Friday, December 11, 2009

Analytics in Sport - Cricket and Operations Research - 1

Analytics in Cricket is not a new idea. A lot of OR folks, especially from the so-called Commonwealth nations, would be pleasantly surprised to learn that OR has been an integral part of cricket (in particular, the limited overs versions) for the last 16-odd years. This is because of the official induction of the Duckworth-Lewis rules for weather-interrupted matches into the rulebook. Mr. Duckworth and Mr. Lewis are OR/Math guys. According to cricinfo, the latter is/was the chairman of the western branch of the Operational Research society in the U.K. See this old article in ORMS Today on their work.

Cricket is more than a hundred years old, and is the second-most followed sport on this planet (thanks to more than a billion and a half cricket-mad fans from the Indian subcontinent, including this author). India is the No.1 test cricket team in the world today (after 77 years of hapless performance), and cricket is now big business that is growing in size, what with all the professional leagues like the IPL springing up. Among all sport, cricket mirrors life the most, and its rules suitably reflect this. It's best been described as having a cleverly disguised gentlemanly exterior which hides a series of fierce one-on-one gladiatorial contests of blood, guts, and stamina, which is then wrapped in a chess-game of wits and strategy, and tied up with strings of psychological tactics of 'mental disintegration'.

While D/L rules prescribe revised targets for rain-affected limited-over matches, these rules can also be used as a decision-support tool for teams to figure out an optimal trajectory to achieve the target during a run-chase. More generally, the run-chase problem can also be formulated as (stochastic) Dynamic Programming problem. Constrained resources include batsmen available (10), and overs available (20 or 50, depending on the whether its a T20 game or a 50-over game), with objective being to get at least one run more than the opposition before either of these resources are exhausted. At any stage of the game, the teams can tailor their tactics according to this optimal trajectory that can be recalculated after after every ball or over.

Stastical tools that analyze batting and bowling performances, and for stuff like SWOT analysis, have regularly been a part of cricket in recent times, much like baseball. A new idea proposed here is to analytically decide on how to make optimal use of the newly introduced review system, similar to the challenge system in tennis and perhaps the NFL. Statistically, cricket umpires tend to get 1 in 10 decisions wrong (very impressive given that theres 10 or more ways of getting out in cricket :-). At the highest skill-levels of cricket, i.e., country- versus-country test cricket that is played over 5 days, a bad decision can result in the team at the receiving end of this decision, getting pummelled into a defensive position for a couple of days under the hot sun.

It is quite likely that a probability model can be built around this idea. For example, given that there are 10 wickets available in an inning, using a geometric probability model,
prob(at least one error) = 1 - prob (getting all 10 right) = 1 - (0.9^10) = 0.65.
So there is roughly a 2/3 chance that the average umpire will get at least one decision wrong in a completed inning and this number can increase if the particular umpires in that match are known to be more error-prone. Given that a team is allowed only two (wrong) reviews, the idea is to come up with a reviewing strategy that ensures that you only challenge decisions that maximizes your team's expected advantage-level for the remainder of the game. If you use these challenges frivolously, you are left with no recourse later in an inning. If you do not use it at all, you are more than likely to suffer at least one bad decision per inning.

Interestingly, the international cricket council (ICC), which is the governing body of cricket states that with the review system in place, the statistical error-rate has improved to roughly 95%. This means that the probability of an error in a complete inning is reduced from 65% to 40%, implying that it is statistically more likely that there will no wrong decision in an inning with the review system in place that allows an on-field umpire to change a decision based on evidence from video and audio footage (upon request from either team).

Tennis players at grand-slam events tend to invoke this challenge during key times of the match ('big points'), where you are at a 'cliff'. e.g., at break-point. In the past we have seen great players (McEnroe at a certain French Open comes to mind), who've mentally lost matches from winning positions because of what they perceived to be an unjust call. However, doing so only at these points may not be optimal, since a highly-probable bad call at 30-30 by a line-judge is a good candidate for review. In other words, there is both a probability value as well as a consequence-cost (risk/reward) associate with this decision.

In most situations, these decisions have to made on-the-spot, with limited external-feedback available. Rather than rely wholly on instinct and emotions ("I'm sure I am not out"), it would be nice for the player under the spotlight to have some analytic ammo to go with bat or ball.

Having said all this, the great teams (like the ones from Caribbean in the 80s) and great players like the late Donald Bradman (who is considered to be the greatest Australian who ever lived), and currently, Sachin Tendulkar of India (who is a shoo-in for the greatest living Indian today), are the ones who raise their game to a higher-level when faced with adversity, and overcome such bad calls. On the other hand, a little bit of O.R could make this task a little less difficult.

- correction added: D/L rules have been used for nearly 16 years now.

Monday, November 30, 2009

O.R. Practice: Doomed by Success?

Did you hear about the dissident O.R practitioner who was sentenced to 'a death by a 1000 cuts' ? Legend has it that his body was found remarkably intact, integral ....

The claim here is that an commercial O.R solution to a real-life problem has a finite shelf-life. The graph of potential improvement for a product is concave, and follows the law of diminishing returns. Most of our recent posts have focused on the need to ensure that the first solution has the 'O.R. inside' stamp, since entrenched heuristics of unknown quality are surprisingly resistant to replacement by more smart-logic based O.R methods.

But what happens after you have something with O. R inside? As a former colleague's professor asked him 'So do you sit around waiting for the model to break?' The answer is sometimes yes. Other times, our twitching O.R genes compel us to keep improving upon the solution and after a while, the effort is not worth the improvement. The better the prior effort was, the less likely that you will be allowed to tinker with it any further. Pretty soon it's set in stone and it just becomes an automaton. After a while, it may even cease to be of much competitive value to a company and the functions are likely to be outsourced to a cookie-cutter vendor.

A car designer can spend an entire career endlessly tweaking cars, but an O.R practitioner has to diversify and cannot expect to retire with the same company by endlessly tweaking a product that she or he created and cherished much. O.R. is such a nebulous and ill-defined field in practice that your next manager or director may not have clue as to what the heck your field is, let alone what it is that you have been doing so far. Without strong backing from the highest levels within the management ("Edelman VPs"), the best O.R. efforts can come to nought or go straight to conference and we, the practitioners, have to move on to a different job.

Anyway, this is just one person's take. It would be instructive to hear the experiences of other practitioners.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Theory of Inadvertent Cutting Planes and 2-D LSP

The perils of employing heuristics of unknown quality are often disregarded in practice, all in the interest of 'time to market' and 'practical' solutions for NP-Hard optimization problems. See, for example, Dr. Gerald Brown's papers and presentations along with the late Dr. Rick Rosenthal on this topic. (also see old post on 'the paradox of optimality'). Importantly, Dr. Brown reminds us of the huge difference between 'known unknowns' and 'unknown unknowns', before we start to make the poor assumption that NP-Hard automatically implies a quick, randomized heuristic approach. Dr. Michael Trick's recent blog entry on NP-Hardness is illuminating. Such heuristics do have a role to play in O.R. practice, depending on the business problem at hand. We attempt to illustrate, to the non-technical audience in particular, using a simple example:
The 2-D Laughing Stock Problem

PICTURE 1: shows the feasible region (a polygon), the optimal solution, and the one the heuristic algorithm found.

PICTURE 2: shows the new constraint added by the user that reduces the feasible space. The previous heuristic solution is infeasible now. Solver re-optimizes.

PICTURE 3: shows the new heuristic solution that is near-global optimal. The bewildering user experience so far is that he/she has added a highly restrictive constraint, yet the app ended up with a dramatically better solution, one even better than the "optimal". Imagine driving a car that has such heuristics built into its steering response.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

On decisioneering and dealing with sneering detractors

Part of an O.R practitioners job involves selling O.R to non-believers in the organization. Yet many of us in the O.R comfort-zone are firm non-believers that there even exist such non-believers. After all, isn't 'science of better' or its applied counterpart 'decisioneering' self-explanatory? It isn't. The 'analytics' bandwagon is going to ensure that. Last time we looked at the identity crisis facing the poor OR guy. Today, we'll examine more related aspects.

When we say a product has got 'O.R inside', what do we really mean? Is it because it's been autographed by that lost O.R scientist whose owlish ^oo^ spectacles always makes u think 'infinite loop', or, is it the bullet-proof C++ codes of O.R algorithms, the fiendishly reformulated optimization model, or the brand-new, low-latency, 16M$, 32-node, 64-bit, 128-GB SMP RAM parallel machine (yummy!) that smashes thru all your Lagrangian subproblems in a jiffy? or perhaps it's all in the GUROBI or CPLEX solvers that implements the fundamental algorithms?

The old bilateral debate of man v machine, in this context, starts with 'Math v Programming', and in true O.R fashion, cascades into some NP-complete combinatorial debate. heh. The obvious answer to many may be 'all the above', but called me biased - I feel that its the well-trained O.R grad, her/his model and solution approach that seals the deal here. Everything else is essentially a commodity, and can be quickly purchased, and therefore form the supporting cast (The real answer of course is 'none of the above'. It's the power point decks that made it all happen).

