Sunday, February 25, 2007

Spanish Symphony? F1 2007 - The Year In Preview

As the countdown to the 2007 F1 season begins, with less than a month to go, the teams have settled into a kind of order. Heres a look at whats new for the season, and the predictions for the year.
Whats New?
No Schumi or Ross Brawn, Kimi to Ferrari, Alonso to McLaren, Newey at red Bull, Single trye manufacturer with choice of 2 race compounds, Resurgance of the Ferrari Politics, Lewis hamilton seem to make this year one of the most anticipated and unpredictable.
Now on to my predictions for this year

Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
McLaren seem to have everything going right this season. With the youngest driver lineup on the grid, the team seems to be on a roll. McLaren have found the sweet spot with the Bridgestone Potenza tyres, and with other teams complaining of rear tyre degradation that causes them to back off by 3-4s on a single lap, this seemsto play into their hands. Lewis seems to have adapted himself magnificently and the car suits Alonso's rather unique driving style. Above all the car seems reliable and quick for the first time in years. McLaren have been on longer stints than Ferrari in testing and there does not seem to be any major problem so far.
The driver combination is the most exciting on the grid and Alsonso looks all set to be the first man since Fangio to win three titles on the trot in different cars.
Predictions : Drivers : Alonso : 1, Hamilton : 3
Constructors : McLaren : 1

Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro
With Ferrari being the only car to go in for the longer wheelbase car, which at least theoretically add to the rear degradation woes, opinion is still divided as to whether ferrari know something the rest of the teams know or if they have made a major design blunder. Straying from their philosophy of a single lead driver that lead them to stupendous success over the years, the buzz is that both Kimi and Massa would be slugging it out for the championship, a problem that key rivals McLaren do not have at present. Also the team seems to be in a state of flux with Brawn on a sabbatical, and Stepney disgruntled with the team, and shunted to a new role. Ferrari do not seem to be coping with changes as well as McLaren and ever since Kimi leaving for Ferrari becoming official, Ferrari have done a pathetic job of protecting Kimi. Even during the last few races, McLaren did a fabulous job, with the team thanking Kimi for his work and never once slagging him in public. On the other hand, Ferrari team members have been vocal in expressing dissatisfaction in the way Kimi operates from Monza on, comparing him unfavorably with Schumi. The whole situation is ridiculous, as Kimi has been runner up in the championship twice. And for people with short memories, Kimi lost out on the championship in 2003 by a slender 2 points, that too on the 2002 spec car. In 2003 Kimi simply out schumachered schumi. In 2005, if not for reliability Kimi would have been champion again. It is ridiculous to expect a man with such a poor work ethic to have done so well in fragile McLarens for 5 years. Kimi is out and out the fastest driver in F1 today (though it can be argued that fernando is the more complete driver), and all he needs is a reliable and quick car. This year however, I pick Kimi as runner up yet again, adding that Ferrari are neither going to win, nor do they deserve to win the World Championship this year.
Predictions : Drivers : Kimi : 2, Massa : 4
Constructors : ferrari :2

BMW - Sauber F1
This is the surprise package of the season, and look to be in fantastic form, keeping up with the Ferrari and McLaren. The wind tunnel at Hinwii has been put to good use and Kubaica and Heidfeld have been regulars at the top of the chart. The only question is if the top times have been set by cars running on vapours, which I personally am disinclined to believe. This should be a great year for BMW and hopefully, they will build on this and 2008 be the year for their championship bid. The only question mark lingers over the drivers. Though Kubaica is rated highly and Heidfeld a good driver, we are yet to see if they are championship material.
Predictions : I will go on a limb here and say Drivers : Kubaica 5
Constructors : BMW 3

ING Renault F1
Of all the Michlen runners, it was Renault that was packaged closely with the tyre. It comes as no surprise then that Renault are finding it difficult to adapt to the new Bridgestone Potenza tyres. So far, they are yet to find the sweet spot that let them take early leads in the last two seasons. With Alonso switching to McLaren, this years challenge will be headed by Fisichella, who has onsistently failed to impress. This should be a make or break year for Fisi and I am more inclined to go with the break than the make. It does not seem that Renault are going to retain their championships. Heikki does look good though, and should be challenging for the championship should the team get it right next season.
Predictions : Heikki to beat "Team Leader" Fisi,
Constructors : Renault : 4 / 5 (Too close to call)

Honda Racing
Honda started their runs in a pretty unspectacular way. While Button and Barichello are racking up the milage, the car is not yet on the pace. At the same time, it is not far off the pace of the top 3, and as far as Renault goes, it is too close to call. While Renault seems to be a more drivable car, the Honda drivers seem to have the edge on the Renault duo. While Honda should be able to to challenge for wins, and not just due to rain, they are not going to be challenging for the championship.
Constructors: Honda 5 / 4

AT&T Williams - Toyota
The Williams looks quite quick, and seems quicker than the Toyota at least at present. William start the 2007 season, looking to be able to score points. The driver lineup is not very exciting with Wurz making his return after 6 years. The one thing that is suspect is the teams ability to improve the car over the season, and their funding. This should make them drop down the order over the season, though they should be able to embarass Toyota easily during the first half at least.
Constructors: Am going out on a limb here and saying Williams beat Toyota for 6th

Panasonic Toyota Racing
Since the day they entered F1 Toyota have failed to impress. While 2005 was a good year, things have gone downhill ever since. This team has extremely deep pockets but so far I do not see how they are even able to justify their presence in F1. If you take the ratio of points earned to dollars spent, Toyota have the least distinguished record so far.Even the erstwhile Minardi had gven better value for money. On the driver front, neither driver is ever going to win a championship and both are well past their sell by date. Toyota continues, for some inexplicable reason to pay Ralf Schumacher huge sums for under performing in an already under performing car. Toyota needs to make radical changes, lower their budget, get rid of their drivers or simply get out of F1.
Constructors : Toyota 7

Red Bull Racing
This was supposed to be the dark horse of the season. With all the hype surrounding the launch of the Newey designed Red Bull and Renault engines. However, Newey seems to have over designed the car, and has simply been too clever for his own good. The team still has transmission problems and the over heating issues have not been solved. Newey has always needed a more down to earth team around him, to work best. (Patrick head at Williams, the corporate structure at McLaren). At Red Bull he seems to have been left to his own devices and the flamboyant design has not been a success. The car looks rather McLaren like though, it has not yet sprouted horns. Another problem is the mating of the Renault engine with the chassis. In spite of all these problems, if there is one man who can turn it all around in a month, it is Newey. While the car may not start the season with a bang, I do expect it to get quicker as the season progresses, and might even be able to challenge Toyota for 7th. Also expect the Red Bull to be challenging from the front (DC in particular) at tight circuits, especially Monaco.
Constructors : Red Bull : 8

Spyker F1
The only other independent team on the grid for 2007, (Williams being the other), Spyker are not in the same league as the other 8 teams on the grid. Not much to say about this team, and they look all set to take the last place on the constructors championship.
Constructors :9

Scuderia Torro Rosso, TBA Super Augri F1
With STR running a clone of Newey's Red Bull chassis and Super Augri running the 2006 Honda Chassis, I do not call either team as constructors. In my opinion (irrespective of that of the FIA's), both teams have violated the intellectual copyright issues, and neither team deserve any constructors points. As far as 2007 goes, I do not rate either of the two teams, and irrespective of where they finish, have predicted the results for the other 9 teams.
Constructors : N/A

- Hari

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Cults of Death - Sorry Your'e Still Here

"Sorry You're still here" is the unnerving welcome visitors get when visiting the Ashbusstop website. Ash or Alt.Suicide.Holidays was originally started to discuss the relationship between suicides and holidays. Today, it has emerged into one of the largest usenet groups, along with its sister group alt.suicide.methods which are frequented by people dispirited and fed up with life.
In its unique terminology, suicide is described as "Catching the Bus" and the group described as a bus stop where several people have decided to stop and chat before deciding on whether or not to get on the bus. A superficial examination reveals nothing wrong - After all, promoting debate on rational choice seems ok.
On seeing the postings of the group, a more macabre picture emerges - When people post regarding their intent to commit suicide, not once are they asked why. Answers ranging from bets on the chances of success to vividly graphic ways to commit suicide are posted. However, much of the stuff is not posted online - group members are extremely paranoid about revealing their identity to "trolls" - people who disagree with the methods / rationale of Ash. For those who stop with reading the posted messages, a grim picture appears - almost every means of suicide is discussed, pros and cons weighed. The camaraderie of this group is telling. Almost all of them want to kill themselves, and actively encourage each other to do so. One can get almost anything from how to purcahse a gun to obtaining potassium cynaide online. Remarkable.
However, simply stopping here does not give a complete picture - after all, nothing much in a bunch of people trying to support each other. After all, for the suicidal, a site like this would be haven - a place where they can discuss their feelings an problems without being mocked at / looked on as loons. Of course, on the other side is the argument that it is hardly worthwile for a person who is depressed to seek solace from yet another.
As I said simply skimming the site does not give the complete picture. On joining the forum, and posting a message, the replies are stunning. People all over the globe respond via emails. im's, video chats and offer help. Help ranges from prodding you on to finish the job off fast, people discussing various attempts they have made, sharing photso to show you who they are before "catching the bus", setting up dates for "practice attempts" that would be shared online. The one thing that is missing is a single person who asks you NOT to commit suicide or even WHY. That the entire comunity takes it for granted that people want to commit suicide is astonishing. I was also astounded at the reasons people had for commiting suicide - The most common one was "bored of life".
While as a whole, this group does not seem worthwile wasting time on, the aftermath of coming in contact with this group need to be studied.
On march 23 2003, Suzy Gonzales commited suicide by swallowing 1.5 grams of potassium cynaide in a lethal cocktail, whose recipie was found on this site. Suzy was told how to obtain the KCN (posing as a jeweller online), how to make a the cocktail, her delayed suicide note was sent using the help of ashers. Interestingly Suzy's boyfriend actually saw the crystals but made no comment. Her only problem - boredom.
In April 2003, 2 men who met on the ASH forum formed a suicide pact - At the last minute one backed out while the other hurtled to his death. When he was charged with being an accesory, the second hanged himself. Again - boredom.
A few days back, Hiroshi Maeue was tried in the Osaka district court for luring victims from the online suicide sites, offering to assist them and when meeting them strangling and sexually assaulting them for his pleasure.
In 2002, a 17 year old boy - Patrick killed himself after posting the following message
From: unresistance ( goodbye.Newsgroups:, alt.suicide.methods, alt.drugs.psychedelics
I just took step one of my suicide plan thing. Should be dead in about 40 minutes. Bye everyone.
i weigh 120 lbs

