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Posted by Jeff Soyer on 26 Nov 2014 06:54 am

Some just refuse to let go of the Dark Ages. From Reuters:

Gunmen killed three Pakistani women polio workers and their driver on Wednesday, police said, in the most deadly attack on the health workers in two years.

Teams in Pakistan working to immunize children against polio are often targeted by Taliban militants, who say the campaign is a cover for Western spies, or accuse workers of distributing vaccines designed to sterilize children.

Most of those beheaded by ISIS were also aid workers.

Posted by Jeff Soyer on 25 Nov 2014 12:51 pm

By now, regulars know that I started up a book review site called The North Country Review of Books. Finally, as of yesterday, I have it functioning and looking the way I want. As with any new website, non-spam/non-hackers are only a trickle.

I need to know what you all think of the site. Please visit it and spend a few minutes exploring it. Especially, if you’ve read a book that I’ve reviewed, consider leaving your own review — it can be brief if you want — and trying out the multiple ratings table below the comment form. For more info on that, see the “About” page. Does everything seem to work correctly? What don’t you like about it? What DO you like about it?

You can also just leave a comment regarding my review, without rating the book. Comments (and replies to comments) are nested to three levels.

What I need to know is — because North Country Review is important to me — your opinions, and maybe to have you become regulars there. Mostly I review sci-fi, horror, thrillers, etc.

Your feedback, here and especially THERE, would be a big help to me. And, it will only cost you some time — not money. Granted, time IS money to you, but it’s for a good cause.

In addition, North Country Review is running the very latest version of WordPress, and using the plug-ins I like. I’m considering that if all goes well, that is what I will “upgrade” Alphecca to.

Bonus: I’ll be looking for more feature book reviewers to join the site. You’d be able to review whatever category of books you want to. Being a reviewer of a book review site has a really cool advantage: You get your books (usually Kindle versions, Advance Review Copies, also known as eARCs) for free. More on that in a couple of weeks. Anyway, please give my new site a test drive.

Thanks so much.

Posted by Jeff Soyer on 24 Nov 2014 06:38 am

That’s according to some parents of the kids in a Massachusetts elementary school. From Reason:

The trip to see the famous ballet has been a tradition at the school for years, but apparently some felt the trip was improper because there is a Christmas tree on the stage.

The issue came to a head at a [Butler Elementary School] PTA meeting Tuesday night. A source said some people were told they were being discriminatory if they supported their kids going to “The Nutcracker.”

Despite pressure from the local PTA, school officials eventually decided to continue with the trip. No doubt there will be psychological counselors available following the performance.

Posted by Jeff Soyer on 24 Nov 2014 06:14 am

From The Hill:

President Obama in an interview broadcast Sunday that American voters want a “new car smell,” adding that 2016 Democratic White House candidates probably aren’t “gonna be looking at me to campaign too much.”

No shit, Sherlock.

Posted by Jeff Soyer on 21 Nov 2014 03:43 am

In 2013, Dr. Ben Carson told Glenn Beck that he didn’t think that folks living in urban areas should have semi-automatic weapons. Now that he’s considering a run for President, he’s clarifying that remark:

“Perhaps I didn’t convey it appropriately,” he said. “I wanted to convey that, you know, I’ve lived in urban areas. I’ve worked in urban areas. I’ve seen a lot of carnage, and I’d prefer a situation where the kinds of weapons that create that kind of carnage don’t fall to the hands of criminal elements or insane people. But that is secondary to the desire to always defend the Second Amendment.”

Carson said that “under no circumstances” would he “allow a bureaucrat to remove any law-abiding citizen’s rights for any kind of weapon that they want to protect themselves.”

If he were in a position of national leadership, Carson said he would seek to allow people to possess any kind of weapon they can legally buy, including “automatic weapons and semi-automatic weapons.”

Asked by one call participant whether he would support convicted felons being allowed to possess guns after serving their time, Carson said it would “depend on what kind of criminal activity they were convicted for.” He added, “Is this somebody who is still considered a danger to society? If that’s the case, they probably still should be in prison.”

Carson said a “mental patient” or someone with “history of violence” shouldn’t be able to own “anything” to “wreak havoc on society.” That, he said, could be part of a “reasonable” gun-control law. The government also shouldn’t “retrospectively” go back to make once-legal guns illegal, he said.

