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The Empty Blue Chair

Posted by on Dec 31, 2012 in Blog, Essays, Travel | 1 comment

View from La Croisette


Preface:  This story was written a few months ago during my stay in Cannes, located on the French Riviera. It appears in print here for the first time.  This story recounts one of my most touching memories of 2012.


This is the story of an empty blue chair.

More precisely, it’s the story of a person who once occupied it — someone’s name I do not know.

It’s the story of a loyal companion who sat beside the blue chair, so faithfully  — at the same time and place, each and every day.

This is the story of love and loss, of life and death, and ultimately of rebirth and renewal.

This is a personal story, a search for that special someone who once occupied the blue chair — which is now empty.

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NFL MVP — Adrian Peterson

Posted by on Dec 30, 2012 in Sports Betting | 1 comment

2012 NFL MVP


Adrian Peterson deserves to win this year’s MVP award.

Yes — Peyton Manning enjoyed an outstanding season.  Robert Griffin III led his team to a remarkable turnaround and instant respectability.  Andrew Luck surpassed even the highest expectations as a first-round draft choice.  And, Aaron Rogers performed admirably given all the challenges to his team.

But Adrian Peterson is in a class all his own.

Consider that a year ago today, Peterson underwent major ACL surgery — which is normally a career ending injury for running backs.  Recovering from a serious knee injury would be difficult for any professional athlete.  But for an NFL running back with lots of mileage on the body, it’s unprecedented.  Had Peterson simply completed this season healthy and contributed to his team’s success with a respectable year, that alone would have been an impressive feat.

But Peterson did far more than that.

He just posted the second-best season for a running back in NFL history.  Consider all the great running backs of the past 80 years — the Jim Browns, the Gayle Sayers, the O.J. Simpsons, the Walter Paytons, the Barry Sanders, the Emmit Smiths, and so many others.

Peterson just eclipsed them all.  He finished the season with 2,097 yards — including 199 yards today against division rival Green Bay.  I would also argue that staying healthy in today’s NFL is tougher than ever before.  Now, defenses are bigger, faster, and stronger than in years past.  The human body simply isn’t built to withstand bone crushing tackles and years of abuse on these horrible artificial turf fields.

Moreover, it’s not like Peterson enjoys running behind one of the NFL’s best offensive lines.  At best, those who lead block are average.  In fact, the Minnesota Vikings have been a laughing stock for the past decade.  Peterson has been the lone bright spot for a dismal franchise that seemed to be going absolutely nowhere and which was picked by most to finish dead last in the division.

Peterson has carried his team to an astounding turnaround, a 10-6 win-loss record, and a playoff birth — 365 days after he was laying on an operating table beneath a surgical scalpel wondering if his NFL career was over.

SMU and Los Angeles Rams great Eric Dickerson still holds the 16-game season record for most rushing yardage.  And no running back ever had a season quite like O.J. Simpson back in 1973 (which was 14 games — so in all fairness, Simpson still stands as the gold standard).  But as someone who has been watching NFL games for four decades, Adrian Peterson’s feat this season was as remarkable an accomplishment as I have ever seen in sports.

Adrian Peterson deserves the NFL Most Valuable Player honor more than any other.  Period.



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NFL Plays: Week 17

Posted by on Dec 29, 2012 in Blog, Sports Betting | 0 comments

YA Tittle Photo



83 WINS – 83 LOSSES – 6 PUSHES —– (- 12.05 units / 1 unit = $100)




Comments:  Let’s just say that I know exactly how football legend Y.A. Title feels (see photo above).  My handicapping record has been reduced to the results one would expect from flipping a coin.  Indeed, this has been one of the strangest seasons I’ve ever experienced as a sports bettor.  The good — I’ve been in the black since Week 2, at least until last Sunday.  The season’s high point was after Week 11, when I was ahead +78 units.  The bad — I’m on brutal cold streak.  Now, after a terrible two-month run and losing an average of 20 units a week, I need to close with a few winners to lock up a season in the black.  Here it goes….


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The Unfriendly Skies: Nolan Dalla’s Flying Enemies List

Posted by on Dec 29, 2012 in Blog, Rants and Raves, Travel | 2 comments


Airport Crowds


The only thing worse than flying, is flying during the holiday season.

Seriously, could air travel be any less glamorous?

When I was a kid, I remember people used to get dressed up when they traveled by air.  Fliers were polite.  No one ever seemed to be in a rush.  The seats were comfortable.  There was plenty of leg room.  The airlines served you a hot meal and it tasted good.  Alcoholic beverages were free.  You never paid additional charges and your luggage arrived on time.  When there was a flight delay, the airline apologized and even put you up in a first-class hotel, when necessary.

Now, boarding a plane is pretty much like getting on a Greyhound bus — only with wings.

Flying is constant battle.  You battle to find a decent fare.  You battle to get a good seat assignment.  You battle to get to the airport on time — at least two hours early.  You battle to run the gauntlet through TSA screening without being strip searched.  You battle to get into the right boarding group.  You battle for precious overhead bin space.  You battle for the armrest.  You battle for peace and quiet during the flight.  You battle to depart your row so as to exit the aircraft.  You battle to claim your luggage.  Then, once you’re out of the airport, you battle to get a taxi or a rental car.

