Friday, July 6, 2018

...And in the end

  I started this blog almost than nine years ago. I had a lot of spare time and thought I would use some of it to try to write a different kind of chess blog that focused more on the people and experiences I encountered instead of the self-congratulatory and self-immolation blogs that were the usual fare of the time. After detailing my 2009 adventures at the U.S. Open in Indianapolis I was side tracked from chess writing by the Yankees World Series championship quest, a new job, the passing away of my two awesome dogs Queenie the beagle and her son Tuffy the half beagle, and the arrival of my equally awesome beagles Daisy and Baxter.

  The fall of 2010 ushered in my peak chess writing years as I resumed working in faraway Des Moines and started a six year stretch of running the West Des Moines based St. Francis Chess Club in return for having the facilities available for a monthly youth tournament. This brought me into contact with a lot of awesome young chess players and parents and into conflict with a lot of decidedly less than awesome chess administrator types. Writing about all these experiences gave me a new perspective on youth chess competition and the competition for youth chess tournaments. The writings themselves resonated with a larger audience and emboldened me to submit my blog for the annual Chess Journalists of America awards. After finishing last in my first attempt at a humorous column I won the 2011 Best Chess Blog Award, beating out exactly one other entrant. The award only cost me a little over $40 in nomination fees and allows me to forever call myself an ‘award winning journalist’ although I tend to leave out the part about being a self-nominated chess journalist. I even wrote a blogging column for the Chess Journalists of America magazine ‘The Chess Journalist’. The magazine has decayed from a quarterly magazine to not having been published in over four years. I was asked to submit an article for the reboot of the magazine last year. I wrote an article on chess ‘YouTubers’ which is now dated by being ten months old and I have yet to hear any comment on it other than the editor received it but was too busy to look at it.

  After my rush of chess writing I had pretty much written all I had to say about youth chess and the politics of same. I reserved my chess writing for tournaments I played in and directed. The highlight of my year used to be directing and writing about the Okoboji Open which had a great tournament venue and great people running it. Running a close second was my yearly pilgrimage from my workplace in Des Moines across town to the Iowa State Fair for the speed chess tournament where I finally won the elusive blue ribbon after seven fruitless attempts and close calls. Both those events went by the wayside for me a couple of years back when I felt I was being asked to do more at Okoboji than I was comfortable with and not working in Des Moines which made a trip to play in the Iowa State Fair a two hour drive instead of a trip across town. The most surprising thing about my Iowa State Fair blue ribbons (aside from the fact that I won them) was that before I won my speed chess exhibitions at the local mall were well attended while after I won no one wanted to play against me at the same exhibitions.

  I still found plenty of things to write about instead of chess. My movie reviews and reviews of post-apocalyptic television shows like ‘The Walking Dead’, ‘Falling Skies’, and ‘The Last Ship’ are surprisingly well-read as are my forays into the stock market. My most popular non-chess posts were from my guest bloggers Daisy and Baxter. I would publicize their beagle’s eye view of the world on the reddit beagle page and the Daisy and Baxter posts occupy some of the top spots on my most read list according to Google Analytics. I even had my pet cockatiel Harry write a couple of guest columns for me which were well received if not well read (the cockatiel section of reddit must be less frequented than the beagle section). In truth almost everything I write about that is not related to chess gets more looks than my writings on chess. One of my best read blogs of 2015 was my review of Marshalltown’s refurbished Dollar Tree - not because of my writing but because a picture of the toothpaste aisle was picked up by a bigger blog displaying the quality of items available at the Dollar Tree.

