Bill Armstrong, an occasional contributor to these pages, will reveal what he's been doing since he last wrote for Desert Exposure at a "Meet the Author" event on Saturday, Nov. 19, from 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at the Silver City Public Library: He's been writing a children's book, Letters from Ozo. The event is sponsored by the Friends of the Library, where Armstrong is a former board member.
According to a blurb on the new book's back cover, "One morning, Bill Armstrong woke up worrying about whether he really understood all of the things he had learned during the late, unlamented 20th century. Going out and looking for wise counsel didn't work, so he made up a wise counselor of his own and together they wrote this book. He says they wrote it for kids because writing for adults never seems to help them very much."
In tracing how exactly he came to wind up living in Silver City and writing a children's book, Armstrong says, "By the time I was 20, life was beginning to look like it would be a series of false starts. Mine were academic. In the 1950s, kids who liked math were pushed into engineering school, but I hated my slide rule and flunked practically everything a college freshman could flunk. So I moved to Boulder, Colo.—then arguably the greatest place in the USA—and tried geology, much more to my liking, and wonderfully compatible with hiking and climbing. But geology was hard work too, so I headed off to Cincinnati to exploit my God-given, natural genius for drawing and painting, the easy road to success. The boho life was a total gas, but then, unaccountably, my parents wished me luck and closed my bank account.
"I worked nights, painted days and met a good, sexy woman. Smart, too. She said if I wanted her I’d have to straighten up, so we dragged our honeymoon U-Haul trailer to Boulder, finished up my degree in geology and had a baby. By then, I was having a good time trying to cram computer programs into the tiny, 8K brains of big dinosaur computers that occupied entire buildings. We had another baby, and the whole idea of false starts went out the window.
"I bought a new suit and went to work finding Denver Public Schools its first computer. We bought a house, and I walked to work every day for 25 years. The kids grew up and left. I turned gray, then bald, and then retired. In 1995 we stumbled into Silver City, and noticed how people kept busy reinventing themselves—a wonderful new false start every day, if you will.
"I knew I was training for something."
Armstrong adds that he's currently writing another children's book, a project we hope will still leave him time to return to these pages sometime soon.
Another area author, Alan Yves Phillips of Deming, has written a holiday novel, Grey's Christmas, published just in time for the season. Phillips has been a power-industry engineer for more than 28 years, working across the country and around the world as a technical writer/editor and writing hundreds of instruction manuals. During his travels and in his off-time, he says, he has been writing creatively as a hobby, which has now turned him into a first-time novelist.
The story follows the main character, Byron Grey, and his lifelong friend, Henry James, over the weeks leading up to Christmas. It's set in Park City, Utah, and the Wasatch Mountains. Hardcover and paperback editions of the book are available at local bookstores and online at Amazon and barnesandnoble.com.
Our obsessive stalking of Gov. Bill Richardso's 2008 presidential ambitions has found fresh fodder in the Washington Post's new "The Fix" politics blog. Everyone in the Democratic consulting world is "all a-twitter of late," according to the paper's Chris Cillizza, because Richardson is "interviewing a handful of Democratic media consulting firms with an eye on winning re-election next year and then turning his focus to a national race." Doc Schweitzer of the Campaign Group, who handled Richardson's 2002 TV strategy, will reportedly be allowed to interview for the job, but will be joined by several media-heavyweight contenders, including Murphy Putnam Shorr, GMMB, Strother Duffy Strother and Squier Knapp Dunn.
"Richardson's ultimate decision will have a major impact in the talent primary," writes Cillizza, "the battle for top campaign strategists that is one of the most behind-the-scenes, but vitally important, parts of the run-up to the 2008 presidential race."
Former state representative and New Mexico attorney general Hal Stratton, now chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, made The New Republic's recent list of the Bush administration's "Hackocracy." Inspired by FEMA head Michael Brown (best known for his work with an Arabian horse association), the magazine spotlighted the 15 least-qualified Bush appointees: "The events of the past months have awakened the press to the true nature of the Bush administration. It is overrun with hacks—that is, government officials with waifish resumes padded like the Michelin man, whose political connections have won them important national responsibilities."
New Mexico expatriate Stratton—a "former geology major who went on to co-chair the local Lawyers for Bush during the 2000 campaign"—made the list at number nine. According to the magazine, "Shortly before Stratton's confirmation hearing, Senator Ron Wyden expressed concern that Stratton 'has no demonstrable track record on public safety.' . . . But now he does have a track record: rare public hearings and a paucity of new safety regulations, as well as regular (often industry-sponsored) travels to such destinations as China, Costa Rica, Belgium, Spain and Mexico. But at least Stratton won't let personal bias influence him: Despite saying that he wouldn't let his own daughters play with water yo-yos—rubber toys that are outlawed in several countries because of concerns that children could be strangled by them—he refused to ban them in the United States."
Stratton shouldn't feel bad about being only number nine. Topping the list as top "hack" appointee is Supreme Court pick Harriet Miers.
File this one under "you get what you pay for." The National Rifle Association (NRA)'s long-stalled top legislative priority has finally cleared Congress, with a little help from New Mexico congressmen. The bill prohibits "civil liability actions from being brought or continued against manufacturers, distributors, dealers or importers of firearms or ammunition for damages, injunctive or other relief resulting from the misuse of their products by others." Among the many Senate co-sponsors of the bill that ultimately passed was Sen. Pete Domenici, who got $7,000 from the NRA in his 2002 re-election campaign. Sponsors of the House version included Rep. Steve Pearce, whose campaign received $12,900 last year from the NRA.