NASA Astronaut's Official Portrait is Doggone Adorable

Categories: NASA

Photo from NASA
Leland Melvin, aka our new most-favorite-astronaut-ever, with his dogs Scout and Jake. Because of course an official portrait requires dogs.
We already knew that retired NASA astronaut Leland Melvin was pretty awesome. After all the former NFL player has logged more than 10 million miles in space travel and met the Obamas and Elmo. Then we saw his official astronaut photo, the one with the dogs.

But of course, as with all the best things, NASA didn't exactly mean for this photo to happen. Melvin, who retired from NASA in February 2014, had a pretty long space career, according to the NASA website. He was an 11th round draft pick in 1986 for the Detroit Lions, but after the NFL didn't work out, Melvin got a job at NASA.

In 1998 he was accepted into the astronaut program and he was on two missions, in 2008 and 2009, on the Space Shuttle Atlantis and orbited the Earth 374 times. However, his career was cut short after he went deaf during an underwater training exercise. He didn't let that stop him though. Melvin became the head of NASA Education and is the co-chair of a White House Education Task Force to help develop the nation's STEM education plan.

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Super Bowl XLIX: Keys To The Game And Prediction

Thumbnail image for bradypendergast.JPG
Sean Pendergast
Tom Brady zombie-walking thru media week
For the eight or nine days after the AFC Title Game, the prevailing story that none of us could escape was "Deflate-Gate." Hours upon hours of coverage of the pressure of footballs, the effects of deflation, and Bill Belichick's cheating history. Honestly, the only good thing about Deflate-Gate was the green light to use the word "balls" on the radio in every sophomoric way possible.

Finally, that topic died around Tuesday of this week, and was replaced by Marshawn Lynch press conferences and endless hand wringing by certain media members that Lynch was clowning the interview process with repetitive one sentence answers (HOW DARE HE!!). There was really nothing great that came out of that.

So needless to say, I'm ready for the game to get here.

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Seven Transportation Projects That Could Dramatically Change How Houston Drives

Categories: Traffic

It could happen
Traffic sucks. It's a way of life in Houston, a fact of living in a city that is simultaneously one of the most populous and one of the most spread out. The city limits alone cover 600 square miles. Tack on the suburban areas and you have the stuff of nightmares for urban planners. Through the years, we have attempted to patch the problem, curb it (if you will) and expand to fit it. Some of it will absolutely never be fixed because Houstonians remain almost genetically linked to their vehicles, some for substantive reasons and others just because they can.

Unfortunately, we will always suffer from traffic issues in the same way New York City will always be crowded -- try to squeeze 10 million people into an area roughly the size of the space inside the 610 Loop, but ONLY west of I-45, and you'll understand. But, there are ways to improve it, projects that could change the way we think about driving in certain areas of town.

Not all of them would be designed to improve the flow of traffic, mind you. Some would be to make life easier for pedestrians or to change how we see the city. But, all of these suggestions -- many of which have been or remain on the table as possibilities considered by the city and state, or recommended by transportation experts -- would change how many of us view driving in Houston.

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Aaron Hernandez Trial Begins With Video of Hernandez Holding Possible Murder Weapon

TMZ Sports
We are a couple days away from Super Bowl XLIX, a game that will be the sixth Super Bowl the New England Patriots have participated in during the Bill Belichick Era.

The last time they were in this game, closing out the 2011 season, they were there on the strength of a unique two tight end set with the freak of nature Rob Gronkowski at one tight end spot and the ultra-athletic Aaron Hernandez at the other tight end spot.

Things have certainly changed since then.Three years later, Gronk is still here, a unanimous All Pro pick at the position and on a Hall of Fame trajectory. Hernandez, he's kind of tied up with other things. His murder trial (the first of multiple murders he will be standing trial for) in the Odin Lloyd homicide began yesterday.

Indeed, it's a long way from Super Bowl XLVI.

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Shrapnel-Shooting Airbags May Have Claimed First Houston Victim

Chris via Flickr
Last year, when the New York Times started to break stories about airbags exploding in cars, sending metal and plastic shrapnel into drivers that made them look like stabbing victims, the issue was particularly concerning to anyone living along the Gulf Coast.

As the recalls began to mushroom -- in the United States alone, ten automakers have now issued recalls on some 12 million vehicles that carry faulty airbag inflators from the Japanese company Takata -- the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began to issue targeted notices to humid regions in Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, and Louisiana.

The problem, agency officials say, is that these faulty, shrapnel-shooting airbags are more likely to malfunction in humid climates. Prolonged exposure to high humidity can make the airbag inflator propellant burn too fast, officials say, causing the propellant canisters to blow apart, sending bits of metal and plastic into drivers.

And, according to senate testimony on Thursday, Houston may have seen its first victim this month.

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Super Bowl XLIX: Five Prop Bets to Invest In

We are about 48 hours away from kickoff of Super Bowl XLIX. Kickoff of the Super Bowl is always one of the most exciting times to be an American. It's football, OUR sport, played at the highest level.

