Last week was one of those busy ones where I was getting home after 9 pm a few nights in a row, and leaving again at 6 am for 7 am breakfasts.  The occasion was the Western Canada Water and Wastewater show, which being the giant nerd I am I was really looking forward to.  This year the theme was “Superheroes” which was rather cute, I did my best to pose as one before the tradeshow opened on Wednesday.  This year my new company did not have a booth at the show, but being the clever girl I am I still got to attend the whole deal, this time in the water charity booth.  I helped organize the fundraising, sold raffle and 50/50 tickets, and got to catch up with loads of old friends and contacts.  By the second day I was running around with sneakers on, as I have no shame.  I don’t look very pregnant in the photo at left, as the belly is totally out the front.  I sure surprised a few people however that hadn’t seen me in a year, especially once they said Hi, then glanced down and noticed my belly is a good foot out from where it normally is.  I have some side profile photos to show tomorrow, so Mum can see just how big the belly is getting! 

I learned a lot as always at the show, a highlight was going to a presentation on the improvements being done at the two Calgary water treatment plants, specifically the one that I drink from.  Not only is it interesting, but its personal. One thing they have done recently is recycle more water, reducing their withdrawals from the Bow River by 10%, which is significant.

I’m becoming more and more involved in the water charity that I volunteer for, which I’ll talk about here,but this is for information only (as I find it interesting) I’m not asking anyone to donate anything.  There are many, many charities out there asking for money to provide clean drinking water systems for people in developing nations, but Water for People ( is the one supported by water professionals, and is the official recipient for all the conferences.  They have a good model which involves providing incentives for local people to develop their own business models for water and sanitation systems.  They do not believe people from developed nations should provide what they think is the best solution, they would rather consult with locals and try to develop something that is sustainable and will work.  They also do ongoing monitoring, which is completed by volunteers, and if a system is broken investigate what happened, and endeavour to fix the system.  They have programs to develop proper latrines which will be used and can be easily maintained, and hand washing programs all of which prevent pollution of water, and stop the spread of disease.  They have a program in India where they are consulting with local women and girls to integrate proper latrines that ensure modesty is upheld, as well as incorporating an incinerator for menstruation pads.  A large cause of failure of toilets and latrines in the past was the flushing of these materials.  I find it all rather fascinating, an example of applying engineering troubleshooting skills to a real world problem from which we can all draw lessons.  If the people don’t want it, they won’t use it, so why not ask them what they want in the first place?  As a charity it also meets one of my other criteria, with less than 15% of the donated money going towards overhead, and the rest towards actual projects.


Art in Industry

September 18, 2009

This little water treatment plant was old, old, old, but yet not old enough to be one of the lovely Art Deco facilities built in the 1910-1930.  Its being replaced, and soon.  However sometimes in decay, in age, in maintenance revealed in layers of paint peeling off the walls, there is beauty, shape and colour.

Cupar Water Plant 017

In old pipes installed long ago, even then struggling to fit into a small space, comes beautiful form and texture.

Cupar Water Plant 019

Beauty in every day working objects, mysterious patterns, and cloudy depth when looked at closely enough.

Cupar Water Plant 013

Oxidized iron and manganese utilizing potassium permanganate in the detention tank.

Somehow I’ve found myself on a Tour de Saskatchewan for the next week, hopefully not longer.  Most of the trip is work, some is visiting friends, but it is definitely all over Saskatchewan.  Yesterday I rented a car, and headed east to Gravelbourg, Sk.  And so begins my travels through unlikely places in small town, rural Saskatchewan.