Seriously, a practitioner has to have all the soft skills to ensure that O.R gets some small share of credit in such projects, especially when things go right. After all, when its fails, its because of the O.R inside. It's because of you. Everything else was purchased and they work just fine! Suddenly, you alone know which constraint is hurting profits the most, or why a few more discrete variables kill run-times, or if the exponential service time assumption holds. Which brings me to probabilistic 'OR inside' models in practice (more on that another day). By design, its going to give you 'wrong' answers some of the time - unlike deterministic models that provide the illusion of correctness all the time. Good luck selling that!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Identity crisis for the O.R practitioner

If you work in an industry that is saturated by O.R, then this is not for you. Familiarity tends to breed contempt there, and like a bad Steven Segal movie, your work goes straight to conference, heh. It's fun working in an area that is barely touched by O.R, especially if you are a new OR PhD. Your graduate advisor sent you off on your way last week with words like 'remember, no cuts, no glory'. You cant wait to get started ..

"O.R." You realize the name doesn't help. All those rumours in grad school were true! You just go with a simple 'decision science'. Three months into your job, you launch a satyagraha to get your basic tools like Gurobi to work with. You begin your first project.

First off, the sales and pre-sales folks (science is anathema to them but they bring home the bread that allow desk-jockeys like us to tool with OR, so no quarrel) ask you 'so if you are going to solve this using CPLEX, why do we need you? If you can explain 'reformulation', 'NP-Hard' to them and save your new job, your next conference talk will be a piece of cake.

Fact: CPLEX or Gurobi cannot solve any real-life problem directly. Skilled O.R People do (duh!). MS word is just as useful for that purpose.

Next, your strategy folks ("where powerless science meets power point") ask you: why cant our competitor also use CPLEX to solve these problems. whats the big value in decision science?
Not surprisingly, its a bit more difficult to convince folks in the stratosphere that there's real magic in O.R. Heck, it doesn't matter anyway, since they are going to forget it in a couple of days and get back to their ethereal kingdom.

Fact: These tools have blazing fast, industrial strength implementations of fundamental algorithms. The secret sauce is in your business-specific meta-models and meta-algorithms that is independent of the vendor that implements the fundamental tools used inside them.

Facts aside, the word 'Meta' convinces them that you are on to something. Next, you deal with the IT guys. They play for the home team. Problem: OR guys cant code, even though every one of us is convinced otherwise. Your prototype C++ program looks so random, they cant believe that something deterministic comes out of it. The name 'Math Programming' doesnt help either. To save the company from you, they place their trust in their beautifully coded 30-class, 30-line randomized algorithm that everybody now believes will do just as well and go with that. What does the customer care about optimality? It's a battle for another day. Right now, you are getting ready to present your work at a conference ...

Disclaimer: This is a work of pure OR-fiction. Except for CPLEX, Gurobi, and O.R, everything else in this tab has no resemblance to reality.

Here on forward, the Tooler's Tab will waste time solely on OR and analytic topics. For more serious stuff like cricket, fictional detectives, and Indian music, follow the link to my blog on the right panel.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

What's your favorite Optimization Method?

To plagiarize the title of the latest mediocre movie from Bollywood is fair, I suppose. I have not linked to the movie in question on humanitarian grounds.

Ask any O.R person in academia this question (especially O.R Phds - the rest of the world want to improve the world, but these guys also know how to :-), and you will get a lot of impressive answers, ranging from "Ant colony optimization', 'Benders Decomposition'. ..., to Zangwill's convex simplex method. Let's look at 'E'. The ellipsoidal method is known to perform poorly in practice. However, another method in 'E' is a personal favorite.

Every O.R student hates enumeration and is in fact implicitly taught to hate Mr.E, every step of the way. But consider this. You create a new product with a built-in optimization app having a nice 'what-if' capability. It is still early days and business rules and requirements are changed as frequently as baby diapers. The potential customer tries to understand the behavior of the analytics within the app and works with small data sets to do that. Under these conditions, the only method that is guaranteed to work is enumeration! As you choke with indignation, i have more misery to inflict upon you. Welcome to the O.R heretic's approximation of the number scale.
Theorem: Early in the project, all numbers are less than that 101.
Proof: If you don't believe me, you can start with 1, 2.., and test it a hundred times.

As you begin to curse me into an infinite negative cost cycle, let me reassure you that after you have gained your customer's confidence and business rules crystallize, we can thankfully move beyond enumeration. Even then, there's no steady state, and your beautifully crafted MIP model that worked so well for 3 years can (and will) crumble after 3 years and one day. Not all constraints in real life show up as linear or convex. Some are nasty little buggers. So what works best? Well, for this tab, it is what ever method is smart and close to variable enumeration, i.e., variable generation, i.e., column generation. It's only a small lie to say that everything else in between is just band-aid :-)

I do not personally know Dr. Cindy Barnhart at MIT, but her work in this area sustains the career of many an O.R practitioner. A measure of the long-term success of an industry is if mediocre practitioners can find a decent job (e.g. Bollywood). If you love O.R, pray that i always have a decent job.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

O.R in practice: Time to think small?

Applying sophisticated (LP/MIP-based) techniques in practice is a lot of fun. It's a creative process that brings as much as joy as say, publishing a well-crafted paper in a reputed O.R journal. However, bring such models to life is often a painful process. Unless the problem is "big", companies are unwilling to bring out the 'big guns'. Over a period of time, LP/MIP based models have acquired this (unfair?) reputation for being 'big guns'- During the initial scoping phase of a project, it is 'ruled in' only for mega problems. However, for every large problem in practice, there are 5 small problems for which OR methods are ruled out and replaced by randomized heuristics of unknown quality (so one doesn't have to pay royalty fees to 3rd party solver vendors, among other things). For more details, refer to an earlier post on "OR Practice with 19th Century Optimization Technology".

Why Open source solvers is not used in many practical situations has already been discussed in this tab before. Basically, all these *PL licenses (e.g. EPL, GPL) are simply not worth the potential legal hassles and therefore are of limited use to an OR practitioner. This means that these 'open source' solvers are mainly useful in academia - where researchers already have access to CPLEX/Gurobi, so this whole situation is self-defeating. Something like the Apache license is very usable. Google's Gooplex toy solver is a very positive step in this direction.

I believe there is a strong business argument for making a high-quality Linear-Programming solver freely available for commercial use (maybe an older version that runs twice as slow, but converges correctly). Doing so will boost the use of OR methods in the aforementioned 'small problems' that account for a majority of decision science problems solved in practice, which leads to increased purchases of the premium LP solver and premium MIP solver offering.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Finest Moments of Operations Research - This Day 8 years ago

The second half of September in 2001 was among the finest moments for Operations Research practitioners. For various reasons, these fact is unknown even within the OR community, so this story is worth retelling, even if it has to be from this insignificant virtual outpost of O.R. This story is about a bunch of unknown OR guys in United Airlines. Similar stories are likely to told about other large US carriers as well (Continental has even published some of this in a conference/journal).

There is chaos everywhere on Sept 15th, 8 years ago, since many are uncertain if there are going to be more attacks. In an order with little precedent, no planes are allowed to fly in the U.S for three days. Planes over North America on 9/11 are forced to land at the nearest feasible airport, and thus crews and aircraft are strewn all over the continent (For example, a small airport/town in Newfoundland played host to thousands of passengers and many large airplanes during those days and many were accommodated in people's homes. There was an interesting movie about this on Canadian television).

The larger Airline carriers chalked up huge losses with little to no revenue coming in. Around the 15th of September, flights are allowed to resume. Airlines are faced with mammoth decision problems. How to build a new airline schedule from scratch for thousands of flights, and crew schedules for tens of thousands of crew members to safely get through the next few days?

How to do all of this in the safest and most cost-effective manner?

Airline planning/optimization tools in Airlines are typically designed toward building schedules a month or two in advance. Since these schedules are built so early, the actual pilots and aircraft that operate these schedules are assigned much later by other systems. So the O.R guys in the airline were brought together and given these tasks:

a) building a new optimization model that would construct a new airline and crew schedule

b) such that the schedule was feasible, safe, and bring all the crew members back from all these remote airports to their domiciles in a safe and cost-effective manner and then reassign them to new flights

c) assign all pilots by name to these schedules

d) solve this O. R problem that is about 100 times more complex than what is normally seen in airline business, and do all this in 3 days

e) hook up the model to the on-line (real-time) database for input, and to the real-time crew-recovery system residing in main-frame computers for output in a seamless manner

The O.R guys (comprising of more than 10 nationalities) responded in an amazing manner. working day and night shifts on a 24 hour clock, a group of about 10 O.R PhDs just out of college invented brand-new airline scheduling models (unpublished to this day - they don't look pretty but were darned effective and had several cool innovations). IT engineers hacked away to rig up a flawless I/O hookup. Their effort was no less amazing as they had to overcome many unforeseen challenges. For example, it was found that many of these airports where crews were stranded were minor ones using alphanumeric codes, whereas in 2001, large US airlines served airports that no numeric characters in their names!)

There were lucky breaks and heartbreaks along the way. It was discovered that the real-time crew recovery system could not delete existing flight attendant assignments, and therefore, our new optimization models were 'over-covering' many flights. However, in the days after 9/11, flight attendants (mostly women) had no protection against terrorists in the main cabin and therefore, about 60% called in sick. This canceled out the over-covering effect and some how, the whole thing worked. It was an amazing sight to see the very first United flight come back home to Chicago after 9/11. The pilot obtained permission to fly over the United HQ and dip his wings in a show of unity, and it was beautiful.

In between, there were bomb threats that led to at least two evacuations. Then the grim reality that the junior OR guys would lose their jobs due to crippling airline losses. Despite all this, an unassuming bunch of young OR practitioners saved the day for United. After that experience, no real-life O.R problem was scary enough.

