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Lately, in between studying for law school exams and taking law school exams and doing the law school journal writing competition, I’ve been streaming superhero movies thinking a some about morality, and what it means, and its place in the law. It’s well known that the legal field can be a fraught place for morality, not least because the legal profession consists more or less entirely of either trying to help one person or group forcibly take things  (generally money, but also sometimes freedom, property, even life) from another, or of trying to stop that kind of taking from happening. Law is also a subject area where a lot of complicated elements get mashed together–money, power, religion, national identity, etc.–and so it can be legitimately problematic to figure out what is right and what is wrong, sometimes (or even what is true/false). Law (like literary criticism) dwells most comfortably within cracks and interstices and gray areas and uncertanties. Part of being a lawyer is finding those cracks and, sometimes, when they are absent, taking a chisel and opening some up. It’s no wonder that lawyers in general don’t have the happiest of reputations.

Plus, given the adversarial nature of the law, and the politically/emotionally/intellectually polarized subjects that come together in a lot of legal debates, it’s especially important to be sensitive to other opinions, and to give a fair hearing to all sides.

These concerns are of course less essential on a blog, where I’m free to anonymously rant or lecture or speculate about whatever I want. Those who come here looking for a balanced weighing of the issues will be disappointed.

Nonetheless, I have for the main part avoided politically charged subjects here, until my recent post on the gay marriage debate. That post, to my own surprise, generated a few comments and a little bit of confusion among readers, and so I thought it might be useful to address what some have rightly pointed out was probably the central problem in a somewhat incomplete argument: namely, that when I say that homosexuality is not immoral (or that it’s even possible for “God” to be “immoral”), I used a sortof unconventional definition of ‘morality,’ and by doing so, I skirted around what is probably the central issue in the gay marriage debate. I’m not going to adequately address that debate now–you have a whole internet to go to for that kind of thing–but I will try to explain what on earth I was talking about in my earlier post.

The problem is that ‘morality,’ like ‘love’ or ‘duty’, is a broad term that can sensibly encompass a range of pretty discrete meanings. The type of morality I was considering could maybe be characterized as a sort of loose approximation of Kant‘s categorical imperative (or, for you laymen, something like the golden rule of do unto others etc.). In doing so, I think I was trying to state a type of morality which is both universally applicable and appropriate for a legal context: a moral system that you could write into law. This is related to John Rawls’ veil of ignorance, and it’s a very abstract and pragmatic idea of morality.

The point being that this idea of morality (call it “liberal morality”) is in fact pretty fundamentally distinct from the way that most people talk and think about morals. I would suggest that most of us come to conclusions about “right” and “wrong” not by abstract utilitarian calculations but by reference to identity and tradition: what is right and wrong depends upon what group you belong to, what your history is, what language you speak, who your parents are, and what texts you hold sacred. I’ll call this “conservative morality,”♦ and it’s a much richer and more personal idea of morality–one that is bound up with identity and community and family–and so its no wonder that many conservatives tend to find liberal morality pale and unsatisfying and relativistic and even dangerous. The subjects that most concern liberal morality–whether something is harmful (ie. causes a loss of wealth, or an increase in pain)–are secondary in conservative moralities, which can assign even greater stigma to certain non-harmful activities.

While the term is politically loaded, it might be useful to say that conservative morality as I’ve formulated it demands a ‘politics of exclusion’: it’s based on maintaining a cohesive group. I’m talking not just about the moral code of religious organizations (which may restrict homosexuality, or women showing their faces in public, or eating non-kosher foods), but also the type of moral code you see in mafia movies (family first, don’t be a snitch), or even just in individual families (no feet on the table?).  It’s important to remember that exclusion is central to identity; to the extent that being ‘American’ means anything, it’s because America is different from other places (including, for better or worse, socialist European nations). Conservative morality is directly related to who we are as a country, and while it lends itself to jingoisim and us-vs-them absolutism and all the kinds of scary extremisms that accompany real ideological conviction, it is also connected with positive things like family and tradition that are obviously and perhaps tragically on decline in the modern world. 