Now I’ve done this type of trip before through Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado etc. etc. etc. all in pre-blogging days.  Each small town you land in, normally because they need a new water system, has an interesting side, that is if you look for it.  Its easy to dismiss these places as small town, hick places, with nothing to do.  Normally the food is bad (especially for my fussy stomach) and the motels worse.  So here I am in Gravelbourg, a bastion of french speaking culture in Saskatchewan.  Founded by Father Gravel way back when as an outpost of French Roman Catholicness.  Filled with huge churches (eglises):


It reminds me of Roman Catholic churches in Mexico with the double spire.  But there is also something you can see in every town in Saskatchewan, the ever present grain silo:


I am currently staying in a bed and breakfast, which I chose over the two motels in town.  One of the motels didn’t seem that bad, but the other’s one featured photo on their webpage consisted of an old office chair up against a poorly painted wall on a run down rug, and if that is the best they can do, well then.  But here is the good part: the B&B is an old monastery.  Of the order of the Precious Blood.  How cool is that huh?


I haven’t seen any blood yet, but I”ll keep looking, I just hope I don’t get it on my knitting.  The monastery is very quiet, and I believe I’m one of three guests.  I was just scolded as I only ate one egg for breakfast this morning, and she had made me two.  I thought I was leaving some for others.  I believe what I’m staying in is a cell, as its about five feet wide:


Now I’m waiting to see what type of dreams I’ll have here.  I’m a big believer that your dreams can be influenced by where you are, and what happened there.  There is a hotel in Kansas that I kept having to go back to that I swear to this day someone was murdered in that room.  They always gave me the same room as it was the only non-smoking one, and every night I would have horrible nightmares.  Believe me you, this is one of many reasons why I don’t like Kansas.  Last night I had a very vivid dream that I was teaching young engineers how to commission and run water plants.  Who knows?

Cold Weekend Blues!

February 11, 2008

It was cold last week, and cold on the weekend, therefore not a lot got done.  We’ve now sent that coldness over to Ontario and Toronto way, and it is supposed to be above zero out there.  (Pointing towards window).  The good news is that I got my car going with a bit of help from a friend and my new battery charger, which took almost 6 hours of Saturday.  But with my car thawed out I could finally get going on my “todo” list, which made me feel better.  So, what did I do last week in my big Saskatchewan adventure?  I visited some water treatment plants:


Pretty cool huh?  The other one looked similar, but with white tanks.  These babies take iron, arsenic, and other nasties out of the well water, and then a membrane makes it more fit to drink.  My job was to evaluate the technology, and make some recommendations.  We visited two native reserves, which were interesting.  I believe I’m going to get to work on more of them, which I’m looking forward to.  A reserve in Canada has a look about it, whether you are in Ontario or Saskatchewan.  Its something about the uniformity of the houses (they are all the same design across Canada it seems), how close them are together for the middle of nowhere.  Obviously the issues here are huge, the history is deep, and problems are numerous. 


I think because I like meeting and talking to people from all walks of life, and try to treat them all with respect, that I kind of enjoy going to places like this.  You meet interesting people, whose life stories are so different who can teach you so much.  Plus it was a long drive, and I started making a sock in the back seat. 

On Friday it was time to drive myself back to Saskatoon.  The temperature was -20 oC, and dropping fast, and that didn’t count the windchill.  Most of the highway was a whiteout:


In Saskatoon later that evening I got to experience the feeling of the edge of my eyelids freezing where they are moist from your eyeballs.  In the interest of not freezing my eye balls I pulled my parka hood down so that I could barely see (I was walking, not to worry, didn’t even hit a post).  I ended up just going to the airport for the three hours until my flight. 

Sunday was all about figure skating, I pulled up my little skirt and hit the ice.  I was a bit tired, which is bad as jumping takes huge explosions of energy.  I started to get a bit stressed out over all the things I should be doing.  Then I thought to myself “All I need to do right now is jump and spin”.  Which is very simple.  So I stopped thinking about responsibilities and obligations, and jumped, and spun, skated, did stupid little edges, turns, etc.  It turns out my jumps were the best ever, and I’m doing an axle again.  The axle jump is one that you go into facing forwards, do 1.5 rotations, and come out backwards, on the other foot.  Yeah, it was always the hardest jump to learn.  So far its felt like my body knew how to do it, but was being blocked, like I couldn’t remember the word for an object in front of me which I know I should know.  Yesterday the jump started to flow out more, and feel natural again.  Plus Mumsie is going to start making me a ballet wrap-around sweater to wear, so life is good!