Posted by Jeff Soyer on 20 Nov 2014 05:10 am

Another 10-year-old boy suspended for pointing his finger.

Posted by Jeff Soyer on 20 Nov 2014 05:04 am

It must be that politically correct stuff. From the NY Daily News:

Jay Leno backed out of performing at a dinner for the National Shooting Sports Foundation in Las Vegas.

Jay Leno has cancelled a hosting gig for a pro-gun group headquartered down the road from Sandy Hook Elementary after activists including the daughter of the school’s slain principal told him to holster his jokes.

“Jay was asked to do what was positioned as a sportsman show, and when he found out it was a pro gun lobby show, he cancelled,” Leno’s spokesman Bruce Bobbins told the Daily News Wednesday night.

Uh-huh.

Posted by Jeff Soyer on 20 Nov 2014 04:58 am

From Reuters:

The Lynden Pioneer Museum, located about 100 miles north of Seattle and just south of the Canadian border, said that as a result it was pulling all 11 of the World War Two-era guns in its exhibit, “Over the Beach: The WWII Pacific Theater,” before the law takes effect.

“The museum will be returning these guns to their owners because as of Dec. 4, we would be in violation of the law if we had loaned [from others] firearms that had not undergone the background check procedure,” the museum said in a statement.

The exhibit includes vintage weapons and military equipment used during the war, as well as letters, photographs and other memorabilia and artifacts collected from veterans, said Troy Luginbill, the museum’s director.

Criminals and gang bangers throughout the Washington State are also planning to return their stolen or purchased-with-drugs guns to comply with the new law.

Posted by Jeff Soyer on 19 Nov 2014 05:28 am

The Washington Post has been running a very good series of investigative reports on how police departments around the nation have been seizing billions of dollars from often innocent citizens without charging them with any crime. That link takes you to the first installment. On the side, near the top, are the links to the other five pieces. It’s time for Congress to address this issue nationally. Somehow, I doubt that Republicans will allow that.

Posted by Jeff Soyer on 18 Nov 2014 11:11 am

Originally written in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s and published as Digital Knight, Baen Books has just released a revised and expanded version titled, Paradigms Lost, by Ryk E. Spoor (Amazon link). According to the author’s preface, he made a few changes to existing stories to clarify a few incidents. The major difference is that he’s added about 50% new material. This should make this revision well worthwhile to readers of the original book (which I have not read — this review is based solely on this one). Paradigms Lost is a roller-coaster of a ride through an alternate Earth where vampires, werewolves, and other creatures all go bump-in-the-night. It is a very enjoyable read.

What makes this book so special is the way Spoor’s marvelous writing skills have created an overarching mythology tying them all together into a common history predating modern man.

In addition, the author has given these ancient beasts, beings, and Gods some very human characteristics in terms of their personalities, actions, and reactions. That’s not an easy task to do with monsters that want and can tear a human to shreds in seconds. That, I think, sets this collection of stories (held together by the threads of several characters) apart from all of the run-of-the-mill horror stories I’m used to reading.

The main three protagonists of Paradigms Lost are: Jason Woods, a computer geek who sees data patterns that others miss, and has an uncanny ability to derive the correct answers from them; his girlfriend Sylvie, a gifted psychic who can sometimes see into the near future; and Verne Domingo, who at first glance (but not in a mirror) might be a vampire, but turns out to be much more than that. There are several antagonists who also appear throughout this series of stories.

Jason seems to draw events to him and (via helping others — including the government) always seems to wind-up in the middle of anything “weird” happening. Peculiar murders, disappearances, incidences; they all seem land on his doorstep. Monsters battle humans or other monsters; Jason discovers the clues and answers.

This IS a horror novel and there are some wonderfully epic confrontations that move at break-neck speed. The good news is that while the violence is certainly spelled-out, this is not the festival of gore that has consumed much of the rest of the field. I’d have no problem recommending Paradigms Lost to youngsters. There are a lot of different critters to reckon with, names and origins and such, but nothing a fan of H.P. Lovecraft couldn’t handle.

Ryk E. Spoor has written a fine collection of horror stories with superb characterizations, fine (and often witty) dialogue, and enough action scenes to satisfy all but the most bloodthirsty consumer of the “weird” tale. BTW, I want my own Aris. You’ll discover why you want one of these little critters, too, near the end of the book.

