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Sunday, 28 July 2013

Bangalore Apache Solr / Lucene Meetup No. 2: A Report

The second Bangalore Apache Solr Lucene Meetup yesterday saw an energetic attendance of Lucene and Solr developers and practitioners alike - people with varying levels of expertise. The community has grown rapidly over the last couple of months with over 180 members now, and both the meetups have been well attended. The second one happened at the Koramangala office premises of Flipkart, and it was great for them to host the meet as well as arrange for the morning refreshments.

Solr committer and LucidWorks engineer Shalin Shekhar Mangar started off with the first session of the day. After a show of hands by attendees revealed quite a few newbies to Solr and Lucene, Shalin gave a brief introduction and basic demonstration of Solr 4.4, which got released about a week back.

My session on "Knowledge Search at Infosys" was next, where I highlighted the use of Nutch and Solr for the Enterprise Search within Infosys. My talk included the usage and customization of Nutch to perform federated search over a million documents across multiple sources, and a Solr setup helping us with people and expertise search and a near real time micro blogging discussions search.

Flipkart's deep dive session followed, where Umesh Prasad and Thejus presenting about their specific architecture, the inability of TF-IDF to measure up to the e-commerce search requirements, their high latency cache, external fields and relevance tuning.

Final talk of the day was from Jaideep Dhok from InMobi, who highlighted the possibility of building a percolator with Lucene with applications in log debugging and streaming to name a couple. 

Overall, another great day of insightful interactions and an opportunity to connect with practitioners of the  Search and Information Retrieval domain.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

What can we learn from Bartoli, Raikkonen and Sammy

Six years ago, in 2007, when she reached her first grand slam final at the very same grass heaven, people were wondering how Marion Bartoli even made it all the way through to the finals. She did not look like the fittest person around given the normal standards, she did not move that great in the court, she had a strange stance while serving and played both her forehand and backhand shots with both hands most of the times. Comments ranged from "bizarre" to "outrageous" to "crazy". She faced Venus Williams in top form in the final, let the occasion get to her, and capitulated in straight sets. People went back saying she robbed them off a great Wimbledon final by virtue of having reached it. Anyone else on the planet, it seems, would have made a match of it. Many even went onto predict that she would not last long in the game, lamenting the depths to which the women's game had sunk since the glory days of Steffi Graf and Martina Hingis. Not many wanted to consider her case from a positive viewpoint.

Come 2013, the same lady, one of the older players on the circuit now, stormed into the Wimbledon finals again, thanks to the same physique, the same strange serve, the same double handed forehands and backhands, but with a renewed vigor and great movement on the court. This time, she even went one step ahead, decimated all opposition, and was crowned champion of the most valued tennis tournament in the world. She had to face some ridiculous comments along the way, but kept doing what she knew was correct for her. She has faced unnecessary and harsh criticism throughout her career for her physique, her lack of natural game, et cetera, et cetera. But the bottom lines is, she knows what works for her. She turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to all the criticism, and smiled her way to the result that is now out there for everyone to see.


McLaren days: "He overcooks the engine - that is why you see so many reliability issues with his car".
Ferrari days: "He has lost his motivation for the sport. He won a World Championship, and now he sleeps through the races. What a waste of a Ferrari seat".
All his career: "He does not talk. He has so little feedback to the engineers. That does not help in the development of the car".

These are some sample criticisms that have come former Formula 1 World Champion (2007) Kimi Raikkonen's way over the course of his career, and in typical Kimi way, he has kept quiet, and proverbially, has let his driving do the talking. After a Rally bound hiatus from Formula 1, he came back to the pinnacle of Motorsport in 2012, with a returning Lotus team running Renault engine. The team was definitely not a top 3 in Constructors' equation, funds wise, sponsorship wise or performance wise. What do you expect out of Kimi Raikkonen? 12 podiums out of 29 starts since return, 2 wins, finishing the 2012 Drivers'Championship in third place after being in contention for the championship almost till the end, running a strong third in 2013 half way through the season, and expecting to improve further. So much for the no motivation theory. A record number of consecutive finishes in point scoring positions - holding a mirror to his remarkable consistency. So much for overcooking the engine theory. And Lotus has improved the car so sensationally over this period to serve Raikkonen with a car that can compete with the bigwigs such as Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes and McLaren. So much for the no feedback to engineers theory.

Raikkonen continues to perform, continues to keep quiet in front of the frenzied media, continues to steer clear of controversies and dangerous first corners in Grands Prix starts alike, and continues to inspire millions of cult fanatic followers.

Just leave him alone. He knows what he is doing.