In bad news, the oval was the site of the Masters speed skating tournament on Sunday.  Not many men over 60 can pull off a skin suit.  Please don’t try and visualize it, I’m still trying to get over it. 

Bow River Ice

January 17, 2008

I’m posting a bit early today, as my boss and I are off to tour one of the Calgary water plants.  How exciting is that!  I’m going to bring my camera, and ask if I can bring you back some photos, we’ll see.  My personal belief is that a water plant should be so clean you can eat off the floors, which hasn’t always made me popular with certain lazy operators. 

I never realized how integral water is to Calgary, with the Bow River running through the city.  This river is fairly wide, with enough flow to make it powerful and fast moving.  In the fall I thought it was very clean looking water, without a lot of sediment, but perhaps I’m just used to staring into the Colorado which is so muddy you could walk across it (except right now, in the winter the water is the clearest it ever gets, with a slight green tinge from the mixing of the Colorado and Green River just north of Moab).  The northern edge of Downtown Calgary is bordered by the river, and the city has developed  beautiful parks and bike paths along its edge.  The main paths are plowed in the winter so that hardy souls can still ride their bikes to work.  A few weeks ago a friend and I went for a walk, and had to stop in amazement to look at the ice on the river, and watch it groaning, heaving, grinding.


Calgary from the west along the bike path.


The Bow river off to the west.  Meli-Mello puts it best however in her blog post on the subject, check it out.

I learned today:

The first water filter patent was taken out in 1746 by a French scientist.  The filter design was for sponge, charcoal and wool.  These filters were sold to individual households. 

What is in a Title?

November 30, 2007

So what does “Knitting Under Water” refer to anyways, and how did I come up with that name?  I thought of it a little while ago when I started to get more interested in making a blog.  I was thinking about how to combine knitting (the main theme) and water (a main theme of my life).  The “Under” part just popped in between the two words. 

I have been knitting since my Mum taught me around the age of 5.  (Perhaps if I get this wrong, Mum can jump in on the comments section here, I think her memory is going to be much better than mine).  I remember knittng something with lots of holes in it.  I knit a pencil case, and sewed in a zipper, and clothes for my stuffed toys.  When I was a teenager I decided to make a sweater and Mum bought me a lovely kit from Mary Maxim, it was a torquoise and pink joked fair isle pattern.  For the 80’s it wasn’t that bad.  My Mum knits, as did my Grandmother, or Bonma.  (Good mother in french).  Bonma used to knit sweaters for a store in Toronto, as well as for her kids and husband.  I still have and wear sweaters that she made.  In fact I have an unfinished sweater of hers that one day I would like to complete. 

Water is a very pervasive theme in my life.  My astrological sign is Picses.  My Chinese zodiac sign is the Ox in the year of yin water.  And my profession is water treatment, mostly drinking water these days.  I also deal with treating water for industrial purposes however.  I’ve been doing water treatment for ten years now, and am still fascinated as there is so much to learn.  A flavour of the type of systems I work on is:


That facility treats water in Idaho.  If the plant fails, people could get sick!  If the plant doesn’t make any water, the operators have to call the firefighters and tell them not to fight any fires.  This summer I was working in a town in Wyoming where it almost came to that!  I worked through the night to try and fix the problem.  (And knit in front of the computer watching the system). 

view-of-egg-farm.jpgBut sometimes there is a beautiful view!  And I get to play with chemicals:


I do believe I’m trying to smell for chlorine in that particular photo.  Please note the safety precautions of safety glasses and gloves!  Safety First people!

I’m off to skate at the Olympic Oval tonight!  Tomorrow, stay tuned as I’ll reveal my cool new office that I’m moving into since you know who has finally moved out!  (That’s just a test to see if he’s really reading this!)