Attorney Jim Adler has built a reputation on loud commercials touting his legal acumen, likening his approach and effectiveness to that of a particular blunt-faced toolbox staple. But lately, he's been tinkering with a new metaphor: the junkyard dog. In what appears to be a spot filmed on location in an actual junkyard, Adler is practically frothing at the mouth, talking about how unscrupulous insurance companies and the like try to screw victims out of just pay, making him as mad as a junkyard dog. Then there are the obligatory/alleged past clients, vouching for how Adler is indeed like a junkyard dog. We've got to admit, it's appealing. If we felt we were being screwed out of unjust pay, we'd definitely want a vicious, bloodthirsty beast on our side. Still, it leaves room for confusion: He's a hammer; he's a junkyard dog; he's a hammer; he's a junkyard dog; he's a hammer and a junkyard dog.
Last year, the prosecution-lovin' judges on the Court of Criminal Appeals declared that the state's lower appellate courts could no longer reverse cases because of factual insufficiency — in essence, whenever the evidence was alarmingly weak but a jury had nevertheless convicted. Terry Jennings of the 1st Court of Appeals didn't take too kindly to the ruling. "This, respectfully, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has neither the jurisdiction nor any lawful authority to do," he wrote, before proceeding to — in a polite judicial way — tear the CCA a new you-know-what. Jennings, a former prosecutor, is no softhearted friend to criminals, but he's proven himself to be a valuable appellate judge.
If the traffic alone at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo gets you stressed, the event's new iPhone app, launched this year, might at least ease some of the pain of coordinating your visit to one of the biggest events in Houston. The app features driving directions, a way to map your parking spot in the concrete maze that is the Reliant complex, a full schedule of Rodeo events, online shopping for ticket sales and HLSR merch, and a friend-finder that allows parents to track their teenagers' whereabouts on the Rodeo grounds. Cleanly designed, full-featured and dead simple to use, the Texas-design app is the perfect way to bridge Rodeo tradition and the 21st century.
Sri Meenakshi Devasthanam
Inspired by the grand Meenakshi Temple in Madurai, India, this Pearland vision is dedicated to the Hindu goddess Meenakshi. The ornate carvings and curves of the buildings in the temple complex will sweep you away to sweltering Southern India, as will the spicy vegetarian fare on sale there. If you go, expect to do more than gawk, as when we visited out of curiosity one Sunday afternoon and were commandeered by a Hindi-speaking priest into making a pooja — a ritual offering. He said a few words and lit a candle or two, we gravely pretended we knew what was going on, and then he handed us a plastic bag containing a red apple and some rose petals. Days later, not knowing what else to do, we offered these items to Buffalo Bayou, and we have to say, life since has been pretty sweet. Thank you, Meenakshi!
Because most of them are aligned with Houston's waterways, most of Houston's bike trails run east-west. Getting north and south can be a dangerous chore, but many people believe the solution is relatively easy: convert miles and miles of Houston's utility easements for dual-purpose as bike (and hiking) trails. The snag has always been liability — CenterPoint Energy does not want to be held liable for any injuries that might occur on their land. Local attorney Tom McCasland took up that issue as his driving force for much of 2010 and 2011 and crusaded in Austin and Houston for a bill that would let CenterPoint out of bike-crash lawsuits and thus pave the way to a cycling paradise in Houston. While his effort was stymied in a committee in Austin, he believes that the momentum he gained this year will help ensure that his bill will pass in 2013.
Well, this certainly isn't a surprise: KHOU's Mark Greenblatt winning our Best TV News Reporter award. After all, he won it in 2008 and 2010. But if you're thinking we're stuck in a rut or something, in our defense the guy just keeps coming up with compelling investigative pieces that deservedly rack up high-profile awards. In the past it's been for stories on Metro and the Texas National Guard; this year his target has been the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which he showed endeavored to hide test results showing too much radiation in our drinking water. He's definitely one reporter any government bureaucrat doesn't want to see pop up on his caller ID.
A lot of people worked long and hard to get Anthony Graves exonerated and off Death Row, but it was Houston's Katherine Scardino who got the job done. Working with her partner from Angleton, Jimmy Phillips, Scardino went into the heart of darkness that the rural Texas judicial system can sometimes be and won. She gambled that former superstar Harris County prosecutor Kelly Siegler, who had been brought in to handle the case for Burleson County, would see that justice had not been done and act accordingly. Siegler did, and Scardino, who has been one of the most impressive criminal attorneys in the state for some time now, had another big victory to her credit.
This year, a group of enterprising young professionals turned a flooded, foreclosed home in Midtown into Houston's first green co-op. With a rainwater cistern that powers the toilets, a worm farm and a huge heap of compost, the whole house is a bastion of sustainability. There's even a greasel: a Mercedes-Benz fueled by leftover fryer oil from a downtown Chinese restaurant. HAUS is home to ten young do-gooders who share chores and cooking duties. In five years they expect to create five green co-ops — and with all the green thumbs involved, the movement could quite possibly make Houston a good deal more reusable.
Future victims of cardiac arrest just got a few extra seconds added to their window of rescue time thanks to the Defib Task Force. A group of Rice University bioengineering students (Lisa Jiang, Joanna Nathan, Justin Lin, Carl Nelson and Brad Otto), along with some experts (Texas Heart Institute's Mehdi Razavi and Rice University lecturer Renata Ramos), developed new pads for automated external defibrillators (AEDs), used to shock a person's heart back into proper rhythm during cardiac arrest. Since seconds count during cardiac arrest, the team's research suggested that the new pads, which allow for less time between shocks, could save some 13,000 lives per year.
Market Square Park
Not long ago, we were walking downtown and became aware of a foul odor. We looked around and were aghast to discover that the residents of the high-rise condos across the street had obviously been using the patch of grass by our feet as a toilet for their dogs. This never would have happened in Market Square, where the dog run is clean enough for the mutts to eat off. Since renovations were completed last year, the original site of Houston's City Hall has become a village green for northern downtown, a gathering spot not just for dog-walkers from nearby lofts but for people relaxing after work or getting ready for a night at Minute Maid Park or Jones Hall. Or they might just stay there and grab a bite at Niko Niko's, check out the murals, take in some free live music, catch a movie or gather their thoughts at Houston's only 9/11 memorial — "Lauren's Garden," in honor of Houstonian Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas, the only Texan aboard Flight 93. Without outright copying Discovery Green, Market Square has become a destination in itself, and offers prime people-watching from some of Houston's most venerable watering holes, particularly the front porch at La Carafe.

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