Posts by DarianWorden

Misty Morning

My Head First post on Bannerman’s Island was certainly an adventure. Sugarloaf Mountain seemed like it would be a good place to get a downward-looking view, so I went up there early in the morning. The mist was thick as I climbed up, but it was sunny on top. There were some big spider webs.

Since the mist seemed to be clearing, I picked a spot that seemed like it would be a good place to view the island. And I caught the mist clearing up from the south, which was pretty cool.

The trip was a success, and I had time to visit a local library for some research. It was a good time to be on a mountain.

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Old-Time Libertarian Community: The Ferrer Colony of Stelton, New Jersey

If you have ever driven behind Livingston Campus in Piscataway, NJ and made a turn down School Street, you have driven through the grounds of what was once a thriving libertarian community. I’ve been fascinated by this place for years, and I’ve just posted an article about it.

On a rainy day in May of 1915, the first settlers of the Ferrer Colony of Stelton got off their train from New York and walked about a mile to their new homes. The crowd on its way to the old farmstead included 32 children who would be enrolled in the radical school that anchored the community.

While there was no political test to participate, committed anarchists and reformers with libertarian leanings were the driving force behind the school and made up a large number of Stelton residents. They were leaving the city behind to build a community where the Modern School model of Francisco Ferrer could be tested away from the struggles and investigations that the school in New York could not avoid. The community they founded was not without its problems, but it would grow and thrive for years, creating a pocket of freedom that nurtured many students and gave all residents a chance to participate in cooperative living that respected their individual liberty. Even after the community lost its identity and the school closed in 1953, many former residents recall their time at Stelton as a good time that shaped them into the people they are today…

Read the rest at Center for a Stateless Society.

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Exciting August

August is shaping up to be an exciting month.

I will be guiding some trips for an outdoor touring company, including whitewater rafting on the Lehigh. I also just started an internship at a local history museum, which is looking like it will be a valuable experience.

I am going to try to hike Mount Washington again. I cut my last trip short because the afternoon forecast called for severe thunderstorms and hail. Both arrived while I was driving out of the area.

I am also excited to be writing about historic libertarian communities for The Center for a Stateless Society. Expect news on that in mid-August.

I’ve been really happy with my posts at Head First. I will probably do one more post on Southeast Asia and then move on to more local adventures – which means I will have some climbing to do! I have also been updating the Head First Twitter profile fairly often with news related to history adventures.

It felt good to write this! Now on to the next thing.

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A Big Green Moth

While hiking in New York’s Harriman State Park in June, I noticed a big moth on the side of a tree. It soon jumped off the tree and wiggled its wings on the ground. I managed to get a decent picture with my phone.

luna moth in new york

We thought the moth was hurt, but less than a minute later it flew away.

As it turns out, we witnessed a luna moth going through a major step in its life cycle. The moth begins life as a caterpillar when it hatches from an egg laid in a tree. It eats for about three weeks before weaving a cocoon. After maturing in the cocoon, the moth emerges and climbs up a tree, where its wings harden and expand.

I had never seen a moth like this one before. It would certainly be easy to miss, since it blends in well with leaves. The four green wings with an eyespot each is characteristic of the luna moth.

It is not common to see one of these, partly because moths are most active at night, and partly because the adult life of a luna moth typically lasts less than a week. Adult luna moths do not even eat. They hunger only for reproduction.

The luna moth reproductive cycle may be disrupted by bright lights. Other human activity, including pesticide use and construction, can damage the its habitat.

While people obviously need places to live, work, and grow food, the potential of seeing something new, of discovering a piece of the world that you never knew about, is a life-improving opportunity that wild places offer.

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The Long Path Begins

While exploring Fort Lee Historic Park, which I featured in a recent Head First post, I found the triple blaze marking the beginning of the Long Path.

Long Path Trailhead

I’ve hiked on parts of the Long Path in the Catskills, but I’ve never planned to do the full 356 miles from Fort Lee to Albany. I was curious to see what course the trail took in the beginning. Apparently there is some George Washington Bridge traffic to cross before the trail makes it into the woods.

Long path in Fort Lee

Through-hiking the trail would definitely give you a variety of scenes.

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Keeping Up With The NSA

The NSA’s outrageous secret data collection program is still a developing story. I can’t say that I am completely surprised that the program exists. This is the kind of thing that people have been warning about since the Patriot Act was passed, and the government was certainly up to something with its huge data centers and talk of securing the public by taking massive power for itself. But for the public to be hit in the face with it all is a huge deal.

Now is when the world will see what we are willing to tolerate. Now is the time to decide exactly what kind of trust we have in politicians and elites who continue to fail the general public. This is one of those things that future generations will ask us what we did about.

The story broke in a June 5 article in The Guardian written by Glenn Greenwald, who was already an important journalist and commentator on civil liberties.

The New York Times denounced the data collection program in a scathing editorial.

Some people think that the metadata collected – records of who contacted whom – is not a big deal. But I expect that it would be useful in suppressing protest movements, which should be a concern especially given the federal involvement and probable coordination in suppressing the Occupy movement. Despite what hacks are claiming, a sweeping collection of data did not play a role in foiling terrorist plots. So who is the agency securing with the data they are collecting?

Another shocking development was when the whistleblower who leaked the documents came forward. If you haven’t watched the video of Edward Snowden explaining his motivation, you should make time for it.

Naturally, the elites and the people who make a living by sucking up to them had to heap obnoxious insults on Snowden. They deserve no respect.

