coastal thinking

this past weekend, i was in seattle visiting friends and revisiting my past. yes, the older i become, the greater the twists and turns of who i thought i was and who they thought i was and the distances between all that thinking. mahsheed reminded us that scientists (of the empirically experimental sort) contend that memory is 70% recreated and 30% actual content. however, little is known about how and why that particular ratio or how and why some information is shunted onto one side of the equation or even how recreated memory is plotted… yes, this is the basis of my anthropological musings.  i’ll see your “hmm” and raise you three.


caveat given, i’ll move onto thoughts inspired while walking in seward park.

moss on fern green

walking in seward park (as it was when i walked along the salmon river, oregon a year ago), the ferns, red cedars, and douglas furs viscerally reminded me that i was in a coastal ecosystem. mud cold water seeped into my shoes, pulsing bark tempted me to raise my eyes, and a great blue herron stilled my circumnavigation of washington lake.

in contrast, while walking in shenzhen, i find it difficult to remember that we inhabit an estuary. i walk through smog and landscaped greenspace, note new buildings and speculate about economic boomings of one sort or another. i frequently read about mudflat wetland protection, the deep bay oyster industry, marine pollution and mangroves. all this to say, shenzhen’s ecological status strikes me as an abstraction, a category of thinking rather than an experience immanent in the environment itself. thus, my mind invokes “estuarine ecology” as a critical standard by which to hypothesize what might have been and imagine what could be. 

the difference is where lived – right brain or on a path at dawn. now, what to make of it?

31st floor, 4th air conditioner (hot side)


Originally uploaded by maryannodonnell

This weekend we moved from a 7th story walk up to a 31st floor apartment. Until this move, I tended to think of air conditioners as prosthetic reconfigurations of nature. Air is not enough, we need to cool it.

However, this move I viscerally realized that our comfort is not simply more precarious, but also more indifferent to the well being of others than I had thought.

We use split system air conditioners that separatecold and hot functions. The cold side, consisting of the expansion valve and the cold coil, is generally placed into an air handler and is mounted inside the house. The air handler blows air through the coil and routes the air throughout the room. The hot side, known as the condensing unit, lives outside the building. Plastic tubes, usually ducktaped together, connect the internal and external parts of the system. More details about how split system air conditioners work at HowStuffWorks.

We had three split system air conditioners removed from the 7th story for 330 rmb. There was an additional 50 rmb per system “heights” fee to because the workers could not reach the hot side from a window. Instead, they went to the top of the building, rappelled down the side of the building to the ledge where the air conditioner had been placed, detatched it, secured it with moldy ropes, lifted it to the top of the building, and then carried down to our apartment. Another group of workers carried two complete air conditioning systems (we gave the third air conditioner to a friend) and the rest of our possessions down seven flights of steps, put everything into a blue container truck, and brought them to our new apartment.

At the 31st floor apartment,there were already two split system air conditioners in place; we had two more installed. To install the hot side, a 19 year old youth squeezed out a narrow window, dropped to the air conditioner ledge, manuevered the unit into position, bolted it into place, and connected the plastic tubing, before hoisting himself into position to squeeze back through the window. The young man took about thirty minutes to complete the tasks. During this time, he was alone on the ledge, lashed to the building by another moldy rope. This time, we paid a flat installation rate because the ledge was accessible from the window.

Pictures of the installation, here.