This is a site where I drop things such as images, ideas, and questions. Somethings are bookmarks. Somethings are placeholders for other things. Some are sketches. Some are fully formed. Some are overdone. But nothing is complete or well formed. This site is not meant as journalism. It is not meant as reportage. It is a work place with scraps of stuff. These are just the pieces of stuff I have around me and try to bring together in my life's work.

[ Portfolio Homepage ] [ Paintings ] [ CV ]

[ Sold One To The Chicago Field Museum ]

March 25th, 2013

Under the Plume of Permitting - 0022
Encaustic, 16″ x 18″

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Thomas Misc

[ Show ] Water Column Series: Phase II

March 2nd, 2013

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Thomas Misc

Remembering [ Ways of Seeing ]

October 23rd, 2012

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Thomas Misc

[ Under the Plume of Permitting ]

October 23rd, 2012

“Under the Plume of Permitting Series: 000…”
Encaustic, 12″ x 14″, Spring 2012
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Thomas In My Studio

[ Ways of Seeing ]

September 8th, 2011

From Sense Perceptions > to > Language

From Right Brain > to > Left Brain functioning

This goes directly to what I do as a visual artist.

Thought experiments beyond the objective:

  1. Psychology:
    Attuning to one’s sense perceptions and thusly emotional state > & > toward naming your emotional state.
  2. Western Political Economy:
    And let’s say the Himba tribe are western leaders willing to lie to skew outcomes (for that is what They are attached to). And let’s say they are talking about religion, education, economy or the environment.

    Can you see how without an earnest attachment to what we see, western leaders are capable of creating a “War on Terror”, “Privatization of the Commons” including the “Failure of Public Education”, “Trillion Dollar Bailouts for Capital”, the “Tar Sands”, “Climate Change” and the “Depletion of the Environment?

    I think we need to adopt more earnest subjects to be our leaders.

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Thomas Art, Ways of Seeing

[ The Great Lakes ] Death Watch

September 8th, 2011

[ Lake Erie Death Watch ] By Barry Yeoman for the NRDC

Brought back from the brink once before, a Great Lake again faces biological collapse

What would it mean to lose one of our Great Lakes? The environmental and economic calamity could devastate the region’s tourism, sport fishing industry, drinking water supply, and wildlife, and could also take a toll on human health. And there would be plenty of blame to go around, from changing agricultural methods to inattentive politicians to weaknesses in our nation’s bedrock environmental protections — many of which can partially trace their existence to concern over Lake Erie in the first place.

Erie is the most fertile of the Great Lakes: It contains only 2 percent of their water but 50 percent of their fish. Its biological abundance, and its location in a densely settled corner of the Midwest, make the prospect of collapse all the more frightening. If conditions grow worse, imploding native fish populations could decimate Lake Erie’s recreational fishing industry. (Fishing generates $7 billion a year throughout the Great Lakes.) The water supply for 11 million people could become undrinkable without expensive treatment. And blue-green algae, linked to liver cancer in China and fatal poisonings in Brazil, could pose a grave threat to people here, too, particularly if ingested.


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Thomas Environment, The Water I Drink, What I am Looking at

[ Words ]

June 30th, 2011

via the [ Washington Note ]

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.

This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway. We pay for a single fighter with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people…

- President Eisenhower, Chance for Peace Speech
April 16,1953

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Thomas Adaptive Reuse, Infrastructure, International, Misc, National, Ways of Seeing, What I am Looking at

[ Ah - Ha ]

June 1st, 2011

I just had an ah - ha moment, for me emotions are not just internal, they have location and I have to spend time with them before I understand from whence they come or how to approach them (time / space relativity). I suppose this is mostly obvious to anyone reading this blog.

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Thomas Misc

[ infographics ] Pie Charts Suck

May 11th, 2011

via [ Chart Wars ] by Alex Lundry

Vision is our most dominant sense. It takes up 50% of our brain’s resources. And despite the visual nature of text, pictures are actually a superior and more efficient delivery mechanism for information. In neurology, this is called the ‘pictorial superiority effect’ [...] If I present information to you orally, you’ll probably only remember about 10% 72 hours after exposure, but if I add a picture, recall soars to 65%. So we are hard-wired to find visualization more compelling than a spreadsheet, a speech of a memo.

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Thomas Information Graphics

[ Elemental ] Reevaluating Our Relationship To Water - A Universal Cause

April 26th, 2011

Another account on how East Chicago is connected to what is happening in Northern Alberta (previous account from Henry).