This is, of course, a pretty facile dichotomy, but I think it might still be a useful way of looking at a lot of contemporary politics. For instance, it helps explain why so many of the arguments against gay marriage in the recent supreme court cases were so pallid and embarrassing, like for example the argument that the main purpose behind the institution of marriage is to produce children, which those poor lawyers for the defense had to deliver to the supreme court while keeping a straight face. It’s not that there are no good arguments for banning gay marriage; it’s that the actual reason for such a ban–that the majority of Americans find homosexuality to be morally repugnant (and if they feel otherwise, they should show it with their votes)–has already been declared constitutionally illegitimate in the case of Lawrence v. Texas. There the court held that this type of moral sentiment, unjustified by evidence of material harm caused by the objectionable class, is for legal purposes nothing more than “irrational prejudice.” A critic might point out, however, that the difference between “irrational prejudice” and “traditional moral values” seems to depend more on where you stand than on any objective evidence. Justice Scalia, who dissented in Lawrence, has argued that in a democracy the majority has the constitutional right to declare what kinds of behavior are right and wrong, so long as their will doesn’t contradict explicit confines of the constitution itself. This is not a weak argument; it was in fact the court’s position not that long ago, in Bowers v. Hardwick. 

On the other hand, I think that most of us, when really questioned, would say that the court should strike down laws that discriminate against a certain class of people without objective reason, regardless of the traditional moral values that might underlie that discrimination. Liberal morality doesn’t precisely discount conservative morality, but it does relegate it to the private sphere. The establishment clause is one way our constitution upholds this separation; the fourteenth amendment (as the Court has recently interpreted it) is another. There is, however, certainly room for respectful disagreement on the subject.

*My idea of politics is also very influenced by Richard Rorty, who basically said that since philosophy is often sortof a crock, and we can’t actually really have any absolute knowledge about abstract concepts like “good” or “evil,” we should instead focus our efforts and our laws on trying to cause as little harm to our fellow man as possible: to ameliorate suffering, and to avoid cruelty. That seems like a pretty sound policy to me.

♦I didn’t come up with this stuff all by myself. As with most of my blog, what you read has already been said better elsewhere. However, I couldn’t find the really relevant articles to link you to and I don’t remember what they are, so I’m just going to say that I know some of this is based on the work of Stanley Fish (as usual), and that the characterization of social conservatism in general probably owes a good bit to Ross Douthat at the New York Times, whom I read religiously. I also owe a lot to my favorite legal theorist, Robert Cover, whose book Nomos and Narrative is all about the way that public law interacts with the private legal systems of the smaller groups that it governs. Highly recommended.

I’m in the thick of it now; two weeks until exams are over, and 1L year is done (well, except for a writing competition which I am not permitting myself to worry about yet). No time to talk about the process, or much else.

Also, my birthday was yesterday! Now I’m 27 years old. I’m told that this is the age of ‘peak mental acuity’, so if I seem extra keen in this year’s posts, you’ll know why.

But anyway, I was distracting from my studies earlier by a pretty great article about Mr. Kierkegaard. Since I talked about the subject recently, I thought it appropriate to link. You can read it here.

Enjoy!

As a law student in these interesting times, it seems somehow inappropriate for me not to offer some kind of comment about the important matter currently before the Court. Yesterday, oral argument was heard as to whether California’s Proposition 8 should stand; today, we listened with somewhat greater optimism to discussion of the even more offensive DOMA. I have little to add that has not been said repeatedly, and more eloquently, by others. There is no tenable non-religious foundation upon which these laws can can be upheld. The arguments from science (‘it’s good for families,’ or ‘marriage is for children’) are laughably bad, which is why the only way the court will be able to uphold either law is to dismiss the case for lack of standing–if they engage this issue on the merits, the defense has already lost*. And although the establishment clause is subject to nuance, I think most would agree that separation of church and state is a fundamental principle of our government, and should be maintained.**

I do feel, however, that I have a certain understanding of the ‘bigots’ and ‘hypocrites’ who make up the religious right, and maybe a different and more sympathetic perspective on their community. I was raised a Southern Baptist, and if I have since abandoned that religion, I retain a great deal of respect for the sort of all-consuming faith that animates many church members. I am convinced that if you really get to know this subset of the electorate (and it is not a small contingent), you’ll see that for them the separation of church and state is considered neither desirable nor even really to be a coherent idea. There is a sort of Platonic ideal of abstraction in the concept of a government free from religion, and the religious right (like the Muslim fundamentalists in certain countries of the Middle East) has noticed, not inaccurately, that this kind of abstraction requires a neutered form of religion. This is easier to see in religions, like Islam, that have historically been religions of laws (and where there is no separation between ‘king’ and ‘pope’), but there are few religions that do not command acts from their followers, in addition to thoughts. And perhaps almost as few in which those acts do not come into conflict with the state.