1. dramamine for anti-vomit, wait 30 min
2. 3 bottles robo max strength
3. bottle zoloft
4. bottle celexa
5. wash each down w/ antifreeze
6. some more antifreeze
7. some benedryl
8. tie plastic bag around head
If I don't post back, it worked. :-)

It worked. As patrick was taking the drugs, Ash member Amy Viscuso was with him on the phone, encouraging him. Not once was Patrick dissuaded from his idea. Patricks mother has filed a case against Amy, suggesting that her son would be alive if not for ash. Ash, of course claims the first amendment, as directed by the speech guidelines in Brandenburg v. Ohio where the court ruled that oration was abstract advocacy (hence protected under the first amendment) and not an imminent threat of violence
This seems to stretch the boundries of free speech, as defined under the first amendment.
In Brandenburg v. Ohio, the Supreme Court invoked three legal tests that must be met before speech can be outlawed. Known collectively as the Brandenburg standard, the tests include: 1.) intent (the speech was intended to incite a lawless action); 2.) immediacy (the lawless action was imminent); and 3.) risk (the speech has to be likely to produce an imminent lawless act). As far as ASH goes, prosecutors would need to prove immediacy and risk.
Another free speech lawsuit worthy of note, is Rice v. paladin Enterprises. , where it was ruled that Brandenburg standards applied to publishers of material that incited murder. The book in question was Hit Man: A Technical Manual for Independent Contractors, where a hitman (hired mercenary), set forth the guidelines for murder.
While these cases are of note, it is obvious that while a debate is needed on free choice and voluntary euthanasia, these kind of online cults that attract bord teenagers and actively spur them on to take their own lives is unlawful and immediate measures taken to ban such sites as well as censor the content therin.

- Hari

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Sexual Harrasment and the "Being Feminist" Blog

This is in response to the blog titled, "Men....hee hee...Funny really!! Men!!! " on the site, and in specific to the three references quoted on the blog, which are being reproduced below. [NOTE :- THIS BLOG ADDRESSES THE FOLLOWING REFERENCES ONLY AND HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH ANY OTHER COMMENT QUOTED ON THE ABOVE WEBSITE.]
2.Hari said... only a potential boyfriend or enemy.......BULLSHIT.......get real u pervert
3.But let me tell u something...this, what u guys have just done.....goes by the name....Cyber sexual harrassment....and did you know u can be behind bars for this???? if u didnt, then u might as well do a google search on it! but i am sure you do know is just that u are so pathetically male to take it serious!i wonder what more responses you will come up with.....but i pretty much know what you will be capable all!!

With regard to reference 3 :

1. The blog on this site, quoted in reference 1 is open for the entire Internet community to read. The idea that it contains terms that can be described as sexual harrasment is laughable.
2. The comment in reference 2 was written in response to the lines - so given the kind men are, u have only two choices. u will either be viewed as his aspiring girlfriend or his enemy. i choose to be the enemy. atleast now, i can be myself! . Again, the sexual harrasment is not obvious to me.
3. If the above responses are sexual harrasment, refer to the comment of a contributor to the being feminist blog which can be found in link 1. So, a guy can comment like this on a guy's blog but not on a female's? This is the height of sexual discrimination according to me.
4.If you consider any of the above sexual harasment, PLEASE do take the necessary action. I am not ashamed of anything I wrote and am willing to defend them wherever necessary.
5. How come cartoons on males are OK while an ATM joke on females is not? (Scroll down the being feminist blog to understand the point made here.)
6. I consider the opinions expressed in your blog, expressly quoting reference 1 and 2, as highly defamatory and slanderous. I further consider that the quotation of references 1 and 2, used to highlight 3 as incompetent, irrelevent and imaterial.
7.I do hope that you know defamation of character is also an offence punishable under the IPC Sec. 499, 500 and 501 with imprisonment and a fine.

I hope this puts an end to the whole unsavoury episosde.

- Hari