No, USA Is Not That Good

Team USA in the Gold Cup match of the Confederations Cup. Great news for those fans of US Soccer, but for those who enjoy world class football the result was to be expected. I will give the US credit for beating Egypt 2-0 in order to advance to the cup, but then again Egypt is not a world powerhouse when it comes to football. Unfortunately, the strong, yet aging Italians could not put together much of a showing versus Brazil and ended up watching from the sidelines.

I was able to watch the second half of the USA v Brazil match yesterday while at work. I was shocked, as probably most football fans were. First because the US was up at the break. But second they were up 2-0! Not sure which came as a bigger surprise. Yet one of the problems with being up by 2-0 is complacency. It’s that false sense of security a team gets when they know they can make a mistake and still leading the match. Yet the game does not end until the whistle blows and the US could not manage much in the second half.

It was quite evident within minutes that Brazil was faster, stronger and better on the pitch when the whistle blew. But again, we football (not disillusioned US Soccer fans) fans knew that going into the Gold Cup game. After the first goal by Luis Fabiano, you knew the Brazilians meant business and were not going to let the match slip away.

Though out much of the second half Tim Howard (Everton) was under siege by the multifaceted threats that Brazil possessed. If it was not Kaka, it was Robinho. Yet in the end it was excellent control and execution by Brazil that just worn the US defense down to a point where they were ball watching by the 60 minute mark.

While I am not a US soccer fan, I am a big fan of Tim Howard, goalkeeper for Everton. He is one of the “elder statesman” along with names like Beasley, Donovan, Bocanegra and Hedjuk that have been together for years. Yet each year we hear there will be grand things from this team and each year they underachieve. Although *sigh* if I must I will give them credit for beating the top ranked Spaniards, 2-0. Howard played very well between the sticks, but his defense let him down. He made some great saves, yet was on the side of luck a few times as well. The US defense is not as solid as what Howard has in front of him in Everton. Props to Howard for a job well done.

So why is US Soccer not competitive? Let’s ask Bob Bradley. After their monumental win against Spain he was quoted as saying, that the victory was in part of the success to his players’ development in Major League Soccer. What sort of bullshit is that? The MLS is the laughing stock of world football. Sorry, the league is at best mediocre and probably rivals some the first and second divisions of other countries.

The problem in the Brazil match was the lack of experienced bench players and the right strategic moves by Bradley to secure a victory for the US. At the 75th minute Bradley brought on Bornstein and Kljestan, a defender and midfielder in order to show up a very tired lineup. Brazil was consistently in control and dominating play. Many of the US players, especially in the defensive third were caught ball watching or out of position, as the outside players for Brazil and time and opportunities in which to capitalize.

Once the game went level, it was a given the US would not be able to muster a win. Brazil was too strong, to experienced to let this potential upset bite them in the ass. They proved once again why they are one of the BEST nations when it comes to international football. Maybe when the US realized the game is called FOOTBALL and not SOCCER they will have a better understanding why they will never win major games. As for 2010, don’t expect much of a showing. Their bench players are not strong enough and the starting eleven, while somewhat experienced don’t all play at the same competitive levels for their club team, which in turns hurts when they come together as a national team. Sorry US, stick with a game you are good at, like American football, baseball or basketball.

My 3% (as opposed to $.02 cents)

I recall a former train controller trainee, when asked how he heard about the job, he Googled $100,000 BART jobs and was surprised to find an Excel file that held his answer. Being inside the proverbial “glass house” and looking out I think I am paid very well for what I do on a daily basis. Looking at this realistically coming from an airline that has been sliding downhill since 1999 (or a few years prior) I felt very fortunate to be hired. My pay had been reduced nearly 35% over the course of 4 years at United, in addition to furloughs and changes and more job responsibilities.

The hiring process at BART was long and the training even longer and more stressful than I ever imagined. I believe I earned every penny I was offered. Still do in fact. Now that the media has made all 3,200 BART employee salaries available via an organized database that can search by last name, department or job title. Amazingly enough each work has their pay broken down based on gross, net, overtime and other pay. Wow! Who would think the entire world could know how much I make. Again though, I stand by my previous comment, I believe I am worth every penny I make.

While the job I do is not for everyone, there is a very high (70%) failure rate for candidates who just cannot make the grade and end up failing out of training. Again, I should know because at a few points during training I could have been a statistic. Thankfully after countless discussions with managers and trainers I was able to refocus and adequately demonstrate my learned abilities to be certified. This was not a simple process. I don’t ever recall having such a difficult time during training, this training was different.