Everybody fights terror their own way, but the OR way is likely to be the most efficient.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The amazing computational world of DIY Simplex

Operations Research students seldom get to look into details of sophisticated implementations of a sparse simplex solver for linear programming. The same is true for O.R practice where your focus is how best to use such tools. But if you work for a setup that cannot afford the steep royalty you have to pay for such tools, you can build your own in a few months. Its more likely to be about 100 times slower than Gurobi or CPLEX on large problems. If your LPs are small sized (less than 50,000 rows), it may do a decent job, but hey, the experience is quite amazing, and I highly recommend it. For one, the system of linear equations that you solved since high school will never seem the same. And you can read a couple of important journal papers authored by Suhl and Suhl (i kid you not). The dual method is the best default choice. If you have starting trouble, trying using 'Gooplex', google's first draft LP solver. Its a toy solver, but the code implementation looks professional and is a good starting point.

On the other hand, there's always COIN-OR, the good quality open source repository.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The tool cycle

Fictional Amateur detectives represent the ultimate in tooling. you solve a case in an hour (or as long as your book or tv show lasts) and take a break for the rest of the week. Sherlock Holmes had no other work. He played the violin badly and morphine had little effect on his deductive powers. Mrs. Hudson does the cooking, cleaning, washing, and Dr. Watson is there to lend a ear and keep a watch on his health and boost his ego. And when the right case comes, you turn on your industrial strength detective-lights and save the day and have an immediate impact on ground reality. No nagging women at home. The rest of the time, you polish your skills by publishing 'monographs' on bees, cigar ash, and other important stuff. You have just enough clients to keep this tool-cycle going.

Sounds like a nice job description.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Top-10 detectives in fiction - updated

This tab returns to what it does best. tool. In the spirit, we see some seismic shifts in our old top-10 detectives list that was released a few months ago.

Firstly, reviewing some of the old episodes of Sherlock Holmes boringly confirms his position at the top. He's good enough to publish analytic monographs on bees and cigar ash. no contest.

Ok, we add to our list, the brilliant native Tamizh-speaking detective from Kerala, Mr. Sethurama Iyer (or SRI). Sri comes to us from a cool sequence of plot-driven movies in Malayalam, brought to life by the eminent Indian actor Mammootty. Or ma2m2o2ty if u are into alphanumerics. In a judicial system dominated by self-servers, stupidity, and sloth, SRI brings scientific temper, vigor, and a devotion to the truth. He can also debate Vedanta and Hindu philosophy with the best.

Next, we go all the way to Sweden to meet Mr. Wallander. This TV series (check out is so dark, and the character so bleak and driven, the economic recession is a relative piece of cake for that one hour.

Our updated list with geographical locations looks like this now. We have booted out the Law-Order duo of Brisco and Green, and Indian favorite Karamchand, who were tied at 10, as well as the sole female representative, Miss Marple.

10.Goren (USA, NY city)
9. Cadfael (England, Shrewsbury)
8. Monk (USA, Frisco)
7. Wallander (Sweden)
6. Der Alte, The Old Fox (Germany)
5. Sethurama Iyer, (India, Kerala)
4. Byomkesh Bakshi, (India, Bengal)
3. Hercule Poirot (Belgium)
2. Columbo (USA, Los Angeles)
1. Sherlock Holmes (UK, London)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Kargil represented the first positive change in fortunes in the war against terror

It's been ten years since more than 500 of India's bravest gave their lives fighting desperate, uphill battles, in sub-freezing cold in the highest battlefields of this planet against well-entrenched Pakistani regulars and afghan mercenaries within Indian sovereign territory. If the first ten years of the Pak Army-ISI-taliban nexus (PIT) terrorist agenda (1989-1999) went PIT's way in terms of changing ground reality and world perception, Kargil resulted in the first positive change, with the world finally becoming aware of PIT's crazy designs, and the last ten years have increasingly opened the world's minds to the ever increasing threats emanating from the PIT nexus.

From the frozen battlefield of Rezang-La in 1962 (among the most heroic, last-ditch military battles recorded in India's multi-millenial history) to the battle for Tiger Hill, the Indian Jawan, like every honorable soldier in the free world fighting on the side of democracy, has fought fairly, and in the end, prevailed, and if he had to, died, but never backed down. This tab salutes them on Vijay divas.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Optimizing the Health-Care Reform Package of Obama using Operations Research

In his press conference yesterday, President Obama used the word "unconstrained" while talking about the escalating costs within health care system. He later used the term "constrained system" (or was it "constrained model") when talking about financial regulation. Is one of his advisors an OR guy??

Another interesting aspect that he mentioned was that some democrats wanted some additional provisions in the healthcare package that would address their regional interests, which would then cost additional money, so some chopping and changing has to be done and the August deadline is flexible as well. To an Operations Research person, it seems a sin not to optimize and automate the fine-tuning of the package, which would lead to savings in time and money. So after adding all the fundamental (must-have) provisions, the remaining 10-20% of the contentious provisions (bids) can be optimized to save taxpayer money.

If a new health-care provision i brings in v(i) net votes and net cost c(i) and removing a pre-existing provision j results in v(j) net votes at a net cost of c(j), and defining binary decision variables:
xi = 1 if new provision i is added, 0 otherwise
yj = 1 if existing provision j is removed, 0 otherwise

index set i runs over the set of new provisions, while j corresponds to existing provisions that are candidates for removal.

the bill optimization problem becomes:

Minimize sum(i) ci. xi - sum (j) cj. yj
subject to:
sum(i) v(i). xi - sum(j) v(j). yj >= MINIMUM_VOTES_NEEDED_FOR_CONSENSUS
x, y binary

The aim of this optimization model is to minimize the total cost of fine tuning the package, subject to meeting the minimum approval needed to get the package approved. Obviously, this is a simple linear integer knapsack problem and in practice, there may be more constraints and objectives in the world of politics and governance. Furthermore, we assume linearity and a simple model to start off with. To improve acceptance, one can also add constraints based on other provision attributes. e.g, to satisfy budgets by area of Health-care. Alternatively, one can maximize the number of votes in favor of the package and add a constraint on the total incremental cost of fine-tuning.

Conceptually, the model is quite interesting. While it will generally aim to keep the best bang-for-buck provisions, it also recognizes that these provisions cannot be split into 'half-measures' to meet constraints and therefore a greedy selection based on bang-for-buck may be suboptimal.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Duality of Indic religious philosophies: Do they sink or swim together?

Dr. Hari.J has an interesting blog post on this subject. He quotes Swami Vivekananda who opined that Hindusim and Buddism cannot survive without each other. On the other hand, as Dr. HJ rightly mentiones, there are few places in the world where the two religions do exist independently, without the other.

Geographically yes, but perhaps they are not intellectually and philosophically independent. I suspect the Swami meant the latter. Indeed, Indic religious philosophies (Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism) are all joined at the hip and generally thrived up until a few 500-odd years ago due to healthy competition (i.e., very vigorous discourse and debates. Presumably, changing 'religions' in India (one cannot be sure if they thought of it as a religion as defined today in the western world), during those days was perhaps as easy as the switch between windows, Linux or Mac. These debates had an impact on the ground reality and "optimized" the Indic religious philosophies better. For example, Adi Sankara of Kerala is credited with having "upgraded" Hindu philosophies that eventually allowed Hiduism to survive in India. This he did via vigorous debates with Buddhist leaders.

That process is dead now and perhaps the Swami implied that he did not want this process of discourse and debate to stop. Not surprisingly, a lot of the angst in the world today stems from frustration with entrenched harmful practices within ones own religion, in tandem with of a lack of mutual respect for how the other religion's core philosophies are the same and how they are different.

[Edited on 7/22/09 for typos]

Test Cricket rises from the Ashes

After the heartbreaking sight of seeing half-empty stadiums during the thoroughly exciting India_Aus test series in India, 2008, it is great to see the support in England for the ashes. T20 has its place for the instant-fun factor, but test cricket is the real deal. Facing multiple spells of hostile bowling from 'freddie' Flintoff at speeds up to 95mph, with the crowd against you, is quite a test, and a thrilling spectacle for everybody else. Test cricket at its best is a series of bone jarring, uncompromising gladiatorial contests involving brute strength as well as subtle guile, waged within a chess-series-like intellectual campaign at the higher level, all of which is encoded using myriad gentlemanly rules of engagement, spread over five days. After all the hard work, you may not get a decisive result at the end of it.

The whites of the uniforms and the greens of outfield dominate the view, but at its core, cricket is bloody red. More than any sport (golf comes close), the injuries to the psyche of a test cricketer are hardest to recover from, as Greg Chappel said. If you get out, you are out of the test match for a couple of days before a second shot at redemption, if at all there is one. Indeed, test cricket is the most realistic reality show the world has invented. And yes, you can tool for hours watching it. Lets hope for many more riveting contest during the ashes and may Test cricket prosper.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Recalling the Sunny Days - He wore India on his sleeve

Hail Sunil Manohar Gavaskar, the world's greatest opening batsman across eras! Sunil Gavaskar was born on July 10th 1949. Feels like he just retired a few years ago after that masterful near-double in the unofficial (Bicentennial?) test at Lords. Never wore a helmet against the W.Indian Quicks in the 70s-80s and never backed down, ever. Today's NFL-style padded up millionaire cricketers on benign pitches resembles a Bollywood poor-joke compared to those days of real cricket. One of the Windies fans (Lord Relator) even wrote a calypso in awe of his batting ....