For this church, then, as for others, the nation is a community defined by shared ideas and priorities, and if you believe–and many people do–that those priorities are dictated by God himself, then of course you aren’t likely to be dissuaded by any mere ‘parchment barriers’. Certain fictions, like the recurring claim that we are a “Christian nation,” are the result of this belief, but the belief itself is deeper and more fundamental. The bonds of community–especially religious community–are stronger than many in the modern world would like to believe.

Of course, plenty of liberals and even conservatives would hold (and again, other voices have said it better) that the far-right’s interpretation of scripture is untenable on its own terms. They are obviously correct. If the old testament forbids homosexuality, well, most christians have long since abandoned that testament (and a thousand undergraduate facebook profiles can show you what other absurdities the old testament God chose to abhor, and what abhorrences–including slavery–he chose to allow). The bible belt seems to forget the new covenant upon which their church is founded, and in so doing they betray their fundamental principles (or, at least, their most fundamental principle: John 13:34). But even that is beyond the scope of this blog post.

Instead, I simply want to reproach the ‘Godly’ for their lack of humility, and for failing to read their Kierkegaard. As a mental exercise, let’s go ahead and concede that homosexuality is an abomination in the sight of the Lord. Concede that He has forbidden it, and that His scriptures (passed directly from God to Man) plainly denounce it and mandate punishment for the crime (it is, I admit, a difficult exercise, but empathy is the most underrated of virtues, and in politics the most essential).

Concede all of this, and what then? You have the Lord your God, commanding us to eschew our fellow man, calling “unclean” our own sisters, brothers, neighbors (and never forget that God has commanded you to love these neighbors as yourself). Lets abandon the pseudo-science for a moment. The church has never been a scientific institution, and the Republican party abandoned science over a decade ago. Homosexuality is not a choice, and if it were a choice it would be one that affirmed life and love and did no harm to anybody. It is not malum in se.

The religious right has avoided the difficulty of this position by calling this a matter of morality. It is not. There is nothing in human morality to impeach homosexuality any more than heterosexuality. If homosexuality is wrong, it is wrong only in the sight of God. I think certain sects of Christianity have ignored the many times that God has commanded them to behave immorally, even evilly. This is disingenuous, and it cheapens their faith. Kierkegaard demonstrated in Fear and Trembling that faith is only meaningful when it requires a leap beyond the human creations of reason and morality. When God commands Abraham to murder his own son Isaac, there is no way in which this is a moral choice. It is a choice no decent person could condone, or should. I maintain: conservative Christianity will not be entitled to our respect until it acknowledges that it is sacrificing its own sons and daughters, blindly, in service of its God. Flawed interpretations of scripture are tragic, but forgivable; interpretation is difficult, and the influence of culture is strong. But intellectual dishonesty is deplorable, and when it encroaches upon our government and our civil rights, it should not be permitted. The church (or this church) is not being good, or righteous, or moral. It is attempting to obey a God that (it claims) demands evil acts. And it is using the ballots and the courts to turn our nation’s laws to the same evil ends.

If the right wing can acknowledge that, and continue to vote and pontificate as it has, then thousands of homosexual U.S. citizens will be no better off. But at least we’ll be having an honest conversation.

*Well, there is one argument under which the court might find these laws constitutional: the peculiar dogma of originalism espoused by Justices Scalia and especially Thomas has been used to protect our courts from rational decision-making in the past, and may be again. The problems with that interpretive technique, however, will merit a different blog post.

**I believe that a truly rigorous application of this principle would require the federal and state governments to forego the marriage business entirely–but if that is not to be, they should at least try to avoid willful and egregious discrimination against their citizens. Every schoolchild knows that we are all of us created equal.

As I went walking up and down to take the evening air
(Sweet to meet upon the street, why must I be so shy?)
I saw him lay his hand upon her torn black hair;
(“Little dirty Latin child, let the lady by!”)

The women squatting on the stoops were slovenly and fat,
(Lay me out in organdie, lay me out in lawn!)
And everywhere I stepped there was a baby or a cat;
(Lord, God in Heaven, will it never be dawn?)

The fruit-carts and clam-carts were ribald as a fair,
(Pink nets and wet shells trodden under heel)
She had haggled from the fruit-man of his rotting ware;
(I shall never get to sleep, the way I feel!)

He walked like a king through the filth and the clutter,
(Sweet to meet upon the street, why did you glance me by?)
But he caught the quaint Italian quip she flung him from the gutter;
(What can there be to cry about that I should lie and cry?)