James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, got away with lying to Congress when he was asked if the NSA collects “any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions” of Americans. Apparently the NSA has its own definition of some words and when Clapper was asked a question in English, he responded in gov-speak.

What to do about this? The MIT Center for Civic Media lists Six Productive Responses to PRISM. The ACLU has a petition campaign. Restore the Fourth rallies against NSA spying will take place in numerous cities on July 4.

Outrageously, Capitol Police broke up a press conference about NSA spying because the organizers didn’t have a permit to talk to each other in large groups. This is the state of public discourse in America today. This is not okay.

Back From Southeast Asia

Helen and I made our trip to Southeast Asia happen! And it happened very well.

We flew into Bangkok after about 21 hours of air travel, which included a stop in Osaka, a transfer in Taipei, and 11 time zones. Worth it!

We had planned the trip pretty thoroughly before going, since we had limited time in an area far, far away. We were able to stick to our plan pretty well. We spent a short time at the beach, then went back to Bangkok (which happened to be during Thai New Year), north to the old city of Ayutthaya, overnight train to Chiang Mai (smaller and more relaxing than Bangkok), then a short trek in the hills of Thailand.

View of mountains in Thailand

We then spent about a week in northern Vietnam: Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, and the Phong Nha area (known for its caves).

Ha Long Bay in Vietnam

It was a great trip filled with new experiences and some challenges (like crossing the street).

Some of the places we went will be featured at Head First, the history adventure site I created. We certainly found great material! But first I’m going to post about more a local history adventure that I did before leaving the country, seeing as it is Spring and people might be looking for hikes to do.

Speaking of Spring and hikes, I look forward to taking some hikes this Spring. One of the things I missed most on our trip (even more than drinking water from the tap) was enjoying the Northeast Spring. There were a few green buds coming out just before I left, but I didn’t get to watch the forest fill with green. It was certainly worth missing it, but like any rational person I wish I could have everything I want.

I’m still getting adjusted to my Jersey schedule (though I ate a sub from an Italian deli within 24 hours of returning to the state). Hopefully my schedule will include more frequent blog posts. We’ll see.

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Spring

Already it is spring!

Head First, the history adventure project, has been taking up a lot of my time. I’m very proud of what we’ve done with Head First and very happy with my contributions, but it’s time to scale back. As I wrote on the Head First site, going to a less regular posting schedule will allow more time for other adventures in life, and also give us more flexibility to develop and experiment with Head First. It will be nice to mix up short posts, long articles, and videos more than before. As always, it’s in the spirit of “let’s do this and see what happens.”

I have been posting cool things on the Head First Twitter page. There are a lot of cool historical facts and adventure tips out there.

I had a good time at Liberty Forum. The video of my Thoreau talk should be online relatively soon, and I’ll post it here when I can.

I have a number of projects and ideas in the works, and I’ll share them here when they are more fully developed.

All in all, I think it’s going to be a good spring.

creek in mist - darianworden.com

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Going Head First Into 2013

I’ve had a busy year so far. I posted at Head First every Thursday, with articles exploring the Paterson Silk Strike centennial, an ice-covered fire tower in the Catskill Mountains, an old stone bridge and early American roads, and old mining areas. Yesterday we posted our first video that we made together. It follows us as we explore the grounds of a community that was rooted by an anarchist-inspired school with a former resident describing what life was like there.

As described at Head First,

The Modern School, based on the ideas of Spanish anarchist Francisco Ferrer, was a radical program of freedom in education. After Ferrer was executed in 1909, anarchists and social reformers founded Modern Schools in many countries, and the movement took root in the United States. From 1915 to 1953, a community anchored by a Modern School existed in Piscataway Township, New Jersey.

Head First took a tour of the old Ferrer grounds with Bob Vinik, who grew up in Stelton and attended the Modern School. He gave us a fascinating picture of community life and how students grew into successful adults. We also got a chance to see how the land of the old colony has changed as Piscataway Township grew around it. It was a pleasure meeting Bob and discovering the unique history around the corner.

Originally I had wanted to do a few videos before we did the Modern School, as I knew it would be a challenge to do justice to the topic. But I am satisfied that we made what we wanted: a fun and informative video that can inspire people to learn more about things like the Modern School and to explore the history around them. I was excited and a little nervous while filming since I had never made a documentary video before. I trust that my excitement comes through, but I do see some things I can work on for my next video presentation.

Up next is trying to grow Head First into a solid series with broader coverage and more readers and viewers. I’m working on a few trips now, which will include winter scenes and places a little farther from home. I want the series to not only impress the viewer with how cool these places are, but also to showcase examples of things that can be explored with various levels of personal investment.

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Happy Winter!

wooden snowman

It’s officially winter here in the US, which means the days are actually starting to get longer, which means the Northern Hemisphere is getting closer to the sun – in other words, the solstice is here! Phil Plait has a nice explanation of the winter solstice at Slate.

I do like having a cold time of the year, and I hope to experience some cold days before spring. But I’m glad winter doesn’t last forever, and it’s easier to do things outside when there is more sunlight anyway. Also, after being in the dark for so long after Hurricane Sandy, it’s easier to understand why a mid-winter celebration of light was such a big deal for ancient people.

What I’m up to besides the expected holiday stuff, is the history adventure project Head First. Head First will continue to grow in the coming weeks, as there is plenty of interesting history to explore.

Best wishes for a festive midwinter!

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