I recall his jokes during his lecture at IIT-Madras a decade and half go.
Q. Why did you refuse the MCC membership ?
A. That's incorrect. I love the Madras Cricket Club and am happy to be an honorary member" (laughter among the entire campus who turned up on the occasion, well after his retirement).
Q. Sir, we meant the Marylebone Cricket Club ..
A. Oh that. Who cares about some Firangi Cricket club. I'm honored to be a part of MCC this week. (chuckles). Audience goes nuts and eats out of his hands afterwards.

Many may not agree with some of his potshots at the Aussies (especially the one against Hookes), and his commentary may sometimes put u to sleep, but every thing else that Sunny does is just fine with me. If only that idiotic owner of the Kolkata KR T20 circus had listened to SMG and fired Buchanan before this year's edition, instead of after ...

And yes, Buchanan has conferred with England before the ashes. He's even spilled secrets. Any chance of an English victory is now extinguished. A clever Aussie plot!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

GooPLEX: Go Google! Wake up COIN-OR!

The first release of Google's open-source simplex solver (which this tab dubs 'GooPLEX') appears to be a simple toy version of the simplex method for Linear Programs. GooPLEX appears to be missing all the basic ingredients of a practically viable solver such as the revised simplex method, dual simplex, sparse LU factorization, etc. The good news is that we finally have an open-source solver whose license (Apache) is actually useful in the real world.

COIN-OR has a dedicated team, and a fantastic repository of solvers and other OR stuff. Unfortunately, its licensing (CPL and now EPL) is still uncomfortably and frustratingly restrictive for companies to use commercially, and thereby also improve by contributing to it. Consequently, it is likely that COIN-OR is going to be popular mainly within the OR-academic bubble. Ironically, most OR/IE departments will already have GUROBI or CPLEX licenses and thus wont be dependent on such *PL license based LP/MIP solvers. We OR folks need to stop shooting ourselves in the foot.

The smartest course of action for IBM and the COIN-OR team is to do what Google did and make the COIN-OR available under Apache/BSD. On the other hand, one hopes Google's developers and the OR community will improve upon GooPLEX and make it a scalable product. Go Google, and welcome to the world of O.R!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Google releases open-source Simplex Solver

good news for O.R practitioners. I wish COIN-OR would make their license as friendly as google's simplex solver. We'll have to look into the code to see if it's an efficient and effective implementation (e.g., dual simplex with LU factorization) for large LPs.

Here's the license details cut-and-pasted from the source.

1 /*
2 * Licensed to the Apache Software Foundation (ASF) under one or more
3 * contributor license agreements. See the NOTICE file distributed with
4 * this work for additional information regarding copyright ownership.
5 * The ASF licenses this file to You under the Apache License, Version 2.0
6 * (the "License"); you may not use this file except in compliance with
7 * the License. You may obtain a copy of the License at
8 *
9 *
10 *
11 * Unless required by applicable law or agreed to in writing, software
12 * distributed under the License is distributed on an "AS IS" BASIS,
13 * WITHOUT WARRANTIES OR CONDITIONS OF ANY KIND, either express or implied.
14 * See the License for the specific language governing permissions and
15 * limitations under the License.
16 */

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Carnatic Jazz Fusion via Alto-Sax

This is a performance of a portion of the album 'Kinsmen' at U-Mass. The album's name is quite apt. The collaborators are Rudresh Mahanthappa, U.S born Jazz Musician, and Kadri Gopalnath, The carnatic exponent. This article in the New yorker reviews the album and mentions how these two wonderful musicians got together and realized their parents are both from Karnataka (my home state) in India. You can listen to this album here. You can follow the Dakshina (i.e., "South" in the Kannada language) Ensemble if you are interested. Rudresh has gone on further to work with Vijay Iyer, another acclaimed U.S born Jazz pianist, who in turn, is also part of the band 'Tirtha', along with personal favorite Prasanna (see link on the right side of this tab).

A vigorous discussion of fusion music in general, including more feedback on this album can be found here.

These may be the next generation of musicians who take Indian (and south Indian) music to the next level and enable it to reach an even wider audience. This blog post talks about Prasanna in this context.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

U.S Citizenship inteview - feedback

This is perhaps the only part of the immigration process, where things are actually made easy for you to succeed. The new 'history and civics' questionnaire format requires you answer 6 out 10 questions (these are all sitters, and strictly sampled from a bank of 100 that you can find online or in their booklet/CD). You then read and write a simple sentence in English. If everything goes ok, its a 5-minute process (thats it!). The process of document verification and other questions to ensure that you aren't a commie, criminal, or an extremist, you've paid your taxes, etc. takes about 10 minutes. Make sure you have your green card and driver's license for the state you reside in, to make life easy (else you have to provide other acceptable evidence of state-residency). Of course, if you are filing based on your spouse, additional documents that are required.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Jackals lend their voice

After the T20-WC debacle, it is time for the inevitable pattern of criticism of Team-India coach Gary Kirsten by unemployed ex- and fringe Indian cricket 'coaches', who lay in wait until the Indian cricket team fails, to do their usual rubbish post-event expert analysis. Nobody likes being kicked off the gravy train.

John Buchanan who coached the Kolkata team right out of the IPL is now going to 'help' England before the Ashes. I cant wait to see this one ...

The best useless cricket coaches make the best useless cricket commentators, and vice versa.

Monday, June 15, 2009

T20 world cup crash

India was on par with England after 19.4 overs. Harbhajan then bowled a 5-wider with yuvraj misfielding. In fact Harbhajan had two of those in an otherwise excellent spell. The match was probably lost there. A dubious selection - Ishant Sharma is an excellent test/ODI bowler who shouldnt be playing T20 cricket - hasnt done much in this format and should have been replaced by Nehra or I.Pathan.

Anyway, its been an overdose of T20 cricket - even ODIs look attractive now ...

Monday, June 8, 2009

English Cricket momentum

English Humor on cricinfo blogs is back after the t20 victory over Pak. Excerpts:

" ... Physicists among you will know that momentum is the product of mass and velocity. When Rob (Key) propelled himself along the Lord's outfield, those two ingredients were present in abundance. If England can recreate that moment and harness the momentum, they'll win every match for at least the next 10 years .."

Dadaism redefined -
Do people still believe in dada?

another funny sound-bite on tv from the t20wc is the 'yahoooooo' call from the stadium-DJ after every few overs. this event is sponsored by the internet company. And this sporting headline is mildly funny if u read between the lines:
"Boxers off to winning start at Asian Championships"

In the twitter era, headlines are all that's needed. the actual stuff that follows is not going to be read anymore. Finally, a huge thanks to t20wc commentators in England. After the IPL mass-regurgitation, they are under no pressure to do an encore here, and the focus is back on cricket, even if its just 40 overs.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Wagah ...

It is obvious that the entire news media, cable or otherwise in the US has had absolutely no clue about South Asia, not now, not ever. Any immigrant to the US from that region will tell you that. 'Da Man' and sought-after de-facto expert on Af-Pak is Ahmed Rashid of Pakistan. His first book was written before 9/11 and gives you a great overview of the rise of the Taliban. His more recent 'Descent into Chaos' clearly identifies the original culprits - the policies of the late duo of Ronald Reagan and Zia-Ul-Haq. Most Americans are totally unaware of this - they live in a collective bubble out here.

Equally interesting are the stories of Pakistani patriots (as opposed to simply being anti-Indian) who believe in country and common-sense more than ideology. Dr. Hari-J's blog talks about Ms. Sabiha Sumar, and the video of her brief interview with tribal elders is quite revealing. She's also talked to Musharraf and some of that is on youtube. As the Pak government (i.e., ISI/military/ministers) wavers, its up to the common Pakistanis to reclaim Jinnah's more democratic vision.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

On Obama and the great common-sense experiment

Having followed Obama since 2003-04 (lived/worked in the Chicago area for many years), yesterday's speech in Cairo easily beats everything else in terms of striking a blow for common-sense. Whether it leads to any change in ground reality is a completely unrelated question, but this much can be said. He's probably the first international leader in a long time (and probably the first US president ever) to present such a balanced understanding of what goes on outside the US. The beauty of the speech was to cut thru the 'dual noise' and for most part, state the obvious - what is, and what isn't. So what is obvious and why is it so difficult to state? Let's ramble a bit about our Janus-faced coin first.

The obvious thing about a coin is its duality - it has two sides, and in many cases, you look at one side, it is also obvious what the other is. But the problem is that most people covet this metaphorical coin but choose to live on, or favor, one side or reject the other. We are somehow shocked when we make a dent on one side and it shows up on the other side. Nothing new - it is just a restating of the ancient concept of 'Vasudeva Kutumbam' in Hinduism, that oldest statement of duality (as broadly defined by this tab). Neither Palestine nor Israel can be safe unless they both are. Violent movements ultimately turn upon themselves. Tradition/Culture and Progress cannot move independent of each other for too long, nor should they bog each other down. Urban prosperity in India without improving our villages at some positive rate is bound to fail. People ultimately come together only if they have the freedom to move apart but no longer feel the need to exercise it. The only thing obvious about these examples of duality is it is rarely followed by any of us, at least not all the time.