BP and our Economic Development Gurus have put East Chicago on a diet of Tar Sands. I thought it appropriate for you to see how the TAR SANDS are destroying our most vital and fragile resources - The land, the water, the air, and our peoples.

[ Elemental ]

Elemental - Trailer from Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee on Vimeo.

Elemental is a documentary produced and directed by Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee. It explores our essential relationship to water, and the fundamental importance of reevaluating that relationship in the face of the global environmental crisis. It is a universal cause told through three stories on three continents, one of which East Chicago is intimately involved.

Eriel Deranger participated in the film and the telling of her story - the story of her people - the story East Chicago is so dependent on for economic development. Eriel is a native Dené from Northern Alberta, Canada. She is a young mother and activist determined to protect the future of her people from the ecological genocide wrought by living downstream from the largest industrial development in the world: the Albertan Tar Sands. I met Eriel in Edmonton last fall.

Remember the “STUFF” BP is piping into our community to refine is more than the land on which she lives - The Tar Sands, it includes Eriel’s Story and the lives of her people. She will tell more…

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Thomas Environment, Tar Sands, The Water I Drink

[ In My Studio ] The Water Column

April 20th, 2011

[ DATA DUMP ] Recent portfolio of work

[Click images to enlarge]

Encaustic, 21″ x 24″

Encaustic, 12″ x 14″

Encaustic, 21″ x 24″

Encaustic, 21″ x 24″

Encaustic, 12″ x 22″ & 24″ x 48″

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Thomas In My Studio

[ Infographic ] BP’s Sustainability Report

April 1st, 2011

via [ Andrew Sullivan ]

BP didn’t think it important to include [the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill] in the report because, according to the fine print, there’s been “no accurate determination” of how much oil actually leaked into the Gulf of Mexico. And so because there’s no exact measure, they didn’t think they should include it.

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Thomas Information Graphics

[ Infographics ] Charting External Human Costs

March 18th, 2011

via ProPublica

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Thomas Information Graphics

[ Infographic ] Looking At Ourselves

March 18th, 2011

What are the risks of an earthquake beneath a reactor near you? This image combines a 2006map by the United States Geological Survey showing varying seismic hazards across the U.S. with locations of nuclear reactors. Reactors in black are active; reactors in blue are proposed sites for the new model known as the AP1000. Probability of strong shaking increases from very low (white), to moderate (blue, green, and yellow), to high (orange, pink, and red). Credit: Kimberly Leonard/Center for Public Integrity.

And this from the USGS

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Thomas Information Graphics

The Bayh Bulletin: The Blue Dog who prefers the GOP’s Budgets

March 15th, 2011

Evan Bayh is an astute student of capitalism. He knows how to maximize profits and influence. And now this recent retiree of the Senate has a clear strategy for getting rich as a lobbyist with McGuireWoods LLP and maximizing his utility as a conservative television pundit with FOX.

Many in NWI and East Chicago fashion themselves as a moderate after Evan Bayh.

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Thomas National, State

[ Infographic ] Visualizing Wifi

March 6th, 2011

[ In My Studio ]

January 19th, 2011

I made this painting 15 years ago. It is fairly large 48″x 60″. I still find myself in this relationship to what I sense around me.

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Thomas In My Studio

[ The Water I Drink ] Chromium

January 18th, 2011

via [ Post Trib ] “Chromium found in NWI - Jury still out on safe exposure levels, source of chemical” By Gitte Laasby

The cancer-causing chemical made famous in the movie “Erin Brockovich” is finding its way into drinking water in Northwest Indiana — likely at many times the level California scientists consider safe, according to a new report.

Some warn about dangers and blame Northwest Indiana’s steel mills, which discharge thousands of pounds of chromium into Lake Michigan, the source of drinking water for most of the region’s residents. Others say the chromium comes from natural sources and may actually be good for you.

The report by the Environmental Working Group shows levels of chromium in tap water in Lake County averaged 16 to 41 times what California authorities recently suggested is a “safe” level for “bad” chromium.

However, the Northwest Indiana numbers include both “good” and “bad” chromium, and they’re still within the range that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers safe for drinking.

EPA only requires water utilities to test for total chromium, a combination of the “good” chromium (chromium-3) and “bad” chromium (chromium-6, also known as hexavalent chromium.) Good chromium is an essential nutrient often found in multivitamins that regulates glucose metabolism. Bad chromium is carcinogenic.

“It’s difficult to draw conclusions because they’re saying we should have hexavalent chromium at a certain level, but we’re not really testing for that, so it’s hard to say where we are and what’s safe. That’s the big discussion taking place now,” said Mark LeChevallier, director of innovation and environmental stewardship for American Water nationwide.