  If you didn’t see the title of this post you may be wondering why I’m writing about all my last eight plus years of blogging but if you saw the title you probably realized that this is going to be the last Broken Pawn post for the foreseeable future (I always reserve the right to change my mind). With the new/old job that I wrote about last month it feels like Jerry’s monologue in Edward Albee’s classic play ‘The Zoo Story’ where I have gone a long distance out of my way to come back a short distance correctly. This has led me to the feeling that since I started this blog at my current place of employment rejoining the company (as a 'permanent' employee instead of a contractor) is the proper place to end it. Writing the blog has been great fun. Over the years I have written everything I’ve wanted to write about, more than I should have written about on some topics, and probably not everything I needed to write about. I think the blog is a pretty accurate picture of my life over the last few years and should provide me some entertaining reading in a few months or years when I read it from start to finish.

  So to close this blog for I’ll quote one of my favorite people, the inimitable Yogi Berra, who said “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over”. That is the popular quote but what is less well-known is that he followed that by saying “but when it’s over it’s over” making the complete quote:

  “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over but when it’s over it’s over”


Friday, June 29, 2018

Full Circle

  Four months ago I started my new job in far-away (60 miles) Urbandale, Iowa. The job was a six month programming assignment with the carrot held out of being hired on full-time if my performance was found worthy. Although I do like carrots I negotiated an hourly rate that was higher than the other contracting jobs that had been shown to me and less than the admittedly windfall-like rate that I got when I contracted directly with a company last year instead of going through a staffing agency like the one I used to get this position.

  My thought was that I would work my six months and if the company wanted to hire me we would negotiate things like salary or being able to work from home a day or two a week. I expected the company to wait as long as possible before making me an offer since the closer I came to the end of the six months the less leverage I would have at least in theory since most workers that take on contract to hire positions are not in a position to miss the paycheck or two that a job search would entail. My windfall last year left me in a good enough situation that I could walk away from the job when the contract was up but my employers would have no way of knowing that.

  The job was unusual in a number of aspects. I was part of a team of programmers and engineers based on three continents tasked with making a major upgrade to an existing project. In addition to the three groups there was also a research and development group whose software the existing project needed to interact with. Most of the people on the project (including the R&D group) had been with this company for at least 10 years with most of them having 20 or more years at the company.

  With so many people spending so many years at the company I thought that I could be told what I needed to do and pointed to where I needed to make changes by the more experienced hands. This was not the way it was. I was told what end results I needed to create but the company language was a kind of shorthand that required years to comprehend exactly what needed to change and what side effects could occur and finding where things needed to be changed another matter entirely. No one seems to have the complete picture of the project. Finding out who knew what was cumbersome and frequently making me seem more like a nuisance than a part of the team.

  I liked the people I worked with but I didn’t care much for the work at all. All the programming groups seemed to distrust each other and it appeared that they would occasionally go out of their way to make other groups or group members look bad. It reminded me a lot of a place I worked in New Jersey in the late 1980’s / early 1990’s when I first started programming. Everyone there seemed frustrated most of the time and a lot of the people contracted stress related diseases. I didn’t know how that dynamic evolved and 30 years later I don’t understand this group dynamic any better. I recognized this situation as something I’d encountered before and that kept me from getting too frustrated but it is not an environment I want to spend the rest of my working life in.

  After a few weeks I settled in and was getting my feet under me. I didn’t have to ask nearly as many questions but had to redo my work often because of my lack of understanding of the project, other changes breaking my changes, a misunderstanding on the part of the person asking for the work or any combination of all three factors. I had taken my name off the lists that recruiters use to cull applicants but in May I got a call from the recruiter that got me the interview with a company in Marshalltown right before I took my current job. Someone had retired and there was another opening. I said I would apply if I could start in July so I could finish up my current projects. This was acceptable and I started the application process once again.

  Since I had recently applied at this company I didn’t have to go through the entire process. I had a phone interview and breakfast meeting in place of an in-person interview and lunch. I found out a week later I had made the cut to the final three applicants and a week after that was asked to submit my information for a background check. I passed the background check and was offered the job which I accepted and will start on Monday. I gave two weeks’ notice at my current assignment and true to the dysfunctional nature of the place arranged to leave on Wednesday with the person who approves my time sheets and when this person went on vacation someone else asked me to stay on until Friday and work late and on the weekend from home. I agreed to stay until Friday and work from home but was not given any work to do at home.