But perhaps you don't have a dog in the fight this Sunday. You're not a fan of the Seahawks, maybe because Richard Sherman talks too much or because Marshawn Lynch doesn't talk enough. And you're not a fan of the Patriots because they're a bunch of spying, ball deflating, cheating bastards! (Your words, not mine.)

So how do you maintain a suitable interest level and drive your blood pressure high enough to be dangerous? Well, PROP BETS, of course!

So let's give you a few juicy investment opportunities! Here are a few that I will be scouting heavily for Sunday.

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James Harden's MVP Cred Is Legit, Sustainable

Categories: Basketball, Sports

Photo by Groovehouse
Harden might be the MVP this season, but is it something he can sustain?
In watching the Golden State Warriors dismantle the Rockets twice in a week last week, it was difficult to make a case for James Harden as the presumptive league MVP if for no other reason than both Steph Curry and Klay Thompson seem to have good reason to consider themselves favorites despite being on the same team. Still, Harden's MVP credibility is real.

Prior to his team's loss in Houston Wednesday, former Rocket turned traitor Maverick Chandler Parsons said his former teammate is the league's best. "For sure. He's the best player in basketball right now," he said of Harden. "The things he's doing are incredible. The scouting report is focused in on stopping him and you see he's still getting 30 a game. It's impressive."

But there is more to Harden's rising star even if you set his league-leading scoring average to the side. His defense has radically improved, no doubt owed to a much more vigorous commitment to that end of the floor, and he is shouldering the load of not just scoring, but facilitating shots for his teammates, something he is doing in bunches given that he is one of only two non-point guards among the league's top 20 in assists (Lebron James is the other).

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Cougars' Bad Offense Not Quite As Bad As Rice's Bad Offense

Brian Reading via Wikimedia Commons
Hofheinz Pavilion, where the game of basketball went to die Wednesday night
The Houston Cougars and Rice Owls are bad basketball teams. Both teams struggle to score. Both teams have difficulties shooting the ball. They're turnover prone. It can be difficult watching them play games, and when it's like it was Wednesday night, when the two faced off at Hofheinz Pavilion, it can feel like the game of basketball has been set back 50 years.

The Cougars (8-12) got the 59-48 win over the Owls (6-13) to snap an eight game losing streak. But it was an ugly game, one with a 22-20 halftime score that saw both teams shoot 37-percent from the floor for the half, brick shot after shot, and throw away pass after pass. The Cougars were the least worst team of the night, but watching the game, it was easy to see how the Cougars had lost eight straight conference games. And if not for the unexpected strong play of the UH bench which outscored the Rice bench 17-2, UH would probably have faced a ninth straight loss.

Both coaches were brutally honest after the game. Words like "ugly," "disappointing," "passive," "challenged," and "unacceptable" were freely expressed by both coaches. UH coach Kelvin Sampson liked his team's effort. Rice's coach Mike Rhoades didn't like his team's effort and thought his guys were awful. Sampson didn't think his guys were awful, he just thinks they're challenged.

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Texas Muslim Capitol Day Went About as Well as Expected

Screengrab from Facebook
State Congresswoman Molly White set a low bar for handling Texas Muslim Capitol Day.

An elected official and a clutch of protesters shared their views about this year's Texas Muslim Capitol Day. Take a wild guess how things went. (Hint: it's possible there was even a pair of jeggings involved.)

The event, organized by the Texas chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations was meant to be a chance for Muslim community members to learn about the democratic process and how to advocate for important issues. Well, those who showed up certainly got a bit of education on the current state of democratic process from at least one lawmaker and some motivated protesters.

Republican state Rep. Molly White got the ball rolling with a Facebook post outlining how she planned to approach the incoming Muslim constituency. With the House not in session until next Monday, the freshman congresswoman was back in her home district in Bell County doing home district-type things. However, she didn't want to miss an opportunity to let everyone know where she stands on the question of Texas Capitol Muslim Day, so she instructed her staff to greet anyone from Texas Muslim Capitol Day who swung by her office with warmth and enthusiasm, and to take notes on any concerns Muslim community members of her district might raise.

Ha. Just kidding.

White started off by leaving an Israeli flag on the reception desk in her office. In case that was a little too subtle for any Muslims running around the building, she also left her staff with very special and oh-so-tolerant instructions for any Muslim individuals who might stop by. Or in White's words, because, honestly, paraphrasing can't do this particular set of instructions justice:

"I did leave an Israeli flag on the reception desk in my office with instructions to staff to ask representatives from the Muslim community to renounce Islamic terrorist groups and publicly announce allegiance to America and our laws. We will see how long they stay in my office. "

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All Right! All Right! All Right! Matthew McConaughey to give Commencement Address at UH

Categories: Education

McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club.

It may be one of the best attended commencements ever in the history of the University of Houston. UH has just announced that Academy Award winning actor Matthew McConaughey will give the inaugural commencement address on Friday, May 15 at the TDECU Stadium before 5,000 graduates.

Turns out, UH had an "in." His dad, "Big Jim" McConaughey once played college football at the University of Houston, according to University of Houston President Renu Khator.

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