EPA has set a tap water standard of 100 parts per billion for both kinds of chromium combined.

In Northwest Indiana, the highest level measured in the last six years was 35.4 parts per billion in Cedar Lake, according to the Environmental Working Group. That’s well below the 100 part standard set by EPA, but nearly 600 times the 0.06 parts per billion that California recommends is safe for “bad” chromium.

Indiana American Water — which delivers water to Gary, Burns Harbor, Chesterton, Hobart, Merrillville, Portage, Porter, South Haven, Schererville, Crown Point, Lake Station, New Chicago and Ogden Dunes — has detected chromium in its water only twice since 1999. That was in 2003, when tap water levels were 11 parts per billion in Gary and 10 in Ogden Dunes, said company spokesman Joe Loughmiller.

“We’ve had no detections of total chromium at any of our operations in Indiana last year,” he said.

The utility’s detection limit for combined “good” and “bad” chromium is 7 parts per billion, so anything below that would not show up in tests, he noted.

“We’re detecting total chromium, which is good and bad — or might be all good, who knows?” LeChevallier said.

To the Environmental Working Group, that’s exactly the question. The group has criticized EPA for not setting a legal limit for “bad” chromium in tap water despite a September 2010 review by EPA scientists that said the metal is “likely to be carcinogenic to humans.”

“At least 74 million Americans in 42 states drink chromium-polluted tap water, much of it likely in the cancer-causing hexavalent form,” the Working Group said in its report. “Given the scope of exposure and the magnitude of the potential risk, EWG believes the EPA should move expeditiously to establish a legal limit for chromium-6 and require public water suppliers to test for it.”

EPA said its standards are as protective of human health as science warranted when the rules were made.

“EPA’s regulation assumes that the sample is 100 percent chromium-6,” EPA said in a Jan. 11 press release. “This means the current chromium-6 standard has been as protective and precautionary as the science of that time allowed.”

No chromium was found in Porter County, according to the report, but the group said that doesn’t mean there isn’t chromium-6 in the water, only that it wasn’t found above the detection limit, said Leeann Brown, a spokeswoman for the Environmental Working Group.

The report is based on two types of data: Samples taken by volunteers in big cities, including Chicago, tested only for bad chromium. And water quality reports of both good and bad chromium by local utilities averaged over a five-year period and weighted by population, she said.

Unclear if NWI levels are bad

In Chicago, tap water samples showed “bad” chromium levels were 0.18 parts per billion — about three times California’s “safe” level. But there’s no way to tell how large a share of the chromium found in Northwest Indiana is “bad” chromium, Brown said.

“We can’t answer these questions for the nation. We need EPA to do it. From the little we know, this is where we could be finding it,” she said. “There’s no way to give someone (using) a small utility the answers they need. We need someone to step in and require testing and require that this information be articulated to the people buying this water.”

Complicating the matter is that the metal transforms back and forth between good and bad chromium, LeChevallier said. Your stomach can process some, but not all, chromium-6, and chromium in surface water like Lake Michigan can transform when it reacts with oxygen in the air.

“It changes between those two forms,” LeChevallier said. “What is the measurement in water, how stable it is, whether these low levels stay chromium-6 when you ingest it and it goes through your stomach, it’s very complex. It’s hard to know that what you’re measuring is, in fact, having health effects … That’s kind of why EPA is looking at this and taking its time to review the health effects.”

Mills blamed for chromium

Chromium-6 can pollute water through erosion of soil and rock. But it also gets into water supplies after being discharged from steel and pulp mills and metal-plating facilities. That has led some to blame Northwest Indiana’s steel mills for chromium levels in drinking water from Lake Michigan.

The EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory shows that U.S. Steel and ArcelorMittal’s four locations in Lake and Porter counties discharged a combined 3,100 pounds of chromium in 2009.

The closest source to Chicago’s water intake is ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor West in East Chicago, which discharged 1,000 pounds of chromium about 10 miles from the intake. ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor is the farthest away, about 25 miles.

“We’d expect to see higher chromium if there’s a discharge from steel mill factories and the like in the area … The reasons in Illinois would be hard to say, although we know from EPA they’re planning much further investigation into this chemical,” said Brown of the Environmental Working Group.

EPA vowed at the end of December to find out how widespread the problem is. On Jan. 11, the agency issued enhanced monitoring guidance recommending where utilities should collect samples, how often they should be collected, and what analytical methods should be used for testing.

That should give consumers more information on how much “bad” chromium is in drinking water, how it transforms and how current treatment methods affect levels of bad chromium in drinking water, EPA said.

