BEST HURRICANE PREDICTIONS Weather Underground www.wunderground.com/tropical This season, when you get tired of phrases such as "this is what the track of the hurricane will look like if it takes a sharp, impossible turn and heads straight into downtown Miami" and you want a reasonable prognostication about where any storm might be heading, the place to go is the Weather Underground. The Website presents some of the same models that the TV forecasters use to make those cone-shaped prediction maps, but without the hours of speculative fodder broadcast alongside them. The site is simple to use and free, providing a bevy of other images, information, and links to similar meteorological sites, all adding to a fuller picture. You might even find out it's sunny outside.

BEST CONVENTION OF THE PAST TWELVE MONTHS OtakuCon Anime Convention Fontainebleau Hilton Resort

4441 Collins Avenue

Miami Beach

305-538-2000 Hordes of imagination-fired freaks and geeks took over a landmark Miami Beach hotel in late December to celebrate the colorful and expanding world of anime. The three-day gathering was overrun by people, young and old, who find an especially animated pleasure in pretending to be cartoon characters with oversize eyes, mouths, and personality disorders. At OtakuCon, which translates to "hyper-fan convention," anime cultists had a chance to live out their fantasies. Leggy women with waist-length hair paraded around in skimpy homemade costumes, bringing to life their favorite anime pin-up girls. Boys of all ages bopped around in ninja and samurai getups. When they were not busy attending seminars about how to pick up dates or how to destroy Majin Buu (a bubble-gum pink warrior from Dragon Ball Z), OtakuConventioneers took part in "cosplaying," which is the art of playing scenes with other anime characters. Unreal? Surreal? Real cool.

BEST PLACE TO TAKE OUT-OF-TOWNERS Hoy Como Ayer 2212 SW Eighth Street

Miami

305-541-2631

www.hoycomoayer.net Your visitors can spend the day basking on Miami's beaches, spending cash in its shops, trekking through the Everglades, catching boat rides from Bayside, or feeding the birds at Parrot Jungle. However, the quintessential Miami experience awaits as you take them through the doors of this magical Little Havana club on a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday night. The nostalgia of old Cuba permeates the air as locals imbibe rum drinks, smoke fine cigars, order platters of Cuban tapas, and dance to live music by some of Cuba's best (exiled) musicians: Albita Rodriguez, Malena Burke, Luis Bofill, Cristina Rebul, Esencia, Sarabanda, Leslie Cartaya, and special guests. Photos of artists from Cuba's cultural past and present decorate the walls, reminding us that today, like yesterday, the island's music is irresistible.

Readers´ Choice: South Beach

BEST POWER FAMILY Los Valdes-Fauli When Raul Ernesto Valdes-Fauli died in 2003 at age 84, evidence of success in this life wasn't measured by the prominence and prosperity he had achieved as a former lawyer who represented banking and sugar interests in pre-Castro Cuba. (He was very prominent and prosperous.) No, it was the prominence and prosperity his children had gone on to achieve. The siblings didn't just sit on their trust funds; they clambered to the top of a variety of fields, mainly leaning toward endeavors connected to money and power. Son Raul J. is the former mayor of Coral Gables and now an attorney at Steel Hector & Davis. Another son, José, is Colonial Bank's South Florida regional president. A third son, Gonzalo, is a director at Knight Ridder who formerly headed Latin American operations for the Barclays banking organization. Daughter Teresa Weintraub is president of Fiduciary Trust International of the South.

BEST STORYTELLER Jan Mapou It's no surprise Jan Mapou is one of Miami's most well-versed storytellers, for the man possesses a lifetime of rich material. Born in Haiti, Mapou spent time in jail for speaking in Kreyol on a Port-au-Prince radio show, moved to New York in the early Seventies and then to Miami in the mid-Eighties, where he opened the Libreri Mapou in Little Haiti and started the cultural organization Sosyete Koukouy. But for Mapou, who writes plays and poetry as often as most people write grocery lists, it isn't his biography he likes to share with his audiences, but rather the magical stories of Haitian folklore. He told many of these tales on his radio show in Haiti, for which he took the on-air moniker Jan Mapou (his real name is Jean-Marie Willer Denis). The pseudonym translates to "the tree that never falls." Audiences at the many cultural events where he speaks often fall -- in love with his words.

BEST TERROR ALERT October 26, 2004

Miami International Airport Mizael Cabral and Daniel Correa, two athletic, young kite surfers from Brazil, are heading back to their homeland after spending a couple of years hanging out in Pompano Beach. They check their boards, sails, assorted other gear, and luggage through the x-ray machine at MIA's international terminal. Among the gear is a small belt sander kite surfers use to shape their boards; it is cylindrical and resembles a tank. The Portuguese word for tank is bomba. So when a security agent asks Cabral, who barely speaks English, what's in one of his overstuffed bags, the 29-year-old says bomba. His 27-year-old pal Daniel, who speaks better English (his mom is a U.S. citizen and resides in Davie), comes over and jokes that it might explode -- a reference to the bag being so tightly packed. Of course they're arrested and charged with felonies: willfully or maliciously making false statements "with the intent to cause fear" and "reckless disregard for the safety of human life." Their tourist visas long expired, the surfers are imprisoned for a month at the Federal Detention Center in downtown Miami and then another month at the Krome Detention Center for immigration-law violations. Meanwhile the story hits the front pages in Brazil's national press. The governor from the surfers' province demands that Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva lean on President George W. Bush to intervene. Cabral and Correa's federal public defenders, armed with testimony from TSA officials that the guys should have been spanked and immediately sent home to Brazil, head for trial. Suddenly the U.S. Attorney's Office offers an eleventh-hour plea deal to reduce the charge to a misdemeanor for impeding a federal official in the performance of his duties. U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno sentences Cabral and Correa to time served, but knowing they had been carrying about $8000 in hard-earned cash when the incident occurred, fines them each $2000. "Ridiculous," sighs Marc Seitles, Cabral's public defender.

