Bosses who take credit for your ideas. Fools who can't talk on the phone and drive at the same time. Boyfriends who desert you for another city and say they're "just changing addresses." Plenty of things in this life fill us with murderous rage, ladies. But instead of slicing tiny wounds in your forearms, sticking pins in voodoo dolls, or writing scathing letters you'll never send, head down to Urban Jungle in the Heights, where Tony and Michelle Torres-Aponte have been teaching women's self-defense for the last decade. Their three-part course includes predator profiling, defensive techniques and -- the best part -- full assault training. In this final class, a professional fighter dons head-to-toe body armor, and students are encouraged to go postal on him with the evasive maneuvers, empowering yells and debilitating kicks they learned in the first two sessions. After that intensive rage-a-thon, you'll forget all about those pesky people who piss you off. Now get over there and kick some man-ass.
Sure, we admire Houston Astros owner Drayton McLane's head-scratching luck (his team manages to win despite the loss of both some key players and Gerry Hunsicker, one of the best GMs in baseball). We also respect Houston Texans owner Bob McNair's commitment to excellence on the field and off, and are fairly certain that an NFL title is in his cards. But Les Alexander, owner of the Houston Rockets, owns the only two professional sports championships in the city. How? Unlike McLane, he's always shelled out the dough, and not just when fans demanded it. He's gambled on huge trades and netted players like hometown hero Clyde Drexler and now, Tracy McGrady. His commitment to Yao Ming displays his understanding of global marketing. Though he's been called a vegetarian carpetbagger, he's never alienated fans, and he's made his team accessible to the community. Barring a surprise Texans Super Bowl berth this year, we're betting the Rockets will be first to bring the next championship home to the Bayou City.
Not only is she the best Comet, she's the best in the entire NBA. Sheryl Swoopes is simply untouchable -- a new-millennium Hakeem Olajuwon, if you will. She ranks No. 1 in the WNBA in points per game, No. 2 in steals per game, No. 1 in minutes per game, No. 1 in minutes played, No. 1 in field goals made, No. 1 in field goal attempts, No. 1 in free throws, No. 3 in free throw attempts, No. 3 in steals, No. 1 in points, No. 2 in points per 40 minutes, No. 3 in total efficiency points...Should we go on? A 34-year-old mother of one who was born in Brownfield, Texas, and attended Texas Tech, she's the first woman to have her own Nike basketball shoe, the Air Swoopes, and she's been breaking records ever since elementary school. You wanna try and mess with that?
Readers' choice: Sheryl Swoopes
Helming the drive-time slot at SportsRadio 610, hosts Rich Lord and Charlie Pallilo boasted the best sports show in town for several years. The two Northeast natives brought a worldly perspective to pro sports and the issues surrounding it, especially when the topics fell to race and culture. Lord was easygoing, Pallilo was smarmy, and the two just worked. So it was a disappointment when Pallilo jumped ship for Clear Channel's new concept The Sports Animal (790 KBME) last year. SportsRadio 610 floundered briefly, but when Lord was paired with midday host Mark Vandermeer, who's also the radio voice of the Houston Texans, there was instant rapport and chemistry. The cocky Vandermeer brings a younger, more pop-culture-oriented perspective and ups the hip quotient, while Lord continues to keep it real. The result is a fresh, authoritative and entertaining show.
Look, if you're going to spend your time hitting dozens of little white balls over and over again, you might as well do it in a nice setting, right? The Memorial Park driving range is so good, you'll be feeling like Tiger Woods in no time. With 43 slots, there's plenty of room for you to claim a mat and show the rest of those divot-heads how it's really done. The range is open every day (except Tuesday) from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. (They stop selling balls at 7:30 p.m.) Two bucks will get you 30 balls, which you can whack into the range's scenic 250 yards. If you don't have a club, you can borrow one from the lost-and-found bin. So get your caddy and your funny-looking pants, and get going!
Never have so many die-hard -- and straight -- football fans been so infatuated with pigskin and pomade. Last season, Houston Texans beefcake QB David Carr vowed not to cut his hair until his team won two games in a row. His flowing, male-model-style locks were finally shorn when the team beat the Kansas City Chiefs and the Oakland Raiders back-to-back in early October. Since then, the studly Carr's 'do has been a success off the field (he was named to People magazine's 2004 Sexiest Men Alive list). But with a revamped offensive line and improved running game to support him, it's now up to Carr to prove that new short haircut won't jinx the team.
Readers' choice: David Carr
Like riding horses? Hate terrorists? Well, now's your chance to trot ol' Trigger around the trail and keep a lookout for Osama at the same time. The Houston Airport System's Airport Rangers are volunteers who patrol the 34 miles of perimeter fencing around Intercontinental. You have to pass a background check, of course. "It's not just Joe Blow coming in," says airport spokesperson Ernest DeSoto. "You have to be badged." The airport system has set up 25 miles of trails with water stops and porta-potties, but those hankerin' for more rugged country are welcome to veer off the paths, DeSoto says. If a ranger sees anyone unusual (vagrant, poacher, dude with a rocket-launcher) he or she must report it to airport authorities. Otherwise, feel free to ride around from sunrise to sunset, seven days a week.
We've got nothing against camping. Don't get us wrong. It's just that sometimes it feels artificial to pack up and pretend like you don't have a house. But going to the arboretum, now that's an authentic trip that'll get you back in time to hit the bars. This 155-acre expanse is home to herons, cardinals, owls, wrens and crows; squirrels, opossums, moles, rabbits and armadillos; and toads, frogs, snakes, turtles and skinks. As you walk beneath the canopy listening to chirps, croaks and whistles, you'll forget all about the downtown construction and West Loop traffic -- for a little while, at least.
He drains jumpers effortlessly. He explodes to the basket with the agility of an Olympic gymnast. When he's on, he's one of the few truly unstoppable players in the NBA. And during his first year in Houston, Tracy McGrady has been a model citizen. We admit we were concerned when the five-time NBA All-Star showed up via a trade with the Orlando Magic for Steve Francis, Cuttino Mobley and Kelvin Cato. After all, the Rockets were trading three-fifths of their starting lineup for a purported whiner who had grouched about sharing playing time with his cousin (fellow All-Star Vince Carter) in Toronto. But McGrady quickly embraced the city and his teammates -- especially Yao Ming. Soon the two were the epicenter of a playoff team that, thanks to some key off-season signings, is much stronger. If McGrady follows up on his 25.7 points per game average of last year, the only thing he'll have to complain about sharing with his teammates is an NBA Championship trophy.
Readers' choice: Yao Ming
While so many beaches along our Gulf Coast tend to be less than desirable, this little oasis just down the road a piece from Freeport could make you forget you're in Petrochemical Land. In Galveston, the constant whir of traffic along the seawall just steps from your beach towel almost drowns out the calming sounds of the sea at your feet. Go to any of the beaches at Surfside and you've literally got to dodge the traffic, as cars are allowed right on the sand. Not the case at Quintana, where the $4-per-car entry fee keeps out the riffraff, and all vehicles stay in the parking lot. A massive boardwalk jettisons over the dunes that serve as your wall between civilization and solitude, and leads you to the cleanest, most peaceful beach in our region. The park features full-on camping facilities for RVs and tents and even has a few quaint, air-conditioned cabins that overlook the water. Which come in handy, 'cause you'll never want to leave.
Readers' choice: Crystal Beach

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