My Life in LA County During COVID-19: May 4

Harry Keller 80By Harry Keller
Former ETCJ Science Editor
& President of SmartScience

I live in a community of 36,000. I will be moving to one of 4,500.

May 4, 2020 at 3:45 AM. I live in a community of 36,000. I will be moving to one of 4,500. The former has 58 reported cases. The latter has one. Yes. Just a single reported case. I should note that my new community is known for its libertarian streak and distrust of government.

I was up there in the mountains and bought some stuff from the hardware store. It had a hand sanitizer dispenser at the entrance. People were using it as they entered. That’s nice if they were carrying the virus on their hands, but few seemed to be using it when they left. They were more likely to pick up the virus in the store and certainly should have used it as they left. Everyone was wearing masks, the registers had large plexiglass shields in front of them.

People are starting to go crazy with isolation around here.

People are starting to go crazy with isolation around here. After all, how many hours of Netflix can a person watch? We are experiencing a gigantic debate about opening the beaches. This seems a bit misplaced to me. How are open beaches going to help closed restaurants or furloughed employees? 

I continue to bake. My 25-pound bag of flour arrived, and I have to find more things to make without making us fat. :)

Our Mountain Lot

See the picture below of the observatory on our mountain lot. You can see the dome sitting on the ground. Our business is online science labs with real experiments. Despite NASA’s wonderful repository, we have trouble finding good astronomical images for use in K-12 and college non-major science. The images have to tell a story. We have to have many of them. I had land that was great for the purpose.

We bought this observatory well over a year ago along with a 14″ telescope (160 pounds). The dome is fully automated as is the telescope. It all can be run remotely once we have the house built. In the meantime, it can be operated with rechargeable batteries.

The observatory isn’t perfect because it is not on a mountain top. Nevertheless, we do have lots of sky available. We have very little light pollution with no neighbors behind us and few light sources. The altitude helps a great deal. My son was a physics major at Brown and did an astronomy minor. He has ideas about how to use this telescope, and we can even provide access to appropriate institutions if things work out that way. We won’t be using it all of the time. The telescope is better quality than the one Brown University had when my son was a student there.

An early picture of a corner of the stone wall on the lot. It’s not tall and doesn’t have to be. It is just a property boundary marker. I put in a chain-link fence along much of the boundary but not at the front. That is another story by itself.

Then, there’s the four years it took to obtain a building permit — proving that persistence may be the most important quality a person can have and not just in sales. I can go into what it means to be in a Seismic Zone “E”, in a FS-1 fire zone, in CZ-16 climate zone, and have a flood plain at the edge of your land. The problems we had with the septic system approval were beyond belief. I haven’t yet mentioned the fire-sprinkler system issues or the over-excavation requirement.

By the time I obtained the grading permit and we could actually dig, I had spent over $30,000. We put up a small tool shed on the property that we were forced by the county to remove for no good reason. I have quite a few pictures but not as many as I should have.

Building this house has been a true Odyssey with Scylla, Sirens, Cyclops and all the rest having their analogs — or so it seems to me.

I will ponder how best to present all of this to ETCJ readers. It is much easier to buy a house in a residential suburb with everything ready for you. Yet, what would life be without challenges?

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