The perils of predicting the future…

If you’re going to predict the future, you’d better be prepared to be spectacularly wrong…

Excerpt from an immigrant’s journal, written near “Sacramento City,” California, September 18, 1849:

“As for living in this country, it is too poor for man, beast, or the devil. The hills are so poor and parched up that they can scarcely hold up the rocks on their tops. I was reading Henry Clay’s speech, on the 13th of March last, on his compromise Bill in which he expressed the opinion that the immigrants to California, like those to Louisiana, will in ninety cases out of a hundred become permanent citizens. If Clay were to come out here he would take that back, for it appears to me that he just as well link heaven and hell in the same speech, as Louisiana and California. I have never seen a man yet, among all the vast crowd that are here, who thinks of remaining longer than he can make a raise; and all that some ask is enough to go home on.”

Fayette Boys en route to California, 1849,” in the Merrill J. Mattes Collection on the Oregon-California Trails Association website.

Posted in California history | 2 Comments

“I tell you folks that’s a lie!”

Here’s some 19th century humor in a news item in The Sacramento Daily Union, 8/17/1883, which they apparently poached from The Reno Gazette.

he knew him well copy SDU 1883 08 17 copy

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Ernest Hemingway and China’s Wings in the South China Morning Post

Thrilled to see this story about Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn in the Valentine’s Day edition of Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post: “In Love and War: a Hong Kong honeymoon for Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn.”

Looks like a few chunks of the story were sourced from this website.

China’s Wings, William Langhorne Bond, the China National Aviation Corporation (CNAC), Emily “Mickey” Hahn, and Pan Am all get substantial mentions.

SCMP copy I suspect the author sourced these posts I made shortly after China’s Wings published: Emily Hahn, Ernest Hemingway, China’s Wings, and the Boxer Uprising; and Emily Hahn and CNAC, aka The Hardest Cut; and Ernest Hemingway and China’s Wings.

China's WingsI read all of the books mentioned in the story when I was researching and writing China’s Wings. Martha Gellhorn’s Travels With Myself and Another is a minor classic. The description of Hemingway defeating a dozen Chinese generals in a drinking contest had me howling with laughter.

Never bad to get mentioned in a story about Ernest Hemingway.

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My review of “The Last Thousand” by Jeffrey E. Stern

Last Thousand cover copyHere’s “Education as a pathway to pacifying a violent nation,” my review of The Last Thousand: One School’s Promise in a Nation at War by Jeffrey E. Stern in the February 14, 2016 issue of The Washington Post.

“… a paean to the power of education and its potential to peacefully revolutionize a violent nation.”


Last Thousand review copy

Review 001Here’s the full list of book reviews I’ve done for The WSJ, The Washington Post, NPR Books, and elsewhere. (This is the 24th.)

Posted in Book & Movie Reviews | 1 Comment

My review of “The Ghosts of K2” by Mick Conefrey

Ghosts cover copyHere’s “The Savage Mountain,” my review of The Ghosts of K2: The Epic Saga of the First Ascent by Mick Conefrey in the February 6 & 7, 2016 edition of The Wall Street Journal.

(This is the 10th book I’ve reviewed for the WSJ: Here’s the full list.)


Check out this K2 documentary Conefrey made for the BBC. Exciting stuff.


Enduring Patagonia paperbackTo present my credentials to comment on climbing, here’s my alpine memoir, Enduring Patagonia (Random House, 2001), which TheCultureTrip picked as one of the ten best books ever written about Argentina.


Again, here’s my full list of book reviews–for The WSJ, The Washington Post, NPR Books, and others. (In total, this is the 23rd.)

Posted in Book & Movie Reviews | 2 Comments

Thrilled to see Enduring Patagonia on this 10 best list

Enduring Patagonia paperbackI’m delighted to discover Enduring Patagonia on TheCultureTrip’s list of The Ten Best Books About Argentina.

Ten Best copyI’m honored to be in company with Cortázar, Chatwin, Borges, Hernández, and Sábato.


My rabidly right-wing father rolls over in his grave seeing me on the same list with Che Guevara, but I’m enjoying needling him in the next world.

I haven’t read Martínez, Pron, or Bracken, but they all look interesting.

  • L’Autopista del Sur y Otros Cuentos by Julio Cortázar
  • In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin
  • Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges
  • The Tango Singer by Tomás Eloy Martínez
  • The Motorcycle Diaries by Che Guevara
  • My Father’s Ghost is Climbing in the Rain by Patricio Pron
  • Martín Fierro by José Hernández
  • Enduring Patagonia by Gregory Crouch
  • El Túnel by Ernesto Sábato
  • ¡Che Boludo! by James Bracken

Thank you, Bethany Currie!

Enduring Patagonia paperback

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Ever wonder about the human cost of WWII?

Here’s a graphic demonstration of the toll.

Posted in 1930s and 1940s history, China's Wings | Leave a comment

Alex Honnold’s Alone on the Wall, reviewed by Gregory Crouch

Alone on the Wall copyAlex Honnold is probably the most interesting climber active in the world today.

Here’s “Free Spirit,” my review of Honnold’s new book Alone on the Wall (co-authored by David Roberts) in the November 28 & 29, 2015 edition of The Wall Street Journal.



41QKpVp2xkLTo present my credentials to comment on climbing, here’s my alpine memoir, Enduring Patagonia (Random House, 2001), my attempt to crack open the world of cutting edge alpinism for a general readership.



Here’s the full list of book reviews I’ve done for The WSJ, The Washington Post, NPR Books, and elsewhere.

China's WingsEnduring Patagonia paperbackGoldlineRoute FindingRight Mate, Let's Get On With ItRope Diplomacy cover copyInto Action cover copy

Posted in Book & Movie Reviews, Enduring Patagonia | 2 Comments

I propose a new word: Apocalyst

As I did last year, I’d like to propose a new word:


Definition: (n) The Thanksgiving shopping list.

#wordsmithing #Thanksgiving #wordsmatter

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Fear the Catholics among you!

If you were a native-born American in the 1840s and 1850s, you quite likely thought the massive wave of Catholics immigrating into the United States was an invasion by a foreign power whose values were incompatible with American principles and saw it as part of a vast Papal conspiracy to conquer and subdue American democracy. Fear the Catholics among you, for they have come to spread their superstitions, their theocracy, their idolatry, and their false God! And we all know how that played out…

They became Americans just like you and me.

Anti-Catholicism in the United States

Posted in History & Politics | 2 Comments