He laid his darling hand upon her little black head,
(I wish I were a ragged child with ear-rings in my ears!)
And he said she was a baggage to have said what she had said;
(Truly I shall be ill unless I stop these tears!)

Why did nobody tell me that Edna St. Vincent Millay lived just down the road from where I now live?

Moving Forward

This post brought to you by “Almodi Petit”, a very affordable Spanish blend (Garnacha-Syrah-Samso). It’s blackish purple, and smells of tar and plums, and it’s quite good. I have now lived in this grand city for five-ish months, and have found a happy place at La Vid Wines and Spirits. If you happen to be a fellow village-resident, I highly recommend them.

Yes yes, it’s been over a semester since I updated. But you know what I don’t like on blogs? When they’re all full of personal details, and then when the blogger/blogette begins to inevitably neglect their duties (because blogging, lets face it, is a thankless sport, and requires at least a modicum of discipline, and the city is full of entertaining diversions and time-consuming memo assignments), the blog itself devolves into a series of increasingly sporadic and semi-sincere apologias, and substantial content (I mean, the cupcake recipes and baby pictures and true-life confessions that are the reasons we came to the blog in the first place) falls entirely by the wayside. And since such blogs are, in all but the best of times, read only by the writer and his/her immediate family and the occasional unfortunate internet-browser who, caught up in a storm of pre-law anxiety, googles some unlikely combination of “adventure” and “scholar” and “Law School”, such excuses and I-beg-your-pardons are really unnecessary, aren’t they? Especially between such good friends and random non-acquaintances. I mean, it’s not like you’ve been lingering every day on the internet awaiting my next post, and for my part I certainly haven’t been staring blankly at the screen distressed by my inability to oblige you. So lets get over the whole drama of the gap–I’m not being paid for this service, after all–and move on with our lives.

At least, insofar as we are able. There is a big gap to fill, and the chronological reader will need to proceed not by sober steps, but by grand flamboyant leaps, from post to post, to keep up with me. Don’t expect a summary of the significant events that have elapsed since my most recent post, either.  Those who fall behind shall be left behind. It is the pirate’s code*.

In any case, I should inform you that there is a great deal of hype and horror surrounding the first semester of law school, but I think many of the accounts are overblown. No, law students are just verbose, and like to complain about homework, and since we are possessed of a healthy sense of schadenfreude, we feed on each other’s misery. Plus, there is a certain need to justify the investment: if I am spending so much time and money on this education, I had better be learning like all the laws, at all times. Of course we are assigned a significant amount of reading, but the workload isn’t absurd, and indeed for the main part it’s quite manageable. This is especially the case if you are overly cautious, as I was, and forgo participation in the many many extracurricular social/humanitarian projects which are available.

Don’t do that, though. Participate in things.

It does all sortof crash together in the last month or so of the semester, at which point everybody begins outlining and studying and avoiding the sunlight, but even this is less dramatic than certain online forums might lead you to expect (I may blog more thoroughly, in the future, on the somewhat unique experience of the law-school exam). I have a theory that the K-JD students (ie. those who have never experienced the travails of full-time employment, and have gone from kindergarten to law school without interruption, and are identifiable by the youthful naivete on their faces and by the fact that they often don’t know how to so much as boil pasta or fry an egg and so survive, like true New Yorkers, entirely on pizza and chinese takeout) are sometimes overwhelmed by the law school workload, but the majority of us know what it means to dedicate 40 hours a week to often-mundane assignments, and we are pretty happy to spend that sum of time on subject matter that is at least mildly interesting and relevant to some idealized future career-of-choice. The moral of this paragraph being: treat law school like a job, and you’ll do just fine.**

My experience has probably been helped by the fact that my university is almost too hospitable and concerned with our well being and mental health, so that the transition from working adult or undergraduate student to budding-young-legal-mind is facilitated with assorted frequent free pizza or doughnuts or alcohol (every Thursday night is “bar review”–ie. the school-sponsored night of revelry at some local establishment–and so every Friday morning’s class is hilarious), and in particularly dark times they bring in those therapy puppies, like hospitals give to burn victims and shell-shocked war veterans, for us to play with until all law-induced anxiety melts away.◊ The administrators are uniformly nice and considerate, and when your half of the city is shut down by a freak hurricane, they have pretty good free meals in the student center.

All of which is just to say that life proceeds here, in relative ease and comfort, and maybe possibly we’re even learning something about the law in the process.