LeChevallier said some chromium comes from industries, but he didn’t think mills are the source in Northwest Indiana.

“The low levels we’re finding in the water are probably not coming from industrial effluent. They’re coming naturally from the soils,” he said. “The Environmental Working Group targeted groundwater supplies because that comes from the soil. We rarely find this in surface water supplies because oxygen can react with chromium.”

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management reduced the amount of “bad” chromium that the mills can discharge when it recently renewed their wastewater permits.

Remove it yourself

LeChevallier said his own family drinks tap water from American Water in New Jersey and that he’s not worried because levels of chromium are below the standard EPA set as protective.

Eric Rosenthal, senior vice president of marketing at Culligan water, agreed that most or all municipal water systems are safe to use. However, for those who are worried about it, water systems using reverse osmosis can take remove hexavalent chromium, he said. Stores such as WalMart and Meijer sell water in bulk from such a Culligan system.

Buying your own reverse osmosis system costs $700 and up, he said. It’s possible to rent water treatment systems, which cost at least $10 a month. But regular water filters such as Brita won’t do the trick, he said.

“We would not use a pitcher or a faucet-mounted filter to take chromium-6 out,” he said. “You need … a more sophisticated water purification process,” he said.

Chromium: Is region’s

water at risk?Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Toxics Release Inventory, 2009 dataSource: Environmental Working Group database,

Who releases chromium?

Here’s how much chromium facilities in Northwest Indiana release, according to their reports to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.


* U.S. Steel Gary Works: 1,400 pounds air dust, 340 pounds air, 800 pounds surface water.

* ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor West: 1,000 pounds surface water, 51 pounds air.

Harsco Metals, East Chicago: 128 pounds air.

* ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor East: 104 pounds air, 2 pounds surface water.

* U.S. Steel East Chicago Tin Operations, East Chicago: 2 pounds air dust, 65 pounds air.

* LaSalle Steel Co. Fluid Power OPS, Griffith: 5 pounds air.

* North American Refractories Co., Gary: 5 pounds air.

Total: 1,802 pounds surface water, 2,100 pounds air.


* ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor: 600 pounds air dust, 500 pounds air, 500 pounds surface water.

* U.S. Steel Midwest, Portage: 13 pounds air dust, 14 pounds air, 800 pounds surface water.

* Sequa Coatings Corp. Precoat Metals, Portage: 392 pounds air.

* Beta Steel Corp., Portage: 269 pounds air.

* NIPSCO Bailly: 253 pounds air.

Total: 1,300 pounds surface water, 2.041 pounds air.

Utilities that found chromium

Here are the utilities in Lake County that detected chromium in their finished tap water some time between 2004 and 2009. Listed as the average (av) and maximum (max) levels found and how many people the utility serves.

A detection of chromium does not mean “bad” chromium (chromium-6) was present.

Utilities not included on the list did not detect chromium.

Hammond (87,600 people:) 0.65 av, 3.9 max

East Chicago Water Works (33,001 people): 3.12 av, 7.1 max

St. John Municipal Water Utility (15,025 people): 10 av, 20 max

Twin Lakes Utilities, Inc. (Crown Point, 8,000 people): 2.4 av, 4.8 max

Lowell Water Department (7,705 people): 0.84 av, 4.2 max

Whiting Water Department (5,200 people): 2.77 av, 11 max

Cedar Lake Water Works (1,923 people): 12.23 av, 35.4 max

Fairway Regional Water District (210 people): 1.85 av, 3.7 max

Cedar Lake Mobile Home Park (200 people): 1.6 av, 3.2 max

Chicagoland Christian Village (150 people): 1.75 av, 3.5 max

Noble Oaks Subdivision Water Association (70 people): 1.37 av, 4.1 max

Bremerton Mobile Home Park (48 people): 8.4 av, 16.8 max.

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Thomas The Water I Drink

[ What I Am Looking At ] Naomi Klein

January 18th, 2011

This TED Talk of Naomi Klein reminds me that I need to right a wrong. I never gave her work a fair look. Perhaps it was because she focused on some of the same narratives that I did and I held those around my circle in much higher esteem. I need to change that and finally read her book the “Shock Doctrine.”

Regardless, this is a great talk that proportions the right mix of critique in this tragedy: Risk Assessments, The Precautionary Principle (Thanks Carolyn Raffensperger), Hubris, and Feminism.

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Thomas Climate Change, Tar Sands, What I am Looking at

[ What I Am Looking At ] Martin Luther King Jr.

January 16th, 2011

“There are somethings in our society, in our world, for which I am proud to be maladjusted.”


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Thomas Misc, What I am Looking at