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Jim Cambias
I am a writer, game designer, New Orleanian, cook, parent, and cat-slapper.
Recent Activity
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 5 days ago 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
Even historical Egypt was like a fantasy kingdom to ancient historians like Herodotus or Pliny. In a fantasy setting, all you need to add is a few monsters. This table covers the wilderness beyond the valley of the Nile — which visitors will have to cross in order to reach... Continue reading
Posted Jan 22, 2018 at Just The Caffeine Talking
On the weekend of February 16-18 I'll be at Boskone, the grand old New England science fiction convention, now in its 55th year. My schedule is below — stop in at the Westin Waterfront in Boston and join me! Friday, February 16, 4:00 p.m.: Kaffeeklatsch — Join me for a... Continue reading
Posted Jan 18, 2018 at Just The Caffeine Talking
The Orbital Elevator, stretching from an artificial island south of Singapore 36,000 kilometers up to geosynchronous orbit, is one of humanity's great engineering achievements. Capsules leave the ground terminal every two hours, and the whole journey up the long carbon-fiber cable takes two days. Each capsule is a self-contained spaceship,... Continue reading
Posted Jan 16, 2018 at Just The Caffeine Talking
Fans of Mexican B-movies are aware of the long-standing popularity of Luchador movies. These feature masked wrestling stars, but their opponents aren't other wrestlers, as one might expect. In film the Luchadores battle ghosts, spies, Frankenstein's monster, Aztec mummies, gangsters, mad scientists, aliens, monsters, and vampires. Sometimes all at once.... Continue reading
Posted Jan 13, 2018 at Just The Caffeine Talking
Almost every superhero has a home town. Whether it's Batman's Gotham City, Superman's Metropolis, or Marvel Comics's shared New York City, it's the place where the heroes live in their secret identities, where their non-super friends live, and the place which keeps getting attacked by villains. ENCOUNTERS IN THE CITY... Continue reading
Posted Jan 8, 2018 at Just The Caffeine Talking
The Most Serene Republic of Venice was a major player in Mediterranean trade and politics for at least nine hundred years, but in the 17th century the city's power went into a terminal decline. It went from being a commerical and naval power to being a tourist destination. Foreigners came... Continue reading
Posted Jan 2, 2018 at Just The Caffeine Talking
I saw The Last Jedi the weekend it came out, and I've been thinking about it and discussing it with my family (especially my son) sporadically since then. I'm not going to write a review; suffice to say that I give it a B and leave it at that. Nor... Continue reading
Posted Dec 28, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking
Once again, it's time to link to the greatest Christmas Web site ever. I refer, of course, to the NORAD Santa Tracker. As I write this, their countdown stands at 6 hours and 41 minutes. The tracking begins at 6:00 a.m. GMT, which is when the sun is setting in... Continue reading
Posted Dec 23, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking