Spokespeople can be a reporter's best friend or worst nightmare, and Michelle Lyons is the poster child for the former. Don't get us wrong — "best friend" doesn't mean she's always available to hang out and talk about the Astros; it means she's always able to provide useful, reliable information, whether it be a quote, a statistic, a reference, or anything else that will help reporters get to the truth and heart of a story. Some flacks live to circle the wagons and block the free flow of public information. They live to throw back their heads, cackle maniacally and bust out the red tape. But Lyons works her ass off to make sure that if a reporter's going to write something about an institution as massive and complex as TDCJ, that reporter's going to have the correct information, and they're going to have it ASAP. She's fast, patient, whip-smart and doesn't make you feel like an idiot for asking possibly stupid questions (not that we ever do that). She gets the job done.

Back when it was laid out in 1954, Glenbrook Valley was a showpiece suburb, a mod vision of the glorious George Jetson age to come. Better Homes and Gardens even touted one of the six original Glenbrook ranchers as "the model home for all America." Unfortunately for those who bought in, Houston's march continued aggressively to the west, leaving affluent east side outposts like Hobby-area Glenbrook to wither in obscurity for decades. But now, with affordable homes on the West Side hard to find this side of Dairy Ashford, hip, young-ish Houstonians are starting to look east. And Glenbrook has a lot to offer — it reminds us of a much more stylish Sharpstown, with houses that would do a Mad Men character proud set on lots practically the size of small farms.

Stingaree Restaurant & Bar

Other businesses on the Ike-annihilated (or is it "an-Ike-hilated"?) Bolivar Peninsula reopened sooner than the Stingaree, but none was more symbolically important. The Stingaree is the Peninsula's social and culinary epicenter, where Bolivar in all its blue-collar glory gathered on the deck to watch the maritime traffic slide past in the Intracoastal Waterway, down Stingaritas and gorge on oysters jubilee (the restaurant's signature dish — basically, 30 bivalves prepared each and every way possible). It took five months, but when the Stingaree reopened in February, it was the clearest statement yet that battered Bolivar would be back.

Accountant Cory Crow spun off Lose an Eye from earlier blog Isolation Desolation in 2006, and we're glad. For three years now, Lose an Eye has been — dare we say it? — an entertaining and educational brew of Space City politics and culture, with sharp writing, links to a wide variety of media, and one of our favorites, The Houston Political Dictionary. Here are two "R" entries: "Renewal, urban: an idea pushed by primarily wealthy, primarily Caucasian political leaders living just outside of the urban core to entice people to forget why it is they wanted so desperately to move out of said area to begin with"; "Revitalize: The urban renewal equivalent of dressing up the body for a funeral." Like we said, the dude's good. [Note: Sadly, the eye has been lost for good: Crow announced on September 15 that he's done with the blog.]

We keep waiting for a local magazine to stand up and snatch this prize away from OutSmart, but it just never happens. Even as the masthead changes from time to time, the quality remains high: smart, insightful features into Houston's gay past and present, sharp reviews of theater, music and gay-targeted movies, and lively interviews with national figures letting out their "Did they just say that?" side. And it's free. It's a hard combination to beat, but maybe some year someone will.

You may not agree with him, but chances are very good that the guy next to you in traffic is emphatically nodding his head to every word that 740 AM radio host Michael Berry utters. Hell, we only agree with his keen conservative stances but once in a blue moon, but we keep listening for sheer entertainment. When Berry drops his voice down in that quasi-­affected Texas drawl to make his point clear, you get a stiff reminder that not everyone is a part of the Obama Nation.

Until fairly recently, news anchors in the Houston market tended to stay in their jobs until full fossilization had set in. Nowadays they seem to change faces quicker than a channel-surfing dude switches channels. Which means Gina Gaston, who was once an utter newcomer, is now a reassuring longtime presence. She's paired with the ultimate anchor survivor, Dave Ward, and neatly balances his tendency toward Ted Baxter-ism with a welcoming warmth. Gaston knows the town well and conveys a professional, smooth presence on the air, even as she sometimes has to deal with the more outrageous ratings-bait that editors come up with. Here's hoping she never gets caught up in the change-anchors-every-month trend.

We're not experts, but we're pretty sure it's a sign of great marketing that, if you mention "scrap metal" to a Houstonite, that person will immediately think of $2 bills. Why? Because for thousands of years now, we've been exposed to the spastic owner of C&D Scrap Metal — or his kids, who seem to be pretty good sports — telling us, "We'll even pay you in two-dollar bills!" By now, after eons of conditioning, such an incentive makes perfect sense. But if you stop and think about it, there is absolutely no good reason for anyone to be excited about being paid in discontinued currency. Yet, the whole gimmick totally distinguishes C&D. If you watch enough of these ads, you might start expecting every other business to give you change in $2 bills, or hell, Susan B. Anthonys. Truly revolutionary stuff.

You'd think, with the way Channel 13's news broadcasts tend to consistently have solid ratings, that the operation would get talked about more than it does. Channel 11 tends to get kudos for being a serious, relatively sober newscast, Channel 2 gets buzz with wild antics, and Fox and 39...don't generally get watched at all. But 13 gets its ratings because it has become comfort food to Houstonians, in a good way. Even as anchors change (although timeless Dave Ward stays on board), we keep watching because we know we'll get a wild Wayne Dolcefino investigation, good weather information and some of the most experienced street reporters in town. The glory days of Marvin Zindler and "Sliiiime in the ice machine!!" are but a rosy memory, but 13 still keeps pumping out a broadcast that deserves the viewers it gets.

Phil Archer has become an institution in local news, a guy who's seemingly been around forever but hasn't lost the urge to chase down the latest story and do a great job with it. He can take complex governmental issues and make them clear enough for the average Joe to understand; he can stand in floodwaters with the best of them; he can ask the tough questions a defensive bureaucrat is trying to dodge. Story too good to check out: Local urban legend says that he has a lifetime contract with KPRC after getting shot in the butt in the long-ago Moody Park Riots. In these shaky financial times, we're sure he's damn glad for that bullet, if true.

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