Obama is certainly not going to act on every one of his speaking points. It it much easier to focus on some quick-hit means that are then justified on the basis that it helps toward moving us closer to the big-picture ending. After a series of such hare-brained ideas riddled with noise, we find that it is just taking us on some random walk. Keeping this in mind, it is great to have a US leader who has lived in different continents and cultures, a mixed heritage, loves Hanuman, and one can who can apparently see the big picture clearer that most. For example, compare this to Bush Jr.'s "you are with us or against us" speech.

There are lots of sound-bites that appear to come right out of Hindu philosophy, with the phrase "Mutual Respect" being the most prominent, especially when viewed along with his statement (paraphrasing here) of wanting the world to move away from the notion of "for us to be defined, the other has to be rejected"- The classic false duality. A coin is never going to have just one side (at least not in the long run!) it is as if Obama has been reading up on Rajiv Malhotra's essays on this subject. Most of Obama's domestic speeches thrive 'on disabusing people of the notion' that there is any truth to this false duality (for example, his statements on torture and national security).

For this tab, the strongest part of his speech was is this simple sentence:

"I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal, but I do believe that a woman who is denied an education is denied equality".

This should be a lesson for some of us Indians who have been 'brain-washed' to believe that visuals of our women wearing western clothes and winning inane beauty pageants is necessary and sufficient proof of women's rights in India. Instead of being just one of the means with which to fight for the right to female expression, it's become an end in itself - yet another false duality (This tab may also have the narrow, vested interest of having actress Katrina Kaif move away from crappy western clothes and appear in more traditional Indian dresses. not that its going to help her acting or Hindi diction). Firstly, we have to allow girls to be born in India. Then while we cross that hurdle, we can talk about "right to education", followed by a right to economic opportunity, and the right to dump (or bump off) your lazy husband who's also the classic drunkard that beats you up at night and takes away the money you earned after 10 hours of manual labor, with little food in between, while also dodging harassment from co-workers.

It is shocking to see a politician who brazenly speaks common-sense. If it turns out that he's actually going to put some of this stuff to practice, well, that would be something, wouldnt it. After all, the world has seen several lunatic politicial experiments fail and we are comfortable with that. But if we do test the theory of common sense, it better not fail.... The outcome do not look obvious to me, but its worth trying.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Women Reporters in Cricket

The last few years have witnessed the emergence of many women who have gotten involved with cricket in some form. Let's start at the bottom and work our way up....

Most Indians cannot forget Mandira Bedi (some, not quickly enough). On the other hand, I did like the tricolor peas pulao in her old TV ad. One of the positive side-effects of the IPL has been in this area. We have a couple of rich 'Bollywood' glam-acts who own stakes in IPL teams. Then we had Ms. Tishani Doshi, a dancer (or is that danseuse?) / poet/journalist born and based in Chennai wo-manning one of the many IPL blogs on cricinfo. While she is no cricket expert, the view from the distaff side made for some interesting reading. A rather unexpected piece of cricket-related writing came from Rebecca Lee, one the 'mischief gals', hired as cheerleaders for home-team Bangalore for IPL-II. The blog by Ms. Lee was quite interesting, in that it comes from an American, trans-cultural perspective. Furthermore, their comments on the effort level and mental state of the Bangalore team while it put together a nice, long winning streak before the inevitable final tragedy was noteworthy. While I'm not a fan of this whole cheer-leading stuff, I do hope these gals return next season and blog some more.

IPL aside, we have more cricket-aware, serious lady writers/speakers today than ever before. Many of the cricketers who participated in the recent Women's world cup have blogged regularly on cricinfo during that tournament. It was a pleasant surprise to listen to the commentary on the recent Aus-South Africa (men's) ODI cricket series in SA. One of the persons on the commentary panel was Kass Naidoo (i think), and she was pretty good. Certainly better than all the crappy ex-cricketers throwing up en-masse into the mike during the IPL.

A personal favorite is Sharda Ugra, Deputy Editor of India Today. Her regular cricket columns (such as 'free hit') are among the best in the sports journalist business. She calls a chuck a chuck, and reminds me of Mary Carillo (Tennis), albeit less controversial. Among other things, she has worked with John Wright, former Team-India coach on his wonderful book 'Indian Summers' that captures many moments of the renaissance years (2001-2004) of Indian cricket. She is also the winner of the 'best sports writer of the year 2006' (India).

i've probably left out many more, and we'll have to end with this:
Behold, Mandira and Sharda,
meal-ticket and sticky-wicket
there's room for all in desi cricket,
but fitting 'em to rhyme is harda

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Janani Janani - An ocean of devotion

This one is based on the song 'Janani Janani' by Ilayaraja. The original can be seen here. This song is a truly touching composition that left a deep impression, and is sung in praise of Janani (Mother) Mookambikai. It appears to be one of Ilayaraja's favorite ones.

This version is approximated on acoustic guitar using C, D, G, Em, and something else. We create the distortion effects to mimic the ocean wave ambiance using Audacity, a free sound editor. I've put the final output on YouTube:

The pictures were taken by my cousin N.M. Krishna of Singapore (get well soon!), photographer extraordinaire (Acadia, Maine).

Finally, this song is about the humility of the devotee surrounded by the omnipresence of the divine mother. This tab dedicates the song to those working quietly to overcome challenges in life - a mother battling lack of sleep while trying to care for her daughter, a daughter trying to be a good girl, grandparents staying healthy, a sister writing an exam (such as the CFA), a brother trying to make it as an entrepreneur or waiting to be with his kids again. This humble song wishes well for all. Om.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Gurobi v/s CPLEX: A real-life LP example

The general availability of Gurobi, the new solver in town means that it allows us to compare how the de-facto commercial standard for the last 3 decades matches up. For starters, lets look at that good old work-horse, the Simplex Method. In particular, we will look at the dual simplex performance on a particular LP from real-life that has very few rows and many, many bounded columns that tries to maximize a linear objective function subject to "<=" constraints. Perfect for dual simplex since most of your work is with 6x6 linear systems for this instance.

Let's see what the default solvers of CPLEX and Gurobi do with it. You would like to think that there should not be much difference when it comes to 'mature' technology. Surprise.
These are run on my personal Ubuntu-Linux quad-core PC, 4GB RAM in serial mode. While the data is not available for public use, it should be easy to generate random instances of similarly sized LPs and do your own tests.

The result:CPLEX-dual simplex is nearly 40X slower on this instance.

Problem stats: 6 Rows, 935645 Columns, 3192263 Non zeros

Gurobi solves it in 76 iterations and 10.16 seconds
Optimal objective 9.531245720e+05

Tried aggregator 1 time.
LP Presolve eliminated 0 rows and 392 columns.
Reduced LP has 6 rows, 935253 columns, and 3191065 nonzeros.
Presolve time = 3.06 sec.

Initializing dual steep norms . . .

Iteration log . . .
Iteration: 1 Dual objective = 1203067.101646
Solution status = Optimal
Solution value = 953124.5720420766
Solution time = 391.32 seconds

It is well known that f your dual-simplex implementation is fast, all your branch-and-cut operations that rely on dual-simplex will also be that much more faster.

CPLEX-Primal was even slower, but CPLEX-Barrier does it in about 100 seconds (including the cross-over to a corner solution), which is still 10X slower. I tried many other tweaks with CPLEX for what should have been a relatively quick and simple problem to solve for an industry-standard LP solver, but without much improvement. To be fair to CPLEX, which is still a fantastic product, this is just one instance. Without the barrier solver as yet, Gurobi may be slower on LPs that are strongly amenable to interior point methods (more on that in a future post).

Hopefully, the owners of these products will continue to devote R&D effort toward these two great products and keep pushing the envelope, so we practitioners get the best of both worlds!

Disclaimer: These are purely my personal observations made in an unofficial capacity, based on tests on a very limited sample of real-life data sets, and do not reflect the views of my employers or associates. I am not affiliated with Gurobi or ILOG-IBM.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

IPL update - More on the millisecond, and some Game theory

Two tabs in a day. This one was necessitated by IPl happenings, so apologies.

First, Ravi Shastri is the first IPL commentator to finally pick up on Raina's feinting action that this tab mentioned a few weeks ago in "the longest millisecond". Raina just bowled 4 overs for 13 runs with 2 wickets to sink the Punjab-11, clean bowling yuvraj (6 of 19 balls!) with that technique. He earlier bowled the last over in the high-scoring previous match against SRK's circus, and did so really well and almost got them to victory using his methods.

Second, it's game-theory time, which of course means duality. With the Punjab loss, 3 teams are vying for two spots (B'lore, Deccan, Punjab). The three teams are tied on points, with a game between Deccan and Blore left. Teams tied on points will be selected based on net run rate'. Obviously the winner goes thru, but that will be known only after the conclusion of the match. How should Blore and Deccan approach their match to maximize their chances of grabbing the remaining two spots? Its a classic team sport situation.

A) maximize your optimistic objective and go all out for a win, or the dual option:
B) minimize your worst case to ensure that no matter what happens, u grab the spot on net-run-rate

Punjab will certainly be hoping that the victory margin will be huge. In particular, home team Bangalore's net run rate is in the middle, below Deccan, so a bad loss would probably eliminate them. Too much dual noise..... Here's this tab's strategy for the home team:

1. win the toss. (heh). bat first and aim for a decent par score around 145. the logic is that unless u get a really low score, Deccan is not going to go crazy chasing it down in 17 overs. seeing dravid and kallis batting happily at run-a-ball with calm deccan nerves and they'll relax too. so your final net-run rate will not change much.