  I will be getting less pay at my new job but the savings in time, gas, and car usage commuting five miles instead of 60 miles will make up for some of the shortage and being part of a health care plan instead of buying my own through COBRA or the staffing agency’s non-subsidized plan should take care of the rest. This is the same company I worked for a decade ago after leaving my job of 13 years writing shoe store software the company was sold to a group from out of state. I was a contractor back then and when the recession of 2008 hit the contractors were taking pay cuts and getting laid off in a terrible job market. I liked working in town but the circumstances of a recession (no pay raises) and no benefits (buying my own health care and not getting paid on holidays OR the ten-day Christmas shutdown) dictated I get a ‘permanent’ role with benefits even though it meant traveling a couple of hours a day for another ten years. I wouldn’t have felt good about taking a contracting role again with this company but feel pretty lucky to have landed a full-time job with benefits at the same place. I’m not naive enough to think that having a job close to home will suddenly make my work life a paradise. It is called work for a reason and I have worked here before and know that every place has its share of disagreeable people and practices. There is a lot of unknowns at any job but if my hand wasn't forced almost a decade ago I wouldn't have left a job so close to home. I feel like I am closing a loop and I expect a pleasant experience to be working so close to home again.

Friday, June 22, 2018

The Season Never Ends

  The NBA season ended earlier two weeks ago and not soon enough for me. After my basketball prediction program crashed and burned with its first losing season in the six years I had applied it to seasonal data I found myself $110.50 down at the end of the regular season with half of this losses coming on the last three days of the season. I made up $47 in the first three rounds of the playoffs with a 60% (30-20) success rate with only the finals left to complete my comeback story. I decided to make $5 bets on the first two games to get a feel for the series. I picked the Warriors giving 12 points in game one which turned out to be the only game in the Finals that the Cavaliers managed to cover even as they threw the game away in the closing seconds. I picked the Cavaliers to cover in the first half of the second game which turned out to be a Warriors blowout. I remember how the Cavaliers hung tough in games three and four of last year’s finals so I picked the Cavaliers in the third game but they once again threw away the game in the closing minute and threw away the cover to boot. In game four I was down $84.5 and picked the Cavaliers on the money line for $20 getting 1.55:1 odds. My idea was the Cavaliers would win and get my losses to under $55 and I would go double or nothing on the Warriors to cover in Game five. It seemed like a good idea but the game turned out to be a Warriors blowout and I finished the playoffs only $6 ahead of where I started with a total 148-152 record and $104.50 in losses.

  During the playoffs the Supreme Court made a decision that allows any state to legalize sports betting. The NBA has been ahead of the curve on this issue and Commissioner Adam Silver has long been a proponent of the NBA receiving a percentage of all bets as an ‘integrity fee’. I thought this was an insane idea but after the revelation that Cavaliers superstar LeBron James played the last three games of the finals with a self-diagnosed ‘broken hand’ after punching a whiteboard following the game one debacle I think the league is in dire need of integrity. Warrior bettors got a gift because of the lack of transparency on this injury. I probably wouldn’t have changed my picks but I certainly would have gotten more points on the Cavaliers in games two and three if it had been known James had a broken hand.

  I still plan on placing wagers on next year’s NBA season but since my computer prediction program is in a state of disrepair that I cannot fix by retrograde analysis due to schedule and changes and changes in how players are rested I will leave my prediction program in the ashes of history. I will not be blogging about my betting adventures since I deservedly received no subscription income for my advanced picks. I may move my wagering to a United States betting site as soon as one makes its way to Iowa. I can see sports gambling and the Internet combining to make a betting experience where gamblers will not only bet on games but gamble on the result of a play, what team or player makes the next score, etc., etc., etc. Gambling is going to be the next big revenue stream for sports as soon as they can figure out how to cash in.

  The next big events on the NBA calendar after yesterday’s draft is the free agent signing period which starts July 1st. I don’t follow college basketball and find the draft to be a big guessing game where every year players are picked in the top ten but fail to make a meaningful impact and are shipped off to another team in a couple of years while some passed over players become contributors to winning teams. I’d much rather wait to see which players pan out before congratulating a team for managing to draft a highly touted player who has yet to play an NBA game.

  While I don’t pay much attention to the draft I do pay great attention to the free agency and trade period where teams shuffle their rosters and star players pick their next destination. The top free agent is once again LeBron James Four years ago I wrote that James had two years of being the best player on a championship team. James has proven me wrong as he is still playing at a championship level after 15 years in the league. Like any superstar player he needs to have the proper team around him to win the championship but James is still the best player in the game. There are rumors that James will attempt to create a new super-team with the Lakers or join the talent laden Rockets or 76ers in his quest to get a fourth, fifth, or sixth championship. James career arc reminds me a lot of the great Wilt Chamberlain. Chamberlain was a supremely talented player that generally played on flawed teams most of his career and was maligned for being a loser since his team’s only beat the Bill Russell Celtics one time just like James’ Cavaliers could only get past the Warriors once in four tries. At this stage of his career Chamberlain forced a trade to the Lakers to join Jerry West where he one 1 more championship in four finals appearances. I can see James following the Chamberlain path to the Lakers but think it is more likely that he would join the Rockets since they are already a championship caliber team that could have beaten the Warriors in the playoffs without the inopportune injury to Chris Paul. If I had to place a bet I would pick James staying with the Cavaliers since that is where his family lives but time will tell.

  Time will also tell on the destination 2014 Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard of the San Antonio Spurs. Leonard has one year left on his contract and the Spurs are in position to offer him a ‘supermax’ deal worth $219 MILLION DOLLARS. This is $40 million more than he can get from any other team. Despite this, Leonard he has reportedly demanded a trade from the Spurs. Leonard missed all but nine games of the past season with a quad injury. He was cleared by the Spurs medical staff but he claimed he had lingering pain and continued his recovery with his own set of doctors in New York., there seems to have been a lot of acrimony about the misdiagnosis about Leonard’s injury with his teammates and coaches taking veiled shots at him. If Leonard doesn’t trust his team’s medical staff I can’t see him ever playing for the Spurs again. There are rumors that Leonard wants to go to the Lakers and there will surely be a host of teams looking to make a deal for his services. Leonard was the best player on a championship team in 2014 but that was five years and an ankle and quad injury in the past. I would be very leery about trading draft picks and star players to get a player that missed an entire sason due to injury. As disparate as the Lakers are for a superstar player I don’t see them mortgaging their bright future for Leonard. The teams I can see making a pitch for him are the 76ers who have young players, draft picks, and after the Brian Colangleo twitter fiasco the franchise may be looking to make a big splash. The other team I can see making a big play is the New York Knicks. The Knicks don’t have much in the way of talent to offer but it would be a very Knick thing to do to mortgage any semblance of a future for a superstar’s scrapbook.

Friday, June 15, 2018

TV Review - Fear The Walking Dead Season 4 Episodes 1-8

   WARNING : FEAR THE WALKING DEAD SEASON #4 EPISODES 1-8 SPOILERS BELOW!!!

  I spent the last two months watching AMC’s ‘Fear The Walking Dead’ for my Sunday night post-apocalyptic viewing. The show had gotten better and better over its three-season run and I had high hopes for the fourth season. Season three had our zombie apocalypse survivors trying to escape from their latest home – a dam that was in the middle of an armed takeover. The dam had been booby trapped and Nick was on top of the dam holding the kill switch while his mother Madison, sister Alicia, and con-man Strand were escaping in motorboat. Nick blows up the dam and attempts to escape with special ops agent Daniel Salazar. We don’t know if anyone survives except Madison who is washed up on a shore as the last scene of the season.

The big bad of season 4 of Fear The Walking Dead was the oddly civilized 'Vultures'


  This seemed like a great cliffhanger well in keeping with the show’s history of having a new locale every half season four our survivors before finding themselves on the run once again. Then changes to the show runners and cast were introduced with the chief content officer role turned over to The Walking Dead show-runner Scott Gimple and the announcement that Morgan from ‘The Walking Dead’ was moving to ‘Fear The Walking Dead’ and a new cast of well-known character actors would be coming to Season 4 including Maggie Grace (Kim from the Taken movies), Jenna Elfman (Dharma from Dharma and Greg), and Garret Dillahunt (Simon from Burn Notice). I assumed the addition of Morgan was to goose the ratings and I liked the idea of new cast members since I always felt this show is not beholden to a comic book like the Walking Dead proper and could accommodate a cast of characters that die off and are replaced.

  The season started well enough with Morgan’s journey from the parent show conclusion to the All-Out War arc in Virginia to the southwest where he meets Althea (Grace) and John Dorie (Dillahunt) and the trio form an unlikely alliance after battling a group of scavengers with the help of Althea’s awesome fully loaded SWAT vehicle. At the end of the episode the trio are shanghaied by main cast members Nick, Alicia, and Strand.

  For me this was the high point of the season as the remaining seven episodes in the half-season turned into a mashup of flashbacks detailing the fall of the baseball stadium home that the original survivors had apparently spent a year in before being besieged by a group called ‘The Vultures’ who ride around the area scavenging everything that can be scavenged and trapping zombies in buildings or oil tanks or etc… while leaving banners proclaiming the zombie inventory outside each container. The Vultures send the young girl Charley in the stadium to get intel and then camp in the stadium parking lot where they offer the residents a choice of joining the Vultures or dying of starvation because of the weevil infestation of the crops.

Great set pieces like this zombie invasion failed to make up for the poor storytelling...


  The action continues to switch from the past to the present. There are some veiled references to how Madison found the rest of the group which would have made an interesting half season in itself except we have been fast forwarded to a disconnected future that we are seeing in the past. We never see Madison in the present and the rest of the cast hints around a terrible fate that befell the stadium at the hands of the Vultures but we also never see that until the season finale. One major event takes place in the third episode when Nick is shot dead by Charley after killing her ‘Vulture guardian’ in a fit of rage. The death was sudden and shocking and a high point of the season. I liked Nick the character a lot but the death seemed foreordained as it was revealed that actor Frank Dillane wanted off the show. The death was folded nicely into Morgan’s story arc as he warned Nick that killing the Vulture wasn’t going to work out the way he wanted and even seemed to be getting through to him before his untimely death. What made the death less meaningful was that Nick continued to show up in flashbacks with a lesser role in each episode.

The real time death of Nick was much more shocking than if it had been presented in flashback version...


  The season continued to teeter-totter between the past and future as we find that the woman John has been looking for all season (Laura) is really Naomi (Elfman) from the baseball stadium. There is an entire bottle episode of John and Laura’s time in his cabin before she runs away since Naomi not only can’t tell anyone her real name (it is revealed to be June in the season finale), she continually tries to run away from the stadium and is revealed to have joined the Vultures at the end of episode six while the flashbacks show the ballpark making a successful run for supplied and seeds to restart planting food at the ballpark which leads to the vultures leaving.

The scene was intense but I had no way of knowing why Alicia in particular was so upset since I hadn't seen the flashbacks yet.