BEST WEATHERCASTER National Weather Service and National Hurricane Center Some people get the weather by sticking their heads out the window. Everybody else gets their weather -- at least partially -- from the National Weather Service and the National Hurricane Center. Even the major news outlets rely on information from the NWS and NHC before putting an entertaining spin on "partly cloudy with a chance of rain." Why not just go to the source? At the NWS Website (www.srh.noaa.gov/mfl) you'll find straightforward weather forecasting plus various satellite and radar images, historical facts, and safety information. The marine forecast, current weather, and developing situations are also available in a computer-generated monotone on short wave at 162.550 mhz and at 1670-AM. Go towww.srh.noaa.gov/mfl/wireless/index.wml, or contact your provider for wireless technology access. The National Hurricane Center's Website provides comprehensive hurricane information and wireless access, links, an extensive e-mail service, and other ways to obtain forecasts.

BEST AUDIO TOUR Adam Curry's podcast from South Beach http://radio.weblogs.com/0001014/ categories/dailySourceCode/2005/ 01/07.html#a6993 So you've finally set up your blog. That's sooooo 2004. Goodness, you should already be podcasting for your cyber creds. Podcasting is the new blog, but think of it more as radio broadcasting available from the Internet that you save to your personal MP3 and play when you want to hear it. Podcasts are nowhere as slick or commercial as typical radio talk shows, but there's complete freedom of content and language, and anybody -- absolutely everybody -- can create a podcast with simple equipment and software. They are strangely alluring. There's a bit of voyeurism, a bit of old-time radio-show quaintness, and lots of hilarious and shocking moments that never, ever happen on broadcast radio. Anything still goes in cyberspace. One of the major players is Adam Curry. Yeah, that blond dude from MTV. As well as being instrumental in podcasting's development and promotion, he also yammers on his popular Daily Source Code show. The episode linked above is particularly good. Curry takes listeners on a "sound-seeing" tour of South Beach. Typical sounds of the neighborhood waft by like effects from an old-time radio drama. He speaks to colorful locals and wanders around, describing everything he sees. Curry also explains some of the concepts and technology involved in creating his show. It's as much a learning experience as it is entertainment. Podcasting may still be in its infancy, but the buzz in the industry is that it will shatter radio as we know it.

BEST LOCAL BOXER James Abdullah Shortly after dusk inside Allapattah's Teo Cruz Boxing Gym, manager Pedro Valerio is busy assisting black and Hispanic boys and men in their bids to master the sweet science. Skinny lightweight and middleweight contenders from Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, and other Latin American nations methodically pound at punching bags that are patched with duct tape. Two Puerto Rican kids, one no older than ten, the other a whisker shy of twelve, clutch and swing at each other inside the main ring. Just outside the ring a chiseled black warrior works on his hand speed, jabbing lightning-fast punches into an invisible opponent. He is James Abdullah, a rugged 22-year-old pugilist from Overtown who wants to be the next Roy Jones, Jr. "If he keeps doing what he's doing, he'll be a world champ," Valerio says. "He's got the speed, the size, the skills." The 175-pound light-heavyweight has been tearing up Florida's amateur boxing circuit. Abdullah's record stands at 12-4. Last year the slugger was crowned Golden Gloves champ of his weight class. "I was into a lot of stuff out in the streets until Valerio let me join his gym for free five years ago," Abdullah recalls. "I haven't stopped boxing since. Now I want the fame, the glory, and everything professional boxing can offer."

BEST DISAPPEARING ACT Alex Penelas Who would've thought I could've vanished so completely. And so quickly! Believe me, it hasn't been easy, which you'd understand if you had spent your entire adult life seeking the public spotlight. It happened so fast I didn't even have time to take an unhurried victory lap to bask in the glow of my many legacies. You know, like my environmental legacy. Remember the sprawling commercial airport I pushed for down in Homestead? Talk about vision. You can't say I wasn't down with spending millions in county resources trying to help some of my biggest supporters get that job done. And didn't I lend a big hand to Mickey Arison so we could preserve the last tract of undeveloped public waterfront land in downtown Miami? You bet I did. My transportation legacy definitely deserved more recognition. Who else could have smoothly funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars into the hands of loyal friends as part of our 1999 "Transit Not Tolls" campaign. Am I bitter that voters rejected the plan? No. It was worth the effort. But I am still steamed that the media claimed the public didn't believe we could be trusted with the money. I'm telling you, all of my damn people got paid. And what about my human-rights legacy? Who else but the mayor was there for little Elian 24/7? People seem to forget that the issue wasn't whether I threatened the president of the United States; the issue was life and liberty in America or living hell in Castro's Cuba. No regrets. And of course there's my political legacy itself -- a staunch Democrat who survived in a sea of Republican Miami Cubans. Don't listen to Al Gore. He's a loser.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®