2. if u lose the toss - deccan will probably bat first and since they dont want to collapse, they are going to bat the same way. but gilly's game theory is 100 of 50 balls, so u have to get him out soon or you are IPL history very soon.

in some ways, the 2 teams will be playing punjab tomorrow. so if neither team rocks the boat and ensures an exciting last over finish, punjab-11 will sadly be eliminated. in short, play smart and reasonably aggressive cricket, keep wickets in hand, bowl well. Its' just sensible 20-20 cricket in the end. the math will just back u up. Now, if Buchanan coached Blore, we will lose for sure :-)

Death of a tiger

If you have traveled through the Shivajinagar area of Bangalore, India in the 70s and 80s, you would have seen a large photo of Vellupillai Prabhakaran next to the bus stand, in one of the many Tamizh-owned shops on the busy main road. That area was dominated by the Muslim and Tamil communities in those days, and some Dravida party candidates even won elections in those areas. VP was finally killed in North Sri Lanka yesterday. Looking at the newly released photos of him with what sure looks like a beautiful family is surreal, and triggers a lot of questions. VP's actions have several dual elements to it, riddled with noise as usual.

Like the old west, the gunslinger turned lawman is the hero everybody desperately wants until his heroic shootout. The dual aspect is that he then becomes the only guy in town with a lethal gun and therefore a nuisance, and ideally one who should have gone down while taking the outlaw out. Gunmen who outlive their welcome become the very problem they eliminated in the first place. Like all maoist/militant groups, the LTTE also falls in this category. They do not want to relinquish the power earned from the barrel of a gun. They first fight the fanatics (in this case, the Sinhala Chauvinists), but they reach a certain point where they become what they fight against. It's a classical but vicious fratricidal, boom-and-bust cycle - of who is more fanatic. LTTE's ruthless elimination of all common-sense, moderate Tamizh leaders is well documented. Ultimately, the movement is in tatters since the most fanatic are rarely the smartest, and are doomed to die a lonely death. If the Sinhala majority will allow for pluralistic views based on mutual self-respect, then a new LTTE will not spring up, else the new, deadlier VP is 10 years old today. Muthiah Muralitharan is an good positive example. He is the most successful cricketer in the history of Lanka, and is Tamizh, and morever, has been fiercely defended by (Sinhala) team-mates through all controversies. On the field, they are all Lankans. (Cricket rules!)

That photo of VP captured my imagination. India supported these freedom fighters too. That quickly disappeared when VP's gunmen entered an apartment in Madras and wiped out entire Tamizh families in cold blood. Folks who cry for VP today should also pause to reflect about these families and their offspring that never will be because of this man and an entire generation of smart Tamizh leaders who were wiped out, who will not be there today to provide leadership. In short, after all the fighting and the 100,000 deaths, the Lankan Tamizhs are worse off than just being back to square one. A new and smarter leadership for the 21st century has to arise, but from where?

The war nerd always has a wacky take on the LTTE.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A tale of two airlines: The flying jails of British Airways and Air France

The service levels on British Airways (BA) and Air France (AF), in particular has been going rapidly downhill over the last few years. There are countless web reviews of nightmarish traveler experiences on these two carriers. Them flying jails have some nasty wardens. This week's incident, where all the Indians were rounded up in a herd and kept in a room for 16 hours with little comfort, food and drink, is just the proverbial final straw, and its about time we say NO to AF and BA. A couple of family members flew BA's flying jails a year ago (premium economy or equivalent), and the experience was so bad (rudeness bordering on racism), they discarded the return tickets, losing all the money, and just returned to the US on another airline. Losing your dignity is just not worth it. Lufthansa is not too far behind, so I have skipped European carriers for good. I dont know if they hate Indians, or just hate me :-) These airlines have taken hospitality back to the dark ages. A stop-over in Europe is a bad option for Indian Americans in the Midwest and east coast.

Despite my paranoia about the middle east, Emirates via Dubai appears to be a great alternative. The crew is more cosmopolitan and friendly and recent feedback suggests that it is the best option to get to India. Lots of cricket videos and movies for personal viewing. On-time performance is good too and its cheap. Based on current performance, it is certainly the way to go.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Dual Noise

An underlying intent of this tab is to explore duality. A belief that there is a counter-balance to everything, that there are always two sides to a coin. neither of which is fully clear unless you understand the other. In other words, the truth is "not this alone". We speak and somebody listens, We write and somebody reads. Cause and Effect, Yin and Yang, What goes around .... If we pay careful attention, the more we learn about the first one ("the primal"), we get to know a lot about the other one ("the dual"). In fact, Modern O.R theory and practice is founded on the concepts of mathematical duality. In Hindu Philosophy, duality (and non-duality) are fundamental recurring themes (Dvaita, Advaita).

In virtually every instance, what we write about or speak of is only an approximation of our intent, and what we read and hear is a further approximation of that primal intent. Crime and Punishment are rarely commensurate. In other words, while duality is a powerful property that helps us get closer to the ultimate truth, it is riddled with a lot of noise that is 'lost in translation' that considerably confuses the issue. Mathematically, dual noise is a phenomenon observed in Operations research where sometimes, your raw dual information does not guarantee a better understanding of the primal problem. One reason for this is degeneracy (multiplicity). A seemingly endless number of paths that have to be explored to discover the truth. This is yet another OR theme that always shows up in practice. There seem to be many truths! Which of these truths is the 'best' truth?

So this tab, when tired of tooling, will try to explore various events in real life through the prism of duality, and try to characterize it using some of the concepts described above. It's a lofty yet unclear goal that's set up to fail, but for every primal failure, there's got to be dual success, right?

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Mothers Day - An Acoustic Guitar Tribute

This is a simple instrumental improv of the wonderful song (amma endrazhaikkadha) from the movie 'Mannan'. You can find the original video on youtube here.
The song is approximated in 'C' using simple open chords (you can find it here if you are interested). The tabs are replayed over the chords to give it some melody. It's recorded using my 2-year old's mic, so sound quality is iffy.

Hope you like it. video

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The longest millisecond

Suresh Raina's talent is dazzling, as is Rohit Sharma's. The Latter took a hattrick yesterday, while the former came up with an amazing bowling cameo. In an inspired move, Dhoni brought him in to bowl the 15th and the 17th overs (in a match reduced to 18 overs) at a point when Yuvraj and Mahela were belting sixes like crazy. He came up with this gem:
SK Raina 2 overs, 8 runs, no wickets

12 balls without a single boundary when everybody else was getting hit quite easily during the death overs. How did he do it? This tab has a theory.

He appears to have developed a 'feinting' bowling technique - that can be visually explained best by looking at examples like the famous Brazilian soccer player Socrates before he used to take penalties, or the Pakistani hockey player Shabaz's (or Ronaldinho's) deft dodge-moves at the last instant, leaving a defender behind. Every delivery appears to be a game played out in the milliseconds during which the batsman or the bowler blinks first and commits to a move. Raina is able to delay his delivery that millisecond more, and the results are amazing. It has worked so far, and will work until he comes across a batsmen who can stay still that fraction longer. Would be interesting to see him bowl to Sehwag who has the ability to stay still the longest and spot the bowler's intent before the rest of the stadium catches on.

Sports at the highest level, always appears to be played in these milliseconds.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

IPL-II: Ball of the Tournament

The credit goes to the young Indian, Sudeep Tyagi of Chennai SK, who missed out on the first IPL due to a stress fracture. Cricinfo has a nice piece on him here. The quality of TV commentary has hit a nadir during the IPL and it is painful to see past cricket legends and ex-players donning the role of peanut hawkers. They were so busy playing vending machine that they spent too little time on this ball (cricinfo scoreboard)

AB de Villiers b Tyagi 0 (1 ball)

AB is probably the best of the young international cricketers who have already made their mark in the tough world of Test Cricket. Coming fresh of his success in previous IPL matches, the first ball he received from Tyagi shaped away, but then hit the seam and came in to rattle the castle. Tyagi of course, had just gotten a wicket the previous ball. An outstanding performance on IPL debut and I hope he is consistent enough to play for India in the future. Dhoni and Warne certainly seem to inspire the rookies.

The second ball of the tournament was also bowled in this match:

TM Dilshan b Jakati 13 (13 balls)

- this time by Indian spinner Shadab Jakati, who took out TM Dilshan, another in-form batsman. Both these players were clean bowled on defensive strokes in a T20 match. Good cricket is still alive! Too bad the third-rate commentary (except Bhogle) is too busy selling everything other than the many good cricketing moments (To to be precise, 'many' is relative to IPL-I that was played on flat Indian tracks with no bounce). 'DLF Maximum Swindle' and 'Citi Moment of Madness' would be apt for these two morally and financially bankrupt IPL sponsors. sigh.

Home team Bangor, err, i mean Bangalore, has risen from the ashes and has smartly picked an Indian-South African combination. 7 of the 8 teams are now within a point of each other, so its a dogfight. With classy Indian test players in the form of Kumble and Dravid, B'lore may still make it to the semis - but they will need to win 4 of their remaining 6 contests. For this, they have to keep their current hot streak alive...

And finally, Buchanan must resign. Its not the same without Warne, McGrath, and Gilchrist, is it?

