University of Houston

Being the president of UH, and chancellor of the UH System, ain't easy. There are lots and lots of different constituencies demanding time, attention and money. But ever since she took on the task in January, Renu Khator has been getting effusive praise from students, faculty and other Cougars for her openness, frank talk and energy. She's visited parts of the campus that never have been seen by the top brass. She has bold plans to make UH into a top-tier university. Whether she can pull it off remains to be seen, but rarely, if ever, has a UH president started the job with such an impressive stretch.

In John McPhee's story about truckers, driver Don Ainsworth talks about truck-stop bathrooms: "You can take a prom date to a Petro." You probably shouldn't take a prom date to the bathroom at the Texas Truck Stop, but for a lot lizzard, it's just about right. The bathroom is tucked in the rear of the store, past the video slots and through the storage room. The black magic marker on the hand dryer is a truck-stop cliché, but there's a shower in the bathroom that's just not right. Most of the "messages" have been scrubbed from the walls, but you can still score some numbers to call if you're looking for a good time.

Just Oxtails Soul Food

We generally don't see a lot of soul-food ­restaurant commercials. You've got the ­freakin' Mandola's every two seconds, but soul-food joints generally earn their rep through word-of-mouth, not blitzkrieg broadcasting. But owner Kenneth Washington's commercial is pretty much what you'd expect a soul-food commercial to be: a dude talking about how good his restaurant's food is while showing video of said food. Washington even mentions his famous "40-weight gravy," which sounds vaguely like his gravy might be used for industrial purposes, but probably tastes amazing. This is a homegrown, no-nonsense spot — and it makes you want to check out this funky-sounding joint in, as Washington proclaims, "the heart of Sunnyside, Texas."

Charlie Rose isn't the only PBS-head who can conduct intelligent, one-on-one, no-frills interviews with a variety of interesting personalities. Houston's Ernie Manouse, host of InnerVIEWS, has been doing just that for years. His diverse guests have included Molly Ivins, Calvin Trillin, k.d. lang, Isaac Hayes, Jamie Foxx and Anne Rice. Manouse asks smart, thoughtful questions and never tries to hog the camera or talk over his guests. His subtle, witty and sharp style has earned him a host of Emmy nominations and awards from the Press Club of Dallas, among others. If you haven't already, check him out and see how long it takes you to think, "Hey, this is pretty damn good."

You gotta love a guy who gets up in the middle of the night just so he can tell us Houston's weather is going to be hot. That's what KPRC-TV weatherman Anthony Yanez does: He wakes up at 2:30 a.m., is at work by 3 a.m. and is on the air by 5 a.m., giving up-to-the-minute forecasts (ah, it's going to be hot, hot and hotter?). In a field where bad news makes for great newscasts, Yanez is matter-of-fact, leaving the hysterics and hyperbole to his competitors. His professionalism and commitment to getting Houston the right information show that the weather desk is not just another stop on his career path, but his home. Yanez's first day at Channel 2 was a bit of a stormy start. It was July 15, 2003, and Hurricane Claudette was pounding the Gulf Coast. (Welcome to hell, Anthony.) Since then, the meteorologist has reported on deadly heat waves, swirling floods, twisting tornadoes and devastating storms, including hurricanes Katrina and Rita. All of it suits Yanez just fine, but then again, he vacations in Purgatory (the canyon in New Mexico, not hell).

Tien Tao Temple

Whether it is known as the Tien Tao temple or the Chong Hua Sheng Mu Holy Palace, this edifice certainly stands out in Kingsbridge Park, its typical southwest-side suburban neighborhood. This five-story pyramid-esque, vaguely Mayan-looking structure is topped by a 40-foot golden geodesic dome which is flanked by two smaller domes and two exterior staircases — the overall effect is something like a sawed-off Mayan temple of the sun. And this intended East Asian nexus is utterly empty — the leader was deported back to her native Hong Kong. Today, the structure seems a good fit only for its leader's return, or perhaps purchase by an aspiring supervillain in search of a World Domination Headquarters.

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