Given that there are a few unresolved plot lines in Paradigms Lost, I suspect that a sequel is in the works. The highest compliment I can give is that I’m anxiously waiting to read it.

A reminder that if you find my reviews useful, please indicate so on Amazon (where I cross-post them).

Posted by Jeff Soyer on 18 Nov 2014 06:57 am

If I wasn’t using it as a convenient way to stay in touch with a bunch of friends and former co-workers, I’d have been off of there a long time ago. From AmmoLand:

Hyatt Guns, in Charlotte, North Carolina, recently posted an ad for safes and vaults on their Facebook page as part of a Veterans Day promotion.

Almost immediately, Facebook’s speech police swooped in and ripped the ad from Hyatt’s page. The social networking giant asserts that since Hyatt sell guns, which are banned from Facebook, advertising for these other, innocuous products is also banned, although Facebook’s official policy does not seem to support that.

Facebook seems concerned that clicking on a safe ad might lead to another click that could lead to another click that could lead to a gun advertisement somewhere else . . . or something like that.

More at the link, including ways to voice your displeasure to Mark Zuckerberg.

Posted by Jeff Soyer on 17 Nov 2014 07:13 am

Interesting (though short) profile of Mike Mann, who wheels and deals in domain names. He’s not a “squatter” in the sense that he registered a bunch of brand names long ago. He simply invested in such phrases as “happy birthday,” etc. Also, to his credit, he donates large sums to charity.

I’ve never had a serious offer for Alphecca.com, even though there is a company, a rock band, and an Android tablet all called Alphecca. I would consider selling for the right price… The name isn’t that important to me and I’d have no problem moving this blog to my namesake: jeffsoyer.com, or one of the other miscellaneous domains I own.

I’m sometimes asked about the name; why I chose it. Back in September of 2002, when I was seeking to start a blog, I had originally intended it to be about science and science fiction. I looked for a star name that was high-up in the alphabet. Alphecca was one of the few available. So, I bought it and ran with it. In a way, I regret having such an obscure name for a general purpose gun blog, now.

Posted by Jeff Soyer on 15 Nov 2014 05:01 pm

New, from Bantam Books, this is the third book in the FBI Special Agent Kate O’Hare and wanted criminal (*wink*) Nicolas Fox series. The Job, by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg (Amazon link) is fast paced and fun, with nicely breezy dialogue. O’Hare and Fox team up again and hatch a plot worthy of the best from Mission: Impossible. Indeed, The Job would make a terrific movie.

How do you go about taking down and financially ruining one of the world’s largest narcotics dealers? Especially when no one has any idea where he is or what he even looks like (these days)? Only one way — lure him to you. Big problem: He has a tendency to be very cautious and deadly. He even murdered the plastic surgeons who gave him an entirely new body and face. Another problem: Fox seems implicated in a series of thefts of great artwork and authorities everywhere are looking for him. Can O’Hare really trust him? Sorry, no plot spoilers allowed.

The plan O’Hare and Fox puts into motion is big, complex, and expensive. Good thing the bill is being footed by the U.S. Government! There’s plenty of action to keep you turning the pages, and while I can’t say that the characters themselves are given much of a description — “Hollywood star looks…”; would that be Cary Grant? Or Dom DeLuise? — their personalities certainly come through loud and clear with the brisk, witty dialogue the authors have given them.

The Job is is a fun, pleasant way to spend a few hours and I recommend it highly.

Posted by Jeff Soyer on 15 Nov 2014 05:47 am

From the Philly Tribune:

The measure, sponsored by Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, passed 16–1. Councilman David Oh was the lone dissenter.

“We are now going to follow up with license and inspections as well as with the Philadelphia Police Department to look at how we go about doing the enforcement,” Johnson said. “Our primary purpose with this legislation is not to penalize any business, but to look at the issue of the selling of realistic–looking toy guns as a matter of public safety. We don’t want any young person to be murdered by carrying these toy guns, and we also don’t want young people to use these toy guns to try to commit an act of crime.”

Yeah, if you’re going to commit an act of crime, for God’s sake use a real gun.

Posted by Jeff Soyer on 14 Nov 2014 03:29 am

It won’t surprise you that that this study comes from UC Berkley: Projected increase in lightning strikes in the United States due to global warming.

