveling and didn't have the time (or reliable Internet access) for 'blog posts. But because I was traveling on my own, I wound up having a lot of time to think about various things, and one of them was this 'blog. Up to now... Continue reading
Posted Apr 5, 2018 at Just The Caffeine Talking
We know what you'll find on the Moon if you get there via a Saturn rocket and Apollo Program Lunar Module lander. But what if you sail to the Moon aboard an elven galleon or step there through an enchanted silver door? ENCOUNTERS ON THE FANTASTICKAL MOON (Roll 1d20 when... Continue reading
Posted Mar 13, 2018 at Just The Caffeine Talking
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Most State flags are awful. There, I've said it and I'm not sorry. Even my home State of Louisiana has an awful flag. There are fifty States in the United States, and two-thirds of them have awful flags. What makes an awful State flag? Well, twenty-nine States have flags that... Continue reading
Posted Mar 10, 2018 at Just The Caffeine Talking
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In the 22nd Century, Deimos is the Solar System's hub of trade and finance. Linked to Mars by an orbital elevator, and occupying an enviable position requiring very little energy expenditure to reach both Earth orbit and the outer planets, Deimos is fantastically rich. Its wealth draws in talented people... Continue reading
Posted Mar 5, 2018 at Just The Caffeine Talking
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I've recently been reading a collection of essays and reviews by James Thurber, Collecting Himself: James Thurber on Writing and Writers, Humor and Himself (which has got to be one of the most unwieldy titles of the past half-century). One interesting snippet is a reading list Thurber compiled in 1949... Continue reading
Posted Mar 3, 2018 at Just The Caffeine Talking
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There's a custom among science fiction writers that a story — a "hard SF" story, anyway — should only contain one element of "magic." By magic we mean some effect which is impossible under our current understanding of the universe. Or, if you're really strict, some effect which would be... Continue reading
Posted Feb 23, 2018 at Just The Caffeine Talking
I'm going to be at Boskone this weekend. My schedule is here. Continue reading
Posted Feb 15, 2018 at Just The Caffeine Talking
When secret Japanese superweapons caught the American carriers unprepared at sea just after Pearl Harbor, the Pacific was defenseless. Imperial Marines landed on Oahu a few weeks later and the Rising Sun flag now flies over Hawaii. America's still in the fight, but it will take time to rebuild the... Continue reading
Posted Feb 6, 2018 at Just The Caffeine Talking
Warning: if you are interested in healthy, low-fat recipes, GET OUT NOW! I discovered this dish, or something very like it, at the Ginger Garden restaurant in Amherst. When I first moved to the area at the dawn of the new millennium, Ginger Garden was a very ordinary Chinese food... Continue reading
Posted Feb 3, 2018 at Just The Caffeine Talking
Assuming you made it past the desert, the ribbon of black earth and green vegetation hugging the banks of the Nile is studded with grand cities. They are filled with whitewashed brick houses, grand palaces and temples of stone, and busy markets. As the richest kingdom in the ancient world,... Continue reading
Posted Jan 30, 2018 at Just The Caffeine Talking
My family and I are fans of the past decade's amazing string of Marvel superhero movies. In the film Captain America: Civil War, the villain (not really a spoiler, here) is an eastern European military man named Zemo. What's interesting is that in the comic books, Zemo was always Baron... Continue reading
Posted Jan 27, 2018 at Just The Caffeine Talking