Thursday, April 30, 2009

IPL-II: The Indian cricket perspective

One of the plus points of this IPL version is that its taking place in South Africa, and therefore it provides us a nice way of evaluating the cricketing quality of non-internationals (Dhoni himself has played very little here). The pitches are more balanced, with mishits seldom going for a six, unlike the Indian edition of IPL last year. The number of skiers have been astonishing and the percentage of high catches that have been dropped, even more so.

The young Indian spinners look good, what with the spin-friendly pitches that seem to abound. On the other hand, the fast bowling department looks a mixed bag. The rookie Kamran Khan probably needs to work on his action. One is hoping for a comeback from the smiling Balaji (he appears to be among the wickets again), while RP Singh looks adequate. Malinga and Nannes appear to be streets ahead, and the Aussies are on international duty and havent played yet. In terms of batting, Raina in particular looks awesome, and should be picked for Test cricket right away. Rohit Sharma showed that he can bat well anywhere in the world if he puts his mind to it, while Yusuf Pathan is only limited by the air density and the boundary distance. Dhoni will improve his batting, keeping, and captaincy skills from this experience and this will only help India in the long run. The rest of the young guns have been inconsistent and haven't made much of an impact so far.

The most embarrassing aspect of Indian cricket continues to be the fielding. We are unfit for 21st century sport! Ravi Jadeja and Raina are the stand-outs here. The BCCI needs to do some serious remedial work here.

Let's hope that as the IPL progresses, some of the Indian colts can put up their hands and shine, but for now, there are few test match prospects besides Ojha (spin) and Raina (batting).

A couple of other notes - The umpiring has been poor in a few of games last week.. As predicted earlier on this tab, the ego-ride for the Kolkata team-owner is coming close to its natural end. Hopefully he will sell it off asap to a better owner and walk off with the profits and stay away from cricket forever.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A tale of three T20 cricket leagues: ICL, IPL, and the APL

The BCCI has all of a sudden announced an amnesty for the ICL players from India, thereby opening the way for other cricket boards to do the same. This is a very interesting move since the BCCI does not do anything unless it sees money in it. Does the fact the ICL is in the process of morphing into the American Premier League (APL), courtesy of a Mr. Jay Mir alarm the IPL (i.e., the BCCI)? Reports indicate that a huge fraction of the ICL players have signed on to the APL, which can be a potential money spinner since it can bring T20 cricket to the U.S. The US cricket association itself was a fractured group for quite a while and besides its a free country here. Unless BCCI offers some sops to us here, the APL may come to stay. U.S passion for security means that ICL players will feel much more comfortable playing here than in India (sadly).

While its possible that a wolf has turned into a lamb, it will not be unsurprising if change of heart is in fact related to the APL, and if so, the BCCI deserves to sweat it out, given the high-handed vengeful way in which decent cricketing folks associated with the ICL were shunned over the world. Perhaps its payback time, and it will be interesting to see how the ICC, and the BCCI sort this mess out.

Monday, April 20, 2009

IPL - day 2 - Replace Strategy breaks with tactical 2-minute time outs

The idiocy of the strategy break was highlighted on a day when IPL was hit by 'flood' problems - rain flooding the field, and the flood-lights not working when the rain stopped. Its common knowledge that its an advertising break. However, it makes more sense to break it down into two 90 or 120-sec tactical time-outs for either team, just like it's done in the NBA. This limits the total break time to 6-8 minutes and may actually make cricketing sense, while also not killing the momentum of the T20 game.

The Kolkata team reflects its owner. Its big on style, and even without Akhtar, it has a flashy set of players with limited substance, and a self-serving coach, all on a big ego-ride. It's tough to root against a team which has Ganguly. Like him or hate him, he is a great Indian cricketer and should have remained captain. I may come to eat my words, but they may win a few games when the flashiness works, but without Ponting and Hussey, (Saurav aside) this team has little heart or substance.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

IPL cricket second edition - day one

Two of India's greatest batsman showed their class while the other Indians generally struggled to cope with alien conditions in South Africa, where IPL-II is being staged. The contest is more even due to the nature of the wickets, so the cricket content is going to be more enjoyable than the first edition. Sachin and Dravid anchored successful batting efforts for Mumbai, and my home town, Bangalore, respectively. The interesting moment today was when Dhoni blundered - leaving Murali out of the 11 on a day when Harbhajan bowled really well to Hayden, Kumble took 5-5, and Warne showed his genius. Dravid's classy fifty was marked with his clearly pointing his bat at somebody in the crowd (hopefully asking Hoochman Mallya, the distasteful, pompous owner of his team to just shut up).

Other IPL news involves yet another self-serving vestigial coach, this time in form of John Buchanan spouting some b.s about not one or two, but 5 captains. On assumes the remaining 6 are vice-captains (Kolkata socialism makes its impact :-). Gavaskar, never one to mince words, pointed it out, and J.B tried to rephrase. It's not that big a deal really. India has played with 5-odd (ex-) captains, while Pak in the 90s played with 6-8 of them. Dhoni routinely lets bowlers set fields.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Bangalore to Blacksburg: A campus trail of terror that leads where ?

The Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg is an idyllic place of study. It's an amazing experience to sit in any one of the many quiet spots around the duck pond in the VT campus and study Operations Research (or Indian Philosophy) for hours. The bliss factor is really high. Likewise, the Indian Institute of Science is the last green sanctuary for graduate students in the concrete jungle that is Bangalore. I've spent countless hours walking and cycling thru the beautiful IISc campus and playing table tennis in the gymkhana. It's difficult to think of more peaceful sanctuaries for students. All that changed two years ago.

It's been two years since the massacre at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg by a lone deranged student on April 16, 2007. It's been about four years since jehadi terrorists bombed and shot up the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore. This happened on the day of a conference on Operations Research there. Similarly, among the innocent victims at Blacksburg was Dr. G.V. Loganathan, a mild-mannered, hard-working, and brilliant civil engineering professor of Indian origin. He had co-authored some nice papers on optimizing water distribution networks - he was an OR person as well.

You want to study O.R in peace; it can be a noble science that can help man use nature's scarce resources more wisely (We have enough for man's need, but not his greed, said the Mahatma). After these mindless killings in 2005 and 2007, the pit in your stomach tells you that there is no more safe haven in this world. Not for you, and certainly not for your children. The right to life and liberty in the 21st century is going to have to be earned the hard way. Will every children's park, school, and public place have to be monitored and policed with machine guns? will the latest Kevlar-lined shirt and armor-plated cars be the hot selling item (for today's Bangalore traffic, what u need is a big tank) Will we eventually become a planet of agoraphobics?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

O.R Practice: The paradox of optimality

Operations Research in practice is, as one would expect, a different animal compared to O.R in academia. I choose to call it 'applied O.R'. OR dwells a lot on optimality, and there's no ambiguity there. AOR deals with optimalities. They come in different shades (some shadier than the others :-). We'll just touch upon a couple of them here.

Every analytic firm sells stuff with the word 'optimizer' somewhere. In most cases they dont really optimize anything. But some of them do; atleast they hope to 'improve' something. But optimizer sounds cooler than 'improver' because we understand that one cant really do better than 'optimal'. Management folks so love this word they'll use it in the most non-optimal manner!

Now, something is 'optimal' to you unless you find something better. It's 'user optimal'; something that your user cannot replicate visually (or if you are a good OR guy, neither can excel). If the user doesnt get to interact with your product much, user-optimality is great. A quick and dirty AOR heuristic is good enough. Minimum effort, maximum benefit. Dr. Hari J. Balasubramanian at the University of Mass, Amherst has a great article in ORMS-Today on a user-optimal solution to the land-reallocation problem after the 1947 partition of India. He's got a nice blog going (follow the 'thirty letters' blog link on this page).

The user-optimal solution approach looks good until the day a user insists he wants to play with the tool to what-if analyze scenarios and use it for decision support. Thats when they see that user-optimal doesnt cut it. They dont know it, but they actually require real (global) optimality. Therein lies the paradox. Nobody really cares about global optimality since your model is but a fading shadow of reality. However, if your interactive AOR product cant consistently hit solutions close to optimality, its just a scattergun. Its a car that turns by random amounts and directions. Or think of it this way - if you are an OR student - when do you expect to defend your OR dissertation and graduate if the CPLEX or GUROBI solver in your university lab suddenly solves your LPs to only within 25-50% of optimality but doesnt tell you that.

Your optimal answer and objective value is itself pretty useless, but the method you employed to generate that on a consistent basis is priceless; your customer can actually take decisions and make policies based on the response of your AOR product. Everything looks good until somebody says something about 'degeneracy' .... to be continued.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Worlds best detectives in book and TV fiction

Here's a list in ascending order. It's pretty subjective, and one can imagine hugely different rankings by others. I'm from India, so a couple of great indian characters who i believe have a wonderful universal appeal. A key requirement is that the story be enjoyable (its fiction!), plot-driven, with a focus on solving a really serious crime (so that leaves all pesky teen investigators out). lawyers are not allowed in this list. But this much I can say - if u have watched or read each of these characters, you are certainly a fellow tooler!

Feel free to enter your own personal ranking and i will update the blog with a "most popular list" soon.

10. We start with a tie.
a. Det.Brisco and Green. The best team which formed the "law" in "law and order". The have 30 minutes to properly investigate and make a realistic case on tv before the lawyers screw it up.

b. Karamchand. A popular Indian Favorite, was inspired by Columbo. This carrot-nibbling investigator was innovatively interpreted by ace actor Pankaj Kapur, solved many tv crimes in 1980-90s India.