Posted by Jeff Soyer on 13 Nov 2014 04:53 am

From Fox News:

A procedural decision in a landmark Second Amendment case could spell the end for California laws restricting the issuance of permits to carry concealed handguns.

The decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals would bar other law enforcement officials, including state Attorney General Kamala Harris, from gaining “intervener status” to join in further challenges of its ruling in a case originally brought by an independent journalist who sued the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department over its policy of requiring a specific reason for being allowed to carry a concealed weapon in public.

San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore has said he will not fight the ruling, meaning there is no one with standing left to challenge the decision made in February.

Posted by Jeff Soyer on 13 Nov 2014 03:46 am

The Cthulhu Mythos are real! Ostensibly written for the “young adult” market, Billy Lovecraft Saves the World, by Billy Lovecraft, Curiosity Quills Press (Amazon link) is wonderful fun. I’m 60-years old, and as a long time H.P. Lovecraft fan, I loved this book. Well written, endearing characters, scary, but with a big-sized dollop of humor thrown in, I believe that you will get a kick out of this story, too.

Billy Lovecraft is 12-years old. His parents are killed in a plane crash caused by a terrifying creature. His parents were famous for creating a popular role playing game based upon their explorations of the mysteries of ancient and strange out-of-this-world creatures. The last thing they did before their deaths was to send their son, Billy, a photo of the strange critter sitting on the wing of the plane they were in.

Billy enlists the help of some nerdy kids at his school, forming a detective squad to investigate the how and why of his parents’ deaths. Plunged into a dangerous world of magical chants and hidden enemies, the children use their natural talents to seek answers. Along the way, the forces of supernatural creatures and their human slaves fight them every step of the way with a fiendish plot to destroy the world. The future survival of Earth is at stake! What makes this story so satisfying is that while being a loving tribute to the body of horror writings by H.P. Lovecraft, it’s tamed with the humor, creativity, and updating by the author. Scary but funny; you just know that everything will work out all right. Everyone reading this will wish they grew up in the home that Billy did.

Aimed at the young adult market, I’m not sure that there are all that many kids who would even know who H.P. Lovecraft is. None the less, they will eat this novel up because it has all the elements they regularly encounter in their online dungeon and dragon games. Oldsters such as myself can appreciate the story itself, as well as the honor that the author has given to one of the early masters of horror fiction.

One tiny quibble — or piece of advice, if you will — is that the protagonists are listed as being 12-years old. They don’t seem, speak, or act it. One of them can read and translate Latin, while another can design plasma weapons. While you read the book, just figure that they are really 14 or 15-years old and it will seem more realistic. Aside from that, the author does a fine job of fleshing out all of the characters (human or otherwise) in this fun book.

Billy Lovecraft Saves the World is a fun read. The writing is crisp and the action is fast paced. I recommend it for kids up to age 90. You’ll love it and hope (as I do) that it is only the first of a series for these brave detectives. Bravo!

As always, if you appreciate this review, please find the one I cross-posted on Amazon and give it a “helpful” thumbs-up.

Posted by Jeff Soyer on 12 Nov 2014 09:04 am

It’s not the veterans who are shooting blanks:

A Wisconsin veterans group canceled its Veterans Day festivities at an area school district this year because it felt muzzled by objections from school officials.

The biggest objection: That events honoring U.S. servicemen would include firearms.

[ . . . ]

A school official said that they would like to help the veterans group, but that the safety of students come first.

“We like to honor the veterans; we bring them in on a regular basis,” Executive Director of Administration with the district Tim Libham said. “There are just some conditions that we have to adhere to and the shooting of guns, even with blanks, is something we don’t feel is appropriate given society, and the concerns that we have and that the community has, on school premises.”

Posted by Jeff Soyer on 12 Nov 2014 06:28 am

From the Times Argus:

A Colchester police detective is accused of taking drugs and a firearm from a police evidence locker in an incident the police chief on Tuesday called the darkest day in her department’s history.

Cpl. Tyler Kinney, 38, of Jericho, is expected to be charged Wednesday in federal court with crimes related to drug distribution and gun trafficking.

He was in charge of the evidence locker…

Posted by Jeff Soyer on 11 Nov 2014 04:30 am

Today is Veterans Day. I honor all who are or have served. You have my sincere thanks. Blogs such as Alphecca wouldn’t — couldn’t — exist without the sacrifices you and others in the past have made to keep our country safe and free.

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