I-Skate in H-Town

At first, ice skating in Texas makes no sense at all. It’s not cold there (most of the time). It doesn’t snow (often). The Rio Grande doesn’t freeze over.

But technology is a wonderful thing, and, speaking as a person who learned how to ice skate in Naples, Florida, I am usually more amused than weirded out by ice rinks in Southern climes. Also, I love skating in general, so the more places I can strap on my hockey skates (never, ever figure skates–fallout from growing up with a lifelong goalie for a dad), the better.

My baby Canon Rebel doesn’t do well shooting at high shutter speeds in low light, so these will have to do for now:

I love the little kiddie rink they’d set up

The very crowded (note to self: don’t go skating on a Saturday night…) big-people rink. If only I had a picture of the Zamboni…

Fattest City in America

I never truly realize how much I miss Houston until I get there. I haven’t managed to stay away from the city for more than 9 months since 2004, when I started my freshman year at Rice. I didn’t really have any feelings in particular about Houston when I first got there–it was just ‘that place where Rice was’–but have since decided that it’s a very underrated city. Sad. If nothing else, it should be better known for its food, which I would argue is on par with the cuisine in New York, San Francisco and Chicago–and those places don’t have the Texas barbecue, which I hear is also pretty good (I can only speak from the vegetarian side of things).

I had two mental checklists when I was in Houston over winter break- one of people I wanted to see, and one of places where I wanted to eat. I am pleased to say that I only missed seeing a couple of people (those darn med students)- and that I made it to all of the necessary restaurants.

We start with Taco Cabana:

…which is very good for fueling up before shooting a bowl game. Also, get lots of extra pico de gallo. That’s key.

This wasn’t restaurant food, but my friend Niki makes a mean 8-layer bean dip, and her boyfriend makes a mean Screwdriver:

Killer New Year’s Eve combo.

Niki is also a supremely talented baker:

On the dessert note, I made a special point to go to Swirll, the frozen yogurt place in the Village. They’ve ramped up the selection there in the past year, so it’s way more fancy than it used to be. As far as I’m concerned, though, you can’t go wrong with plain tart yogurt and lots of toppings:

This is about a third of the topping selection.

Now. I have lost track of the number of times I’ve been to Niko Niko’s (for Greek food) and Mai’s (for Vietnamese food). Mai’s was the first restaurant I ate at in Houston, and I made it a point to bring everybody who ever visited me at college to the late-night place of awesome. Niko Niko’s is just plain tasty.

Falafel plate. Dr. Atkins would cry at the sight of the pita + mountain of rice.

Vermicelli bowl (spring rolls in the background). I ate the whole thing. Yup.

Mai’s, unfortunately, doesn’t have bahn mi (Vietnamese sandwiches) on their menu, but that’s really no biggie- the good sammich place is right across the street and down a few blocks.

This picture doesn’t do banh mi justice at all, but I’m including it anyway.There’s also marinated tofu on the sandwich; the bread has been coated in olive oil and baked to a crispy goodness.

Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures at Patu (otherwise known as The Place With The Best Pad Thai in the Whole World Exclusive of Thailand). I guess I’ll probably have to go back sometime…

Bowling in Texas

Last year, I went to the Texas Bowl in Houston as a spectator, when my alma mater (Rice) played and was victorious against Western Michigan.

This year, I went the Texas Bowl as an official part of the media corps. There’d been a lot of Internet commentary regarding Mizzou getting overlooked in the bowl selection process, and while I do feel this is true to an extent, I’m not upset with the game we were picked to play in…because it gave me a chance to go to Houston again and to actually photograph during a major (okay, mid-major) CFB matchup.

I’ve shot football exactly three times before today–once during a Rice-UHouston game in 2007 (when I was stuck shooting from the stands because my credentials were never processed correctly), once during Mizzou-Nebraska (when I didn’t get any game photos at all because I was focusing on fans), and once just for practice during a Hickman High game (when I was using just a 70-200mm)–and I was, shall we say, less than confident in my abilities to make any good pictures at all. I knew enough about college football and enough about how Mizzou and Navy both play (damn the unphotogenic running game) to not be scared completely out of my mind, but the idea that I would come back empty-handed kept nagging me. I wish it hadn’t.

This is not to imply that I took mind-blowing, paradigm-changing sports photos during the game (I didn’t), but what I took was by no means bad. I was honestly surprised by this, and in retrospect, it would have been nice to have had a little more faith in myself. I went back through the take after the first go-round of editing, and ended up finding a few MORE images that I liked, which, again, was a pleasant turn of events. All in all, at least from my perspective (not so much from Mizzou’s…), the Texas Bowl was a definite success.

In related news, I find it very strange to edit my own stuff for use in publication. I’d much rather have somebody else go through it all first.

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