9. Det. Goren, NYPD. From 'Law and Order - Criminal Intent'. Still going strong. Along with partner Detective Eames who keeps him sane, they track down a variety of killers and Goren uses his brilliant (if sometimes disturbing) psycho-analytical skills to get the perps to confess. His nemesis, Nicole Wallace is long dead... or is she?

8. Miss Marple. Agatha Christie gets her first of two bites of the apple for creating another unforgettable character. The old lady solves crimes in quiet English villages ....

7. Cadfael, the Benedictine monk is also an unlikely detective who solves crimes while faithfully serving his lord, played well by Derek Jacobi.

6. Monk. It's his name. The last season remains. Adrian's powers of observation and pattern recognition is a blessing but it comes along with the curse of an obsessive compulsive disorder and a plethora of phobias. he's still searching for his wife's killers...

5. Der Alte (The Old Fox), original series. The German detective along with his youthful sidekick started solving TV crimes in 70s displaying both cunning and courage.

4. Byomkesh Bakshi. The quintessential Bengali intellectual of old India created by Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay. Compassionate and brilliant. I wonder if they'll dub the tv version in English, played by Rajit Kapoor. India's best by far. Highly recommended. It's inspired by Poirot and Holmes, but is utterly Indian in the end.

3. Hercule Poirot. The egg-headed master of the grey cells from Belgium created by Agatha Christie. A touch of vanity, but always fair, and way too clever for killers. and every case is a challenge.

2. Columbo. A personal favorite, along with his crumpled coat, a crumpled tie, an equally crumpled looking hound, an even more crumpled old car (hilarious when asks it to be valet-parked), and his loving wife who never makes it to screen, and an un-used gun that he's never fired in a while. Peter Falk's victims always underestimated him and relaxed their guard when he just has that one last question ...

1. Sherlock Holmes - Probably the most reprised character in dramatic history, along with the gutsy Dr. Watson at 221B baker street, is still the best by far, and inspired many of those characters below in his list. Even the 'young Sherlock Holmes' prequel imagined by Spielberg was pretty good. Although Holmes never said 'elementary, my dear Watson', Arthur Conan Doyle gave his character some brilliant deductive powers, an encyclopedic knowledge, lots of courage, a spirit of adventure, but also a weakness for the occasional shot of morphine when unemployed. The world's greatest fictional research scientist as well as the world's greatest criminal mind in the form of his nemesis, Dr. Moriarty clash in an epic manner.

Update: My sister recommends: "Thomas Lynley from Scotland Yard in crime fiction by Elizabeth George (read her books - they are superbly written). Eliz George is an American who writes in the style of a British crime writer - am a huge fan of hers".

Monday, April 6, 2009

number 182

No fielder (besides the keeper, of course) had taken more than 181 catches in the history of test cricket until yesterday. Rahul Dravid took a couple yesterday in Wellington, New Zealand to touch 183. All the more impressive considering that Mark Waugh held that record, and he was one outstanding fielder. The unbelievable catch that he held to dismiss VVS Laxman (youtube) during India's run-chase in the Chennai Test of 2001 made me quite sick as an indian cricket fan.

Hopefully he can shed his hangdog/stonewalling batting method that's crept in since 2006, quite unlike his 'gritty but positive' batting between 2001-06, both in ODIs and tests. Would love to see the real Dravid at least once before he retires...

Courtesy of 'The Hindu', here's a beautiful photo of the impending 182nd brick in the wall !

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

IPL Safari cop-out

The only good news about holding the cricket junk food league outside India is that the young Indian players waiting in the wings will gain exposure to conditions outside the subcontinent. This will definitely help Indian cricket in the long run. Otherwise, India caves in as usual. No surprise. Cave-in as a strategy hasn't worked for, um... about 1000 years now since Ghazni. Yeah, lets give it some more time, who knows.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

OR Practice with 19th Century Optimization Technology

So you are an enthusiastic optimization guru with a MS/PhD in Industrial Eng/Operations Research. You want to bring your ideas to life in the private industry (Recession notwithstanding). You are the OR guy in the IT team who shuns heuristic approaches ever since that day your customer observed a major improvement in the objective function after adding a highly restrictive constraint, and wondered what kind of an idiotic optimization product (yes, he air quotes that) you were hawking. Red-faced, you decide to build a math programming based Mixed Integer Programming-based (MIP) solver using the cool 21st century stuff that OR folks in academia swim in. It's a NP-hard problem, but your ideas works great in practice and you get voted the 'employee of the month'. What's more, it satisfies all the sacred OR practice requirements of Rosenthal and Brown.

You may have had to shell out 15,000$ to buy a new CPLEX license (and that's just for development, buddy), or even better, a new Gurobi Dev license that apparently costs only half as much with no extra charge for parallel stuff. Now comes the challenge of putting all this into a product. Your Manager says "I don't care about optimality. The data is full of noise anyway". You feel sheepish, but you are a true OR believer. You realize that its not the optimal solution that matters, but the consistency in the response that is achieved by always finding (near-)optimal solutions. Your manager is now convinced but yours is a small company with great ideas, and the royalty costs for the MIP solver kill the profit margin. Your director tells you to come back with a better idea. You are shocked. You never had to worry about a solver back in school. It was always there in the optimization lab, after all.

You decide to go back to 20th century technology and work with just Linear Programs (LP). You somehow figure out a way to reconcile the fractional people and broken equipment to get a solution that features fully-limbed personnel manning machines with all working parts. Its still better than randomized heuristics, right? You find out that in the current economic climate even LP solvers are expensive. You begin to realize that this yet another reason why OR hasn't taken off in a big way beyond the niche markets. You love CPLEX, GUROBI, and other tools and the guys who built them. But you also learn that even though every decision problem in practice has constraints, only the large companies with a prior OR history tend to adopt the cutting-edge O.R required to robustly handle such problems.

Finally, after 18 months of back-breaking research and Dev, you realize that the randomized heuristic tool built in a day by the computer-science Dev guy is still in place. Folks begin to think the O.R works really well only in academia and theory. You dont give up. Instead, you decide to turn to 19th century technology. You contemplate building your own crude LP solver. Its time to reinvent the wheel ... to be continued ...

Monday, March 30, 2009

Peaceful in Maine

It's a nice and peaceful day in Maine. The Bliss factor for the Bangor area today is 9.0. It's perfect weather for you to tool, but you overdo it, get steved (where all the songs in your mind seem to start in 'E'), and you finally doze off into kalpanaswaras... In the woods behind the house, you see a lizard (or was it an iguana?) on a Funky Trail,.... which leads you all the way to a cricket field in Napier, New Zealand, where the indian team conceded tons of runs, simply bowling for peace. Peaceful, Yup. it sure is a nice (acid-free) day to listen to Carnatic Fusion.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

India's guitarist

What is Prasanna, India's guitar genius doing these days? India's leading exponent of carnatic, carnatic-fusion, and several other musical genre has been mostly touring, so for the time being, we have to made do with YouTube. In between, he's scored the music for the 2009 Oscar-winning short-subject documentary 'Pinki'. While he's collaborated with several music directors (notably Ilayaraja), his long association with AR Rehman has been particularly great for carnatic-fusion aficionados, starting with the acoustic solo piece in 'Pudhiya Mugham'. Interestingly, this was among the first Indian movie-music CDs ever released, heralding the AR Rehman digital era). Another movie favorite is the strings in the title song of 'Kandukonden-Kandukonden'. Apparently, his 'Electric Ganesha Land' marked the first production release out of Rehman's new studio in Chennai. Looking forward to continued collaboration between these two great musicians.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Dodgy Doctors

Being close to the border, Canadian TV is a staple. Recently they have been running a "India Reborn" series every Sunday, in course of which one is introduced to hoochman Dr.Vijay Mallya (tooling in his large private jet modified to run on beer), which would lead many to believe that we are either dealing with a benevolent medical expert or an eminent professor! Hopefully he is neither. Its likely just another dubious 'doctorate for cash'. There are several other quack-ates, past and present. Actors Dr.Rajkumar and Dr. MGR, RIP, for example. Living artifacts include Dr.Jayalalithaa, and Dr. Karunanidhi who also owns the title 'Kalaignar', a tribute to his ideologically artistic ventures. Sometimes they dispense with names and just refer to him as the noble Dr. Kalaignar. There's also a Dr.MGR medical university in Chennai which reminds us that Indira Gandhi never was the Mahatma's daughter.

Monday, March 23, 2009

complex lyrics

Intensive research by many (courtesy several google groups) narrow down the preamble in the song 'anthony gonsalves to this:
"Wait, wait, wait. You see, the whole country of the system is
juxtaposition by the hemoglobin in the atmosphere because you are a
sophisticated rhetorician intoxicated by the exuberance of your own

some use 'publicity' at the end, but 'verbosity makes sense', no?. Utter gibberish but truly funny. On the other hand, the wonderful song 'Kandisa' by 'Indian Ocean' has the following lyrics that sound puzzling at first.

Kandisa Alahaye, Kandisa Esana -2
Aalam Balam Aalam, Aamenu Aamen
Sliha Mar Yose, Almaduba Kudisa
Aangen Dhanusa, Nehave Dukharana ....

Apparently, these are in the ancient words of Aramaic (the original language of the christian bible) and are part of some syrian christian church prayer. And some nice indian fusion.