I won’t comment on the unions and their proposal for a 3% raise. Would it be nice? Sure, it would. Can I live without it, yup. I am more worried about medical benefits and retirement more so than giving concessions for a 3% raise of a proposed 2 year period. We all know the economy will turn around and the current situation will get better for everyone. Hopefully I don’t find myself walking a line with a sign in my hands because that is the last place I expect to be. I would much rather be at work, helping patrons get to work by keeping all the trains moving.

The BigIR has Arrived!

I was actually preparing to show when I heard the doorbell ring and then a UPS truck drive away from the front of the house. A fleeting thought went though my mind, “wonder if that was my SteppIR being delivered?” I sort of wrote it off because I had not received any confirmation e-mail from LeAnn at SteppIR regarding processing my order for the actual antenna.

I was surprised when the XYL came into the bathroom and told me I had just received two big boxes. Hot damn! My antenna arrived! I told her I had upgraded the current antenna and was selling the 6-BTV. I have a nice starter setup to sell with an IC-718, Z-100 tuner and the 6-BTV. Any takers?

I have been thumbing through the instructions I printed off their site for about 2 months now, as well as referring to other installs by hams who own the BigIR MkIII. I spent two days a few weeks back finishing up the mounting post and radial system. Unfortunately, I am trying to figure out the best way to bury the control cables and the coax. Eyeballing the run distance, it’s approximately 50-70′ depending on the direction I go. Not sure I can make a straight run, as some of the conduit would end up under (or on top) of the patio.

Right now the shack is located on the second story, in a spare bedroom. Future plans include a detached shack in the backyard about 25′ across from the antenna. Unfortunately, I cannot get the shack built right now, so I must make some concessions and make the cables run to the second story bedroom.

Whatever I do, I will most likely end up pulling some 16 radials (my 40′ radials) in order to dig a trench in the grass. It would run approximately 16′ east, make a turn south for another 16′ before going vertical into the floor of the second story. Not the optimal install, but you must work with what you have.

The SteppIR has already set me back some $1300, this includes the 80m coil, which I have received mixed reviews about. Originally I did not intend on purchasing it, but if I didn’t do it now, I probably would have passed on it altogether. A new shack will set me back at least $1800 and this does not include the electrical work that needs to be accomplished or insulating the inside and putting up drywall or the famed faux wood paneling.

So the interim decision is to use the “shack” I currently have until I get the new one built. Even if the cables are run in conduit above ground I am sure I will be just fine, depending on how I route it to the radio. Regardless, I am thrilled to finally have the antenna and look forward to the next step in the process.

“Negotiate in Good Faith”

Seeing as I am employed by BART, I must tread very careful when it comes to voicing MY opinion on MY web site. Years ago I wrote myself in trouble while at the airlines over MY opinion regarding some specific flights and the reasons they were usually late. Of course this did not go over well with management, even if it was the truth. As they say, the truth CAN hurt.

This is my first time at BART that I have had to go through contract negotiations. Let me preface this by saying, I am not privy to the actual meetings between management and the unions, but hear though a few mouthpieces of our union how things are proceeding. If you believe the media, then nothing is going right. Then again, who actually gives a shit what local media says? I for one, don’t.

I do recall four years ago when I was still a BART patron, employed by the airlines and I say the strike looming and suddenly another fare increase. It pissed me off! Unlike this go around, the economy was a bit stronger 4 years ago and while raises were included in the new contract for employees, this time around is different.

I make no bones about it, I am paid well for what I do. I have big responsibilities as a Train Controller, as I have been well trained (13 months of training), take my job serious, work safe and hopefully make a difference in how the system runs when I am working on shift. All that said, patrons seem to have an entirely different take of the situation.

To their credit I understand where they are coming from. As a patron I would observe the “front line employees” I interacted with on a daily basis, from train operator to station agent and formed opinions. These were the main employees I dealt with. Much like the airlines, you form opinions based on the experiences you have. It’s no wonder so many people I talked to hated United Airlines, because the front line employees didn’t give shit about who or what paid their salary.

I have spent too much time reading some of the rider web sites, BART Rage and BART Musings and while these are but a small cross section of the ridership, some are armed with incorrect information, others make compelling arguments but everyone wants to resolve the situation.

What does not help the matter is our the salaries of BART employees are available for everyone to see since we are subsidized by the government. As I understand it, management figures were released a week or so ago to the media and now the rest of the salaries for BART employees are viewable online (ah yes, isn’t America great?). Looking at the salaries of the different groups does not help the unions case, especially in these struggling economic times. Yet, as has been brought up many times before the pay and decisions by the BART Board of Directors has also been called into question by the public.

My hope is these negotiations are finalized and do not drag on because the last thing I want to think of doing is going on strike and taking time off from work. I have no desire to “walk the line” as they say. So please both sides lets get a contract done and continue to work.