Kush Tandon Kush Tandon's bibliography

Why I made this weblog?

One of the reason I made this weblog is to keep drawing and writing....to continue experimenting. In 2001, at Indiana University, I took a studio art class. Usually, the homework assignments were quite elaborate and time consuming - average of 10 hours/ week. However, daily we also used to do fast pen sketches on our own to develop an "eye" for detail and uniqueness. I will keep sharing some of the pen sketches - they are easy to scan as opposed to more elaborate larger drawings. Usually, they take 2-3 minutes to draw but one has to make the effort to quickly compose the idea.

I need a catalyst to keep me drawing and writing.


A Girl Reading at the Union, An Old Chevrolet Truck, A Chinese Dancer Mask, and Thrift Shop in Bloomington (Indiana) (From top to bottom)





Graduate School - A Tough Journey

Today at www.thesquare.com, I read the following:

”..i don’t have a complete picture of labor laws, unionization and history, but it seems to me that the function of unions were originally for blue collar workers that were being mistreated. the notion of a labor union for graduate students is asinine.”

My reply to the post on the board was:
I really wish it was that simple. One always has to keep in mind that graduate students are there is earn a degree rather than become cheap labor supporting the University system. On one hand, graduate school can realize your life long dreams, but the vulnerability of graduate students is quite often exploited, more than you want to know - sometimes worse than blue collar workers.

Harvard and Yale or any state school’s backbone are graduate students: be it your freshmen English writing TA, calculus recitation instructor, or research assistant in the billion dollar genome project (or something similar) at your alma mater. In sciences and engineering, most of the graduate students in United States do get full or partial support in return for 20 hours of work as a research or teaching assistant. The same also, happens for quite a few humanities students. Sometimes, 20 hours become 40 hours a week for tasks that does not contribute toward their completion of the degree (like being a teaching assistant), and so forth. It gets terribly more complicated on top of it when international students are involved. I am excluding fellowship and professional degree graduate students in this discussion.

I think there should be something like union or a watch-dog organization that makes sure that they are treated fairly and properly compensated. Moreover, a lot of schools are now giving add-ons like medical insurance just to be competitive to get the best students - not out of altruism. If you want them to spend 80 hours/ week in the lab for 6 years, working toward million dollar grants - at least give them medical insurance.

End Note: One has to go through a graduate school to know that it is not an easy ride.


Discovering Series, Part 2 (Botswana): A Standoff

SCU_02401.jpgDiscovering Botswana: A Standoff

By Kush Tandon

December 28, 2004 , around 8:30-9:30 AM , Okavango Delta , Botswana

"Something, or something awful or something wonderful was certain to happen on every day in this part of Africa . Every morning when you woke it was exciting as though you were going to compete in a downhill ski race or drive a bobsled on a fast run. Something, you knew, would happen and usually before eleven o'clock "

- Ernest Hemingway, True at First Light

Three safari jeeps are parked less than 10 steps away from a wounded leopard, a dying baboon, and about 50-100 baboons on the top of the trees, shaking violently, howling, and ready to jump in. About 7:00 AM , my brother along with the ranger KB had seen a leopard stalking for a kill and then got ambushed by the baboons. Deep in the bushes of Okavango Delta, the morning cool, the dew and the calm is slowly disappearing. The birds have telegraphed the hunt to the jungle.

I am in one of the three jeeps that have joined others a few minutes ago at around 8:30 AM.

Deep in the bushes, I see a baboon on the ground barely breathing and desperately trying to hide behind a giant tree. The leopard quietly limps and is now about 10 steps close to the wounded baboon but also uses the bushes as a cover. Every time he moves, the other baboons from above threaten. They are ready to pounce on him. This strong, young leopard, with an arms-length long deep wound on his thigh, is just staring at the baboons. Very briefly, from time to time he looks at the kill and then licks his wound for a second. I never seen any living creature with such a sheer, raw focus - there is no past, no future, only a very tenuous, fragile present.

