Best Place to Meet Single Women

Valhalla Aren't you tired of chasing the mindless girls of the Downtown Carrie Bradshaw Impersonation Society only to discover that, when you finally catch one, she doesn't have anything to say? Well, take off your running shoes and rest those weary feet at the steps of studious Valhalla. Located in the basement of Keck Hall on the Rice University campus, the place is part beer hall and part Ivy League frat house, and it's great for meeting smart, single women. Sure, you might have to work a bit harder -- some of them may even be a touch out of your league, but then, who doesn't enjoy a challenge? And the 12-ounce cups of Shiner for under a buck mean you won't be out too much money at the end of the night. That's more than you can say for the Paris clones sipping froufrou drinks at your usual haunts.

Houston Shriners Hospital Picking the best charity is harder than it sounds. What are the criteria? The condition of the recipients? The overall effectiveness? How is the money spent? Well, if you consider all of those aspects, then Houston Shriners Hospital is the best charity to donate to this year. The hospital provides free medical care to children suffering from major bone, joint and muscle problems. These include scoliosis, brittle bone disease, limb deficiencies and spina bifida, among many others. The staff includes orthopedic surgeons, orthopedic subspecialists and pediatricians, according to the hospital spokesperson. Many of the city's finest private practitioners also volunteer their services to the 40-bed facility. But offering excellent medical care for free isn't cheap: Last year's tab was $18 million. Why not pony up your share?

The Texas Hammer (in Spanish) He may very well be the whitest guy in the world, so to hear his thick Texas tongue try to punch out, "I'm Jim Adler, the Texas Hammer," in Spanish induces unequaled laughs. Imagine an older, more uptight Ray Childress hawking lawyer services rather than automobiles. One just hopes that soon he and fellow ambulance-chaser Christian Hill will join money-grubbing forces to form the Law Offices of Adler & Hill and craft a commercial catering to Houston's growing Chinese population.

Midtown If, five or so years ago, you decided to ride your bike through Midtown, you might've felt like you were on the set of Judgment Night. But chic restaurants, hip bars, tall condos and Randalls supermarkets have replaced the area's haunted empty lots and dilapidated shacks. And what was once almost certainly a crack house is now a CVS Pharmacy. Today you might see a family casually strolling through this once-intimidating neighborhood. It's not Beaver Cleaverville just yet, but with more money pouring in and an increased police presence, it will be soon.

Dominique Sachse We don't mean to undercut her journalistic talents by saying it, but a fact's a fact: Dominique Sachse is freaking hot. There's something in that flashbulb smile that brightens a living room for the 10 p.m. newscast. Something in that pouty haircut that just says, "Give me naughty. And give me weather and sports after the break." Something in those hypnotic eyes and that tight figure. Dominique, we would never say you were one of those television anchors who just reads the news. You read the news and have us all crazy in love.

Moody Gardens Ask six different people why they've come to Moody Gardens and you'll get six different answers. It has lush gardens you can tour for free, an aquarium with amazing fish and penguins, an indoor rain forest with ocelots, tree frogs and bats, an indoor ice rink, IMAX movies and Palm Beach, where you can sunbathe on white Florida-style sand without that ungodly seaweed smell. And the hodgepodge of attractions on this 242-acre site manages to come together nicely. Moody Gardens is a little bit Epcot, a little bit Space Center Houston (except kids don't get bored as quickly) and a little bit Kew Gardens. But unlike those other places, it just doesn't seem as, um, touristy.

State Representative Bill Callegari Those maniacal westside GOPers usually go off the deep end, they but some show real savvy about the system. The best example for the last four years has been their support of low-profile, mild-mannered grandfather of 11 Bill Callegari. He gives constituents real information and representation rather than the sorry hardline rhetoric spewed by the likes of congressmen such as John Culberson and Tom DeLay. Callegari is a civil engineer and a civil person, the kind who rejects cheap partisan ploys in favor of achieving results for his district. When the Houston Community College System tried to ram annexation down his constituents' throats, Callegari's good standing among Democrats as well as Republicans made him a natural leader during the controversy. And who better to keep the political crap away than a guy with a class A certification in wastewater operations? Legislators from both sides should take a cue from a straight shooter like Callegari.

State Representative-elect Alma Allen Democratic State Representative Ron Wilson reeked of political arrogance long before he joined the Tom DeLay-led redistricting drive, which will further reroute much-needed state help from the inner-city District 131. Wilson thumbed his nose at the people who needed him most; he even hurled savage taunts at such effective leaders as fellow representative Garnet Coleman. But defeating a 27-year incumbent, even a turncoat one, is a daunting task for any Democrat. The party, and the people of the district, can be thankful that educator Alma Allen was up to that considerable challenge. Her 14 years on the state Board of Education, and her proven credibility and candor, provided the experience and above-the-fray dignity that Wilson couldn't offer. If the Democrats ever rebound from the GOP beatings, there better be many more Alma Allens ready to step forward. Wilson, who resigned as a lame duck in August, claimed to be "ecstatic" about his loss. The party faithful get that same feeling about Allen, a candidate with real class.

Best Place to Pretend You're Famous

The LounGe on Montrose Here, Trent Steele got everything he needed -- when he needed it (see "How to Be Famous," April 29). VIP table with a view of the crowd? Check. Cup of cherries? Check. Confused admiration? Check. Witty insult from a woman who thought he was an asshole? Yep, that too. The line to get in was surpassed with minimal effort, and the drinks were cheap. Hell, there's nothing better than inexpensive booze and an inflated feeling of importance, two things that go hand in hand at this Montrose pub-club full of twentysomethings. Mr. Steele was pleased.

David Tillman Yo! Dude! What's doin' out yonder? Count on David Tillman to tell you, straight up. Houston has its multitudes of manic meteorologists -- from the pretty-haired, fashion-plate "personalities" to the stern high school principal types -- all dividing those dew-point decimals and spewing that nonsensical nomenclature about upper-level troughs. Tillman is pleasantly low-pressure, even when the systems are high-pressure. And he's got stellar credentials, including an Emmy for snowstorm coverage at his old TV station in Memphis. Tillman is content to deliver the forecasts on weekends, mornings or any other time he's needed, then to retire to his family of three. He keeps life -- and his forecasts -- simple. Like a front moving in from Canada, he's naturally cool.

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