*Which, there is some sort of silly law joke to make here, regarding the use of codes, and guidelines, and what are we doing at this institution of higher learning anyway–but it’s not quite coming to me, so here’s something only vaguely related.

**I’m not the first person to say this, but I have an idea that not too many 1Ls are turning to this blog for advice anyway. And if I do no harm, you may call no foul.

◊ A pretty good deal, I thought, until I learned that during exam periods Cornell Law brings in therapeutic llamas for its students, putting all puppy dogs and kitty cats and bunny rabbits to shame. I mean to organize a petition, and possibly a hunger strike, to force NYU to meet this high bar.

Lawyering

This is my first week of law school. I have now been living in New York city (The City) for five days.

I live in D’Agostino hall, in an apartment that is both far smaller than my last residence and less unpleasant than I had imagined. I have acquired a foam pad for my tragically thin and obscenely uncomfortable mattress*. I have learned to shut my blinds so the law students studying in Vanderbilt Hall (directly across the street) don’t have to see me when I’m changing. In the purple “NYU Law Alumni Welcome You!” bag I received on Wednesday, as the first part of the orientation “festivities”, I found some chocolates, a soft-and-squeezable gavel (for when I feel the need to crush something law-related in my fist, I guess), and a set of earplugs which has already come in handy multiple times, thanks to the (quite talented) saxophonist who nightly performs outside my window.

We 450 “1Ls” (we few, we happy few!) haven’t yet begun any of our actual classes. Those begin next Wednesday, and will all be taught by legends in their fields. Just to give you an idea of the great brains that will be lecturing me (in an anonymous crowd of fifty or so, of course–it’s not like I’m special here), my schedule includes:

-Civil Procedure with Samuel Issacharoff,

-Criminal Law with Erin Murphy, and

-Contracts with Richard Epstein**

So, you know, that’s something to get excited about.

For the moment, though, my days begin with morning lectures in the grand auditorium on the subject of “what is a law class like?” and “how do I study for finals?” and “please please don’t do anything stupid or illegal because all of your prospective future employers will find out and, in law school, we don’t report your behavior to your parents but we do report you to the ABA.”

Also, we 1Ls have started a class called Lawyering: a stress- free pass/fail class of only about thirty people, devoted to teaching the rudiments of legal analysis and note-taking and maybe representing a client in a law-type situation. Most of class is taken up with role playing. On the first day of class, on Thursday, we divided into groups acting as plaintiff, defendant, and judge, and responded in character to the following scenario:

Town X has a lovely park. In response to a recent tragic accident, the town passed a law that no vehicles are to be allowed in the park, subject to a $200 fine. Now, on a recent summer afternoon, Angelina Jolie was spending a day with her family near the park, when an angry Jennifer Aniston leapt from the nearby bushes and rushed toward them with unknown intent. The whole Pitt-Jolie clan mounted a set of motorized bicycles, which they had on hand, and fled in all directions. Jolie motored into the park, where she was cited by the park ranger. Jolie now contests the fine.

Astute readers will recognize this scenario from the standard law-prep book Getting to Maybe, which pretty much every new law student has read months before arriving at school◊. The celebrity appearances are, I think, entirely attributable to professorial ingenuity.

The question, of course, hinges on how the court will define the term “vehicle” from the statute. And, as in so many instances of linguistic interpretation, attempts to answer always lead into confusion. Subsequent exercises go on to elaborate this point, ie. what if Jolie is instead a crippled woman riding a motorized wheelchair? What if she’s a fireperson in a firetruck, rushing to extinguish a flaming tree? What if she’s an artist who wants a license to erect a public work of art commemorating the town’s great love of Nascar, in the form of an old (and locked) Indy-500 car mounted on a pedestal?

This is not what law teachers are referring to when they describe the “Socratic Method”, but it is socratic-style teaching in the truest sense. Speaking of ordinary language philosophy, Stanley Cavell says in “Must We Mean What We Say”: “Socrates gets his antagonists to withdraw their definitions not because they do not know what their words mean, but because they do know what they (their words) mean and therefore know that Socrates has led them into paradox” (MWMWWS, 39).

These paradoxes are, apparently, the stuff that litigation is made of, and NYU’s class of 2015 will be prepared to answer them. Or, at least, to make strong arguments for either side in exchange for a percentage of any damages awarded to the victor.

*said mattress, I should note, is an extra-long twin: a size I swore I’d never again occupy after I left the dorms of my undergraduate university. I feel less adult.

**Maybe it’s not saying much, but this is the first time I’ll have ever had a professor with their own wikipedia page. Clearly, we’re dealing with big shots here.