  The seventh episode has the ‘climactic’ showdown between our group of survivors and the vultures but it happened before we understand that the vultures had a split in leadership that led to one group deciding to take the ballpark by force using all their stashed zombies while the other group wants to leave the ballpark alone. The siege ends the seventh episode flashback while the current day timeline has our survivors heading back to the ballpark to get medical supplies. In the mid-season finale we see an interview between Althea (a compulsive journalist that tapes the story of everyone she meets) and Madison between the end of season three and the discovery of the ballpark, fights between our survivor factions, and Madison sacrificing herself by leading the zombies into the ballpark and locking herself and the zombies in the stadium while the rest of the crew escapes. The finale ends with our survivors settling their differences over a feast of ramen noodles and ready for more adventures in the second half of the season. Yes, all it took was some ramen noodles to get everyone to forget their differences.

  The new characters were great, the music and cinematography gripping, and there was more than enough zombie action to make this half season a great one but the constant time jumps led to a confusing story line that made the half season a jumbled mess. It is possible that binge watchers may find this half season more cohesive but I doubt it. Not seeing the missing parts between the end of season three at the dam and the beginnings of the ballpark and having almost all the ballpark scenes in flashback made me not care about the ballpark at all. The struggles of the survivors to secure the prison in ‘The Walking Dead’ made me feel a real sense of loss when it fell. I had no similar investment in the ballpark. Once Nick died in episode three there was no point in showing him in flashbacks in the rest of the season. Having the dual timelines was a bold move that didn’t pay off due to poor storytelling. It would have been far better to have had the timeline run in sequence even if Madison’s ‘death’ (we never saw her die, after all) had to happen in episode four or five. A sequential timeline would have left no doubt to the characters motivations (why Nick wanted to kill Charley’s Vulture guardian and why Alicia wants Naomi dead so bad) instead of leaving the viewers wondering why our characters were getting so out of character.

Madison's death would have been much more effective if told in real time instead of flashback-style.


  The best thing that can be said about this half season is that it is over. Hopefully with what amounts to a new interesting cast with holdovers Strand, Alicia, and Luciana (Nick’s old girlfriend who took most of season three off and suddenly reappeared), the show runners can explore the zombie apocalypse landscape of the western U.S. with story lines that don’t needs flash backs and flash forwards to be interesting. Since Maggie Grace is already in the show I humbly suggest that the show runners do whatever it takes to get her Taken dad Liam Neeson to show up for a guest spot or even be a series regular. Neeson’s Bryan Mills character would instantly be the baddest actor in the apocalypse and would give an astronomical boost to the sagging ratings. Failing landing Neeson, I hope Daniel Salazar can make a return to the show since Ruben Blades portrayal of the Costa Rican black ops soldier would give Mills a run for his money in the bad actor department.

Friday, June 8, 2018

TV Binge Review - Better Call Saul

Better Call Saul mixes sophomoric lawyer 'action' with some of the best characters on television.


  Two weekends ago I found myself alone with my beagles while Kathy went to Long Island to get Ben back from school and visit Matt in Virginia. I didn’t have any side programming work to occupy myself with and it was a three day weekend to boot. With all the extra time on my hands I decided to have Daisy and Baxter’s now annual fried chicken taste test and in addition I had enough time to binge watch the first three seasons of AMC’s tragi-comedy 'Better Call Saul'.

  Better Call Saul is a prequel of sorts to the highly thought of ‘Breaking Bad’ which chronicled the transformation of high school science teacher Walter White into the drug kingpin known as Heisenberg. The prequel stars White’s lawyer Saul Goodman who left Breaking Bad in the next to last episode by paying a fixer for a new identity saying he would be lucky to be managing a Cinnabon in Omaha’. And that is where Better Call Saul starts – with Saul managing a Cinnabon in Omaha with a name tag listing his name as ‘Gene’. Each of the three seasons starts with a ‘Gene in the Omaha Cinnabon’ scene and then flashes back to the past which is the present as far as the show where Saul is Jimmy McGill, a con-man turned lawyer with his own cast of characters including a lawyer brother that is homebound due to a supposed hypersensitivity to electromagnetic fields, his girlfriend Kim who works for his brother’s law firm, and Howard who is brother’s law firm partner.