Indeed, if flying has become a serious of battles, then I’m hereby declaring war!



1.  BIN HOGS — I realize the airlines now try to pork you for $30 per checked bag each way.  But carry on abuse has become intolerable.  Now, jackasses are hauling 50-pound suitcases down the aisles.  Then, they heave the bone crushers into a tiny overhead bin space intended to be a storage area for purses and coats.  I’m so sick of seeing these selfish pricks usurping every inch of storage space with bags the size of a Great Dane.  It’s time for airlines to start enforcing carry-on size rules.

2.  ARM REST THUGS — I paid the same $389 fare you did.  So, move your fucking body part off my half of the arm rest.  You’re not sitting at home in a Lazy Boy parked in front of the television.  You’re in public.  Try to act like a responsible adult.

3.  BORING CONVERSATIONALISTS — I don’t want to hear your life story.  I don’t want to hear your personal problems.  I don’t give a rat’s ass what happened to you last week in Cleveland.  I don’t care what your opinion is of the Redskins-Cowboys game.  You’re on a cheap Southwest Airline flight just like me, pal.  You’re not a guest on The David Letterman Show.  Zip it.

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Movie Review — Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away 3D

Posted by on Dec 26, 2012 in Blog, Movie Reviews | 3 comments


Cirque du Soleil Movie Review


About a half hour into Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away 3D my wife leaned over to me and blurted out, “Are you as bored with this as I am?”

Frankly, I wasn’t.  By that point, my boredom had turned into annoyance.

Things went downhill from there.

Another scene or two passed and our mutual annoyance metastasized even further — into unconditional surrender.  We had enough.  But the cinematic Rubicon was passed.

In the final scenes towards the end of an overly-long 85-minute test of patience, I found myself talking back at the movie screen mocking the performers, oblivious to those within earshot around me.  I didn’t mean to cause a disturbance, but no one else seemed to care.  Needless to say, we departed the theater in a fit of rage and disappointment.

This movie should never have been made.  It’s a testament to the old edict that if you’re going to do something, then do it right — or don’t attempt it at all.

How in the name of James Cameron — who produced this monumental mess (this one sinks faster than Titanic) — do you screw up something as spectacular as Cirque du Soleil?  Who would have thought trivializing death-defying stunts was possible?  It’s baffling to imagine a production blessed with many of the world’s most gifted performers, with such an impressive array of set designs and costumes, and some of the most innovative music ever recorded could induce a mass slumber.

How bad was it?  For those who have visited the Las Vegas airport, recall the jumbo screen inside the baggage claim area.  Think of the 45-second video clips from one show after another.  Imagine that highlight reel repeated over and over and over again and then compiled into an full-length motion picture.  Indeed, the comparison of waiting for bags at an airport might be appropriate here, except there’s actual suspense in waiting for one’s luggage.  There’s no such drama in this montage of monotony.

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Christmas for Antitheists

Posted by on Dec 25, 2012 in Blog, Essays | 0 comments

Atheist Christmas


Can someone who doesn’t believe in the existence of God also celebrate Christmas?

Certainly yes.

Christmas, ostensibly intended to honor the birth of Jesus Christ, has become far more than just a religious holiday.  Cynics might even suggest it’s become the antithesis of a religious holiday.

Turn on the television set or visit a shopping mall during the week before Christmas and you know exactly what I’m talking about.  Commercials enticing you to rush out and buy a brand new Lexus aren’t very Christ-like.   The soccer mom in the mini-van who steals your parking spot isn’t thinking about Jesus, although his name probably comes up in some rather creative combinations of language.

It’s too bad really that the essential message of Christmas was hijacked a long time ago.  Modern Christmas would likely be unrecognizable to those who envisioned its oldest traditions.  It’s become the five human senses all pumped up on steroids.  That’s both good and bad.  Sure, everything tastes better and smells better.  Many of us feel better.  The sights and sounds of the holiday season are more beautiful than other times of the year.  But sensory overload isn’t always synonymous with happiness.  For many less fortunate people, this is a depressing time of year — and none of this has anything at all to do with faith or religion.

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You Won’t Believe the Things I Discussed with Dr. Vafa Kamali

Posted by on Dec 17, 2012 in Blog, Politics, Restaurant Reviews | 3 comments

Dalla and Kamali
A Dinner Conversation with the Man Making Scientific Discoveries which Could Enable Us to Live Twice as Long, Who Founded the First Anti-Ayatollah Khomeini Movement in the United States, and Was at the Poker Table Where “Puggy” Pearson Once Did the Unthinkable


A few months ago, I was enjoying a quiet evening at home, watching television.

On screen was the popular PBS program called “NOVA.” The show is mostly about science and technology and often features cutting-edge breakthroughs in various fields of study.

Imagine my surprise to see someone I knew appearing on the program. I came to discover, he’s one of the world’s foremost experts in the field of genetic engineering. He spoke about scientific advances he and his university research team have achieved which could ultimately enable humans to live as long as 150 years.

That’s right – 150 years.

I’ll tell you more about this shortly.

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