◊The course textbook tells me this scenario was actually originated by H.L.A. Hart in 1958, so apparently it’s been around for a while now.

This post brought to you by clean water. From the mountains.

As a more practical addendum to my most recent post, I feel like I should send a shout-out to a pretty much revolutionary device which I used for the first time on this summer’s backpacking trip. Consider this a ScholarAdventurer first: we’re doing product reviews.

Grandpa has recently gone on an exciting quest to eliminate all excess weight from his backpack. On this recent week-long trip, he carried food, tent, stove, fuel, and all necessaries on his back, and yet the pack weighed just over twenty pounds. For comparison, I consider myself fortunate if I can get below thirty.

In the process of cutting weight, he’s acquired the latest in ultralight hiking technology. We slept in a tent that was made of some Rivendell-style gossamer mesh. We ate food that had been dehydrated and then double-dehydrated, for maximum dehydration. However, maybe the most exciting thing Grandpa has discovered is the SteriPen.

See, the thing is that water in the mountains isn’t really drinkable. Sure, you might be able to safely drink the water in certain very remote brooks in like Alaska or the Himalayas, but for the most part water in the Sierra Nevada is contaminated by malevolent parasites, and has been ever since woolly mammoths sought refreshment from crystalline alpine springs.

Or, probably, since the 1970s. Grandpa has fond memories of a time when he would go to the mountains without even a water bottle, and would just dip a tin cup in any passing stream. He blames the change on the hippies, and pack mules, both of which are known for their poor hygiene. For as long as I have been alive, in any case, it has been a really really bad idea to drink from even the highest and most secluded water source without taking protective measures. To do otherwise risks having to deal with this gentleman:


Sorry. I probably should have warned you that some really horrifying imagery was coming there, so the sensitive-of-stomach could avert their eyes. The microscopic world is both wondrous and terrible. This is giardia, which wikipedia informs me is an anaerobic flagellated protozoan parasite. I don’t think I’ve ever met a backpacker who didn’t a least know somebody who had contracted it.

What happens is some infected person or animal (in the mountains, I’m told, it’s often pack mules*) voids its bowels in the water of some high place, or near the water so that the rain will wash it down, and the parasite then lurks there until it gets the opportunity to infest an unsuspecting human. Then, once it’s in your intestines, it waits a few days or even a few weeks, multiplying, biding its time… until it strikes! Deadly diarrhea, pain and suffering, blood and (occasionally, I think) spontaneous combustion. These symptoms can last for weeks and, get this, sometimes they never entirely go away. You get this bug, you could spend the rest of your life in its company.

Anyway, the point is that ever since I started hiking there have been only three really viable ways to make sure your drinking water is as pure and clear as it looks and tastes. You can boil it–which is time consuming, and requires heavy fuel**, you can kill the bugs with iodine (which tastes vile), or you can pump your water through a charcoal filter, which is also time consuming, and labor intensive, but was always my preferred method. There was even something satisfyingly rustic in using the labor of my arms to obtain my water, like some primitive mountain man (with an eighty dollar filtration system) drawing his drink from a well he bored into the hillside.

That is all changed now, though, because modern technology has learned that, actually, weirdly, giardia can also be killed by ultraviolet light.

This is very strange to me. Ultraviolet light, I’m pretty sure, is generated by normal sunlight, which hits lakes in the mountains all the time without killing their bacteria. I suspect that lots of the things that grow in lakes actually probably like sunlight. Nonetheless, we live in interesting times. I spent a full week doing nothing to treat my water except swizzling a little blue light in it before I drank, and I felt a constant nagging fear that I was signing my own death sentence.

Now that over a month has passed, however, and I can say with reasonable confidence that I am not suffering explosive pooping, I can confirm that mountain water can actually be made potable by exposure to ultraviolet light. And if you thought it was satisfying to work your ass off for a bottle of water, wait until you turn on this thing that looks like a miniature lightsaber–this thing which requires no expensive replacement filters, doesn’t change the water’s taste, and weighs practically nothing–and zap the parasites to hell like a goddamn space man.

*About which I could rant a great deal. Sure, they make the mountains accessible for the infirm, the elderly, and the obese, but at what cost?! Their hooves pound the hell out of the trails, leading to erosion and dust. Their feces infect the streams. Now, if you want a good mountain animal–one that actually evolved to climb around in the heights, you need to look somewhere else.

**Because we DO NOT light campfires in the high sierra.