The show perks up considerably when Mike Ehrmantraut is on screen.


  The first season of the show starts out with Jimmy as a primordial Saul Goodman. He is not as slick as the later version but nearly as cynical and just as clever. He runs scams to try to convince an embezzling couple to hire him and shows off his pre-law scamming skills by conning bar patrons with his friend Marco. There is a slow but steady mix in the series to most of the Albuquerque drug underworld that became staples of Breaking Bad. The first episode featured appearances by Tuco Salamanca and Mike Ehrmantraut and later seasons have brought in Lydia, Gus, and Hector Salamanca.

  The progression of Jimmy is interesting to watch as his scams evolve from tricking marks at a bar out of a few hundred dollars to bribing a bus driver to fake a breakdown for time to convince his elderly nursing home passengers to join his class action lawsuit. His scams culminate in stealing documents from his brother’s house and changing the data to get the client to switch to his girlfriends new practice. This last scam gets him suspended from the bar for a year in a case of self-sabotage since the early Jimmy has a soft heart and confesses his chicanery to his brother to keep him from thinking he has made a terrible mistake and turning into a recluse, never suspecting his brother was scamming him and tape recorded the conversation. This is typical Jimmy who convinces one of the elderly members of his class action suit to settle for the first big offer by turning her friends against her but later getting her friends back by exposing his complicity. Jimmy and the law firms he competes and cooperates with is sort of LA Law in a funhouse mirror and entertaining but not something that would make this appointment television for me.

One way to bring down a truck!


  What did make me watch 25+ hours of ‘Better Call Saul’ was the adventures of the aging bald ex-Philly-cop turned parking lot attendant Ehrmantraut who is far and away my favorite character on the show. I know Mike as a enforcer for drug dealing Gus in Breaking Bad and his ‘breaking bad’ journey in order to first avenge his son’s death at the hands of some crooked cops to taking on odd jobs as a protection enforcer or second story man is fascinating. Ehrmantraut needs the money for his daughter-in-law and granddaughter but finds himself increasingly drawn into the drug business. Mike ended season three avenging the killing of a good samaritan who was killed as a result of Mike's robbery of a Salamanca drug running truck by making a deal with Gus to launder $200,000 in stolen drug money to give to the samaritan’s wife.

My favorite Mike Ehrmantraut scene!


  My affinity with Mike probably comes from my being an aging balding man myself. I have no pretensions that I ever was or could be the bad actor that Mike is but I can still dream. To me Mike is the star of Better Call Saul. My favorite Ehrmantraut scene is when Steven Ogg (Simon of Walking Dead fame) is giving him grief about not bringing a gun to a bodyguard job. Mike says if he needs a gun he’ll use one of Ogg’s and then proceeds to prove his point by taking Ogg’s a gun out of his hand, cracking him in the neck with the gun, and then relieving the choking Ogg of his other weapons. Another great Ehrmantraut scene shows him letting his granddaughter drill holes a garden hose while explaining to his daughter-in-law that he needs a soaker for some outdoor plants. Mike then puts spikes in the holes and uses the hose as a lightweight device to disable Salamanca’s drug running truck in the desert so he can rob it.

  I found the investment of 25+ hours watching Better Call Saul well worth my time. The action, storytelling, and cinematography are exceptional. I am of the opinion that I would not be nearly as enamored with the show if I hadn’t binge watched. Each episode had plenty of slow moving parts which were not as irritating when a morning or afternoon would have multiple scenes with Mike to balance out the lawyer drama stuff that I find boring. The show is scheduled to air Season 4 on Monday nights starting on August 6th. My live television viewing is mostly reserved for Sunday night apocalypse shows but as soon as season 4 of Better Call Saul ends I will head right to Netflix to binge watch the show.

The more Better Call Saul delves into the New Mexico drug running world the better I like it!