"I am bleeding. I can barely move too. The moment, I take my eyes off these baboons, they will lynch me. All this for just for a meal. I haven't eaten in two days. This even happened last year. Do you think I enjoy this? I would rather take a nap."

"Why me? I am dying. Why is my time up?" , the baboon lying on the ground.

"If this leopard moves an inch closer to our brother, we are going to tear him apart. He cannot get away. He has his way all the time. It doesn't' matter that some of us will die if we confront again. This has to stop."

A standoff - that will only be over when one of them dies. In this law of the jungle, for all of them, the best hope is the continuation of status quo. Is there a such a thing?

A beautiful leopard, badly mauled, and very focused. He knows he holds the cards. A brave baboon that refuses to surrender his will to live. The band of brothers who are not ready to give up on him yet - as long as he is alive. Nobody is ready to blink. There is about still 2-3 hours before it is eleven o'clock.

Acknowledgments: Picture of "The Leopard" by Lav Tandon (2004).


Not Aways a Burden

From 04/05/05, The New York Times.

You should realise that illegal immigrants not only provide "dirt cheap" labor, live in inhuman conditions, and then also cover your social security. Give them some dignity. Notwithstanding the law of the land, at least don't shoot them or let them die of thirst. One has to acknowledge them as human beings and then deal with the solution.

From Illegal Immigrants Are Bolstering Social Security With Billions


Tsunami, Earthquakes, and You

By Kush Tandon

Day before yesterday, a decent thing happened in spite of the deaths in Banyak and Nias Islands. As soon as Sumatra earthquake of March 29, 2005 was identified, countries were warning each other of a possible tsunami, online major newspapers were updating their story every 5-10 minutes, colleagues who knew of the earthquake before the newspapers/ TV/ blogs broke the news were sending out emails. The Amateur Seismic Centre (a website run by a student, Stacey Martin in India) was emailing people on the email list to pay close attention to any directive from their local authorities. It was a very effective low-tech warning system for a probable tsunami in action even though full tragedy in Indonesia was not fully averted.

Why didn't we do this on December 26, 2004? The reason was complacency, ignorance, and plain apathy. We all thought it was somebody else's job and even the ones who tried could not succeed. Very basic of knowledge of earthquakes (even with rough estimates of size, location and depth) and tsunami should have had us on red alert for Indian Ocean nations immediately. The basic information about the earthquake known before the tsunami hit the shores of many Indian Ocean countries should have been enough. The reach of CNN and cell phones is almost everywhere. Some of the scientists in Indian Ocean countries were scared of being chastised for "crying wolf". Sure, the early information was incomplete and sketchy - but that will be always the case, in any disaster of any kind.

I agree that an occurrence of a possible tsunami was completely forgotten from the collective memory of Indian Ocean nations and there was no oceanographic data in Indian Ocean while the tsunami was being formed, and that definitely hindered our sense of foresight. Indigenous islanders in Indonesia and Andaman Islands knew better than rest of us.

A clear link between the magnitude, depth, and seafloor deformation accompanying a submarine earthquake and its capability to produce a tsunami is still a research question, and will be for sometime to come. Similarly, is the case about trying to predict an earthquake? We do not know enough about earthquake physics and do not have enough past data to be able to predict them precisely. However, we know a lot more than we did 20 years ago and have some probabilistic ideas and guesses that can help us in clearly identifying "danger zones" and act accordingly.

A high-tech warning system for tsunami or any natural disaster will only be worthwhile if there is real time data sharing and communication between different countries, and most importantly a high level of awareness amongst the populace. Also, we all have to think of other possible disasters too, and start acting now. Is India-Pakistan-Nepal-Afghanistan ready to jointly build an infrastructure for a warning system for Himalayan earthquake risk hazard, similar to one in Mexico City? There will be huge earthquakes in Himalayan region - maybe tomorrow, maybe 20 years from now or perhaps 80.

Suggested Readings:

  1. http://asc-india.org/
  2. http://cires.colorado.edu/~bilham/indexHimEq.html
  3. http://www.seismolab.caltech.edu/
  4. http://tsunamihelp.blogspot.com/
  5. http://www.usgs.gov/