The West Indian Cricket ODI captaincy has changed hands after a few years of surprising stability on the leadership front from their standards, with Dwayne Bravo taking over the reigns in the daylong format. The selectors and the WICB have probably made an avoidable decision to change what was going smooth, and time will tell if it was a sensible thing to do. Two series later, there are no indications that the WI ODI cricket team has made any progress.

Darren Sammy. That simple guy from Saint Lucia who is referred to as an all rounder. Where does he bat? What does he bowl? Before many people could realize his role in the team, the turn of events had made the WICB choose this man with a million dollar smile as the skipper of the team across all formats. The West Indies are currently on a 6 test match winning streak, and are the reigning T20 World Champions. If there is one man who can be credited with creating a cohesive unit by bringing together the big egos and dousing the confusing and divisive shambles, motivating players from multiple countries to unite under the West Indian flag, it has to be Sammy. He has faced criticism day in and day out about his place in the side, where people went to the extent of calling him a specialist captain and that he would lose his spot as soon as he loses captaincy. Sammy replied through his trademark smiles, test hundred on the England tour, remarkable bowling figures every now and then with his tight medium pace, umpteen crucial knocks lower down the order to lift the WI from hopeless positions. He took the loss of ODI captaincy sportively with a smile too, and the WI think tank which promptly dropped him from the ODI playing eleven soon after relieving his burden, learnt to reinstate him as the primary bowling all rounder two matches later and has since, seems to have realized the weight of Sammy's invaluable contributions.

You don't necessarily have to be that vocal charged up leader. You don't need to terrorize the opposition by imposing yourself. You can enjoy your way to success by being yourself and not trying to prove detractors wrong. The latter is supposed to be an additional outcome. Not the primary goal.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

In the spell of Charukeshi - Part 6

Going all classical Carnatic for this edition of Charukeshi, here are some of the recent best I could unearth:

1. Some Mandolin-Tabla magic by U Srinivas and Zakir Hussain in Raga Charukeshi - Adamodi Galada - a composition of Saint Tyagaraja:

2. A trio of Kripaya Palaya Shoure - a composition of Maharaja Swathi Thirunal - Kudamaloor Janaradanan on mesmerizing flute, Legendary M. S. Subbulakshmi and then Prof. Panamattam Madhusuthanan:

3. Nityashree Mahadevan singing the rare Purandara Dasa composition - "Samanyavalla":

1. Dr. G. Bhuvaneswari singing "Bala Parameshwari":

Related Posts:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

Monday, 1 July 2013

First Malayalam movie I watched: Swathi Thirunal (1987)

Sri Padmanabha Dasa Vanchipala Sri Rama Varma, better known as Swathi Thirunal Kulasekhara Perumal Maharaja, and even more popular as just Swathi Thirunal, was not only a well respected and widely known King of the State of Travancore, but continues to be an eternal Prince of Indian classical music. A man with mastery over multiple languages, he patronized both Carnatic and Hindustani forms of Indian classical music, composed many a kritis, sang them himself, and rewarded singers and dancers of repute from across the country during his reign.

It is the versatile king's bicentennial birth anniversary this year and what better occasion to finally get hold of his biopic, "Swathi Thirunal", a 1987 Malayalam movie that I was hunting for over five years. With Kannada maestro Anant Nag playing the lead role of Swathi Thirunal, there was much to expect from the movie, and I had only seen glimpses of it online. Excellent music with legends Dr. M. Balamurali Krishna and K. J. Yesudas as playback singers was the other major factor not to miss this movie. My first Malayalam movie watching experience was quite good to say the least - it was more of a musical, with very little need for dialogues as the music spoke throughout the movie. The focus of the movie also seemed to be on the king's art patronage, although he was a great visionary and brought about many reforms, in addition to introducing quality English education and allopathic medicine to southern India. He died at a very young age of 33, but he had composed over 400 kritis by then in Sanskrit, Malayalam, Hindi and Kannada. One can only wonder what great things he would have achieved if he had lived longer. But then again, great people achieve everything short duration - Adi Shankaracharya and Swami Vivekananda also come to mind.

More on Swathi Thirunal's life and times, here:

Coming back to the movie, it was worth a weekend afternoon's watch with typically brilliant acting of Anant Nag through restrained emotions, best seen during the rendition of the Charukeshi masterpiece "Kripaya Palaya Shoure", and the best part of the movie being a Jugalbandi  between Dr. M. Balamurali Krishna, K. J. Yesudas and Neyyattinkara Vasudevan, as the song "Pannagendra Shayana" (a padam composed by Swathi Thirunal sung in Ragamalika - 8 ragas for 8 yamas from dusk to dawn in praise of lord Ananthapadmanabha) took the viewer to another world.