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.
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.
Coolidge, Cutthroat, Eyesore and Dual all justifiably have their fervent partisans, but our absolute favorite is 2:12. That could be simply because we are junkies for color, and 2:12 uses lots of it, much more than wheat-pasters like Cutthroat and Dual or even a stencil painter like 'Lidge. 2:12 hybridizes their approaches — much of the drafting is done on paper in his studio, which affords him the chance to paint in more detail than the average hit-and-run poster artist. We also love his choice of material — often Golden Age Hollywood leading ladies of every ethnicity. Grimy Houston could definitely use more of his work, but don't expect the city to be blanketed with 2:12 works. Like most true masters, he takes a quality-over-quantity approach.
A team of grad students at Rice University finally figured out a way to make use of those now-defunct broadcast television frequencies — use them to carry a downgraded wi-fi signal to Houston-area homes that previously could not access the free citywide wi-fi network. Student Ryan Guerra created equipment that can "translate" a traditional wi-fi signal to a lower frequency, which can then be carried into homes on the edges of wi-fi networks. A Houston-area grandmother was the first person to host the new Super-Wi-Fi hotspot.
Mai's Restaurant was started in 1978 by the Nguyen family as a sandwich and coffee shop. It went on to become a Houston institution with a large menu of Vietnamese favorites. After the restaurant was destroyed by a fire in 2010, the family, led by Nguyen granddaughter Anna Pham, rebuilt rather than shuttered the place. What was a rather nondescript two-story building on a similarly nondescript corner has been replaced with a sleek, updated building with a light-filled, two-story dining room and spacious kitchen. The garish lighting and mismatched furniture from the old Mai's dining room was replaced with soft lighting, dark wood tables and subtle green walls. Parking went from 30 spaces to more than 100. But don't worry, Pham has made sure that the food — and late-night hours — stayed the same.
Since opening last December, the Houston Zoo's African Forest habitat has drawn thousands of visitors to marvel at the latest addition, years in the making, spread out over six and a half acres. Populated with charismatic families of chimpanzees, giraffes and white rhinos, the African Forest also educates visitors about the plight of the real African Forest, and challenges them to locate the mythical "Koolakamba," a sort of African yeti. Best of all, it's a high-tech forest, meaning you can watch the rhinos' antics from the air-conditioned comfort of your home or office via the 24-hour Webcam.
Correction: Former State District Judge Caprice Cosper has never expressed the opinion that she has been impressed with her successor, Judge Maria Jackson. The Houston Press regrets the error. When she was elected to the 339th Criminal District Court in 2008 as part of the Obama-led Democratic sweep, Maria Jackson already had three strikes against her: She had defeated Caprice Cosper, perhaps the best liked and most respected incumbent (and former Best of Houston® Best Judge in 1999); she came from municipal court, hardly the birthplace of judicial heavyweights; and she had never spent a day as a Harris County prosecutor, a critical pedigree for anyone aspiring to a criminal bench. And so most of the cognoscenti at the Criminal Justice Center, especially those from the Chuck Rosenthal government-in-exile, thought Jackson would be in way over her head. Well, turned out they were wrong. Jackson has gone about the business of dispensing justice in a way that has even impressed Cosper, her highly regarded predecessor. Jackson runs a tight but cordial courtroom with a staff that does not have the disposition of prison guards.
With its antediluvian palmettos, teeming sloughs and oxbow lakes, and mighty live oaks, a trip to Brazos Bend can feel like time-travel to the Cretaceous Period. That goes double, or triple, when you encounter one of the park's dozens upon dozens of wild alligators. It's surreal enough when you see them on one of the more well-traveled trails, like Elm Lake or 40 Acre Lake, but it gets downright primal when you come across a big old 12-footer sunning herself in a more isolated area, like, say, a few steps off the trail, near the mouth of Big Creek. Even if the wild gators don't do much other than sit there most of the time, there's a world of difference between seeing them in the zoo and in such wild surroundings with no bars between the giant reptiles and you.
Patricia Kerrigan was appointed to the 190th District bench by Governor Rick Perry in 2007 after a career mostly spent defending corporate clients, so the attorneys who sue those corporations might have been excused if they felt some doubts about how she'd do on the bench. But Kerrigan has proven to be a fair arbiter willing to listen to both sides and follow the law, and really, that's all you want from a judge. She moves cases along and doesn't waste anyone's time, which also helps a lot.
Say what you want about downtown; with the addition of the light rail and increasingly landscaped and well-tended pedestrian areas, it's never been easier to get around by foot if you live in the CBD. Don't want to endure the mid-day heat in your suit? Take the tunnels and walk your ass all over town in air-conditioned comfort. Otherwise, you can hit everything downtown has to offer in ten to 20 short minutes on the surface streets: concerts at the House of Blues, games at Minute Maid Park or the Toyota Center or farmers' markets at City Hall and Discovery Green. The ballet, the opera, the symphony, the Alley Theatre — all are within mere feet of each other. And in many places, the bar and restaurant density means that you can just show up at the Pavilions or Bayou Place and decide from a wealth of options on the fly. Walk to one of the many light-rail stops and within minutes you can be in the Medical Center, the Museum District or even Reliant Park. With the opening of grocery stores like Phoenicia and the construction of the new Dynamo Stadium, hoofing it around downtown is looking more attractive by the day.

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