Catch All of the Action at the Gay Games VIII in Cologne; Matthew Mitcham and Other Star Athletes Add to the Limelight

Michelle Ferris, Matthew Mitcham, Leigh Ann Naidoo, and John Amechi meet the press in Cologne.

Matthew Mitcham and several other star athletes have arrived in Cologne, Germany to be part of the Gay Games, which are set to start, today, July 31st.  Mitcham, from Australia and gold medal diver in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, joined former NBA player John Amechi from Great Britain, cyclist Michelle Ferris also from Australia, and beach volleyball player Leigh Ann Naidoo from South Africa to be part of the sporting event, which has gay athletes from all over the globe for the 2010 Gay Games VIII in Germany.

Mitcham hits Cologne with the "scruffy look".

While Mitcham won’t be competing in the games, he will be giving an exhibition of his diving skills from the 10-meter board.

More than 10,000 participants are expected to parade into the RheinEnergie Stadium later today for the opening ceremonies, which will be headlined by singer Taylor Dayne performing “Facing a Miracle,” which is the theme song for this year’s games.  Check it out here.  I’m sure she’ll have the whole stadium dancin’.

Catch live streaming video and everything else that’s happening at Gay Games VIII here.

A Big-dicked Flower May Get You to the Museum, But Don’t Miss the Hubble Movie While You’re There

Finally, a glipse of the giant flower after wending your way through the exhibit area.

Live in or visiting the Houston area?  Now is a good time to get over to the Museum District.  After all these rains, Herman Park is green and fresh.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to visit the Houston Museum of Natural Science, which I’ve done many times, but right now the museum has some exhibits that are even better than usual.  All the city is abuzz about Lois, the corpse flower.  There were so many people going through that I didn’t really notice how smelly she is supposed to be.  The lines are long, but for what may be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see what is supposed to be the world’s largest flower bloom, it’s worth it.

OK, your call now. Does this huge flower look more like a Lois or a Louis?

If you’re not in Houston, you can check out a live link to see Houston’s corpse flower here.

I didn’t do my research before going to the museum, but now I’ve found that Lois’s scientific name is titan arum or Amorphophallus titanum, which means “giant misshapen penis”, which makes you wonder why the museum decided to name the plant Lois.   Maybe Louis would have been a better moniker for this big-dicked plant.

Long after Lois has become flaccid and withered, you’ll be able to see the IMAX feature, Hubble 3D.  Out of the many IMAX movies I’ve seen, this is one of the best, no, it is the best.   Narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio, this is the story of the giant telescope and the painstaking work done by the NASA astronauts to get it into space and keep it working.  The movie is riveting and the 3D effects enhance the story, rather than seeming forced and kitschy, as in some 3D movies.

Take a peek at the trailer for  Hubble 3D below.   (Sorry, no 3D effects.)  Check out the schedule for IMAX films and other events at the Houston Museum of Natural Science here.

The Dog Days of Summer Haven’t Dampened the Spirit of . . . Okra! Try This Easy Skillet-fried Recipe

Fresh garden okra--don't let them get too big, or they'll be too "woody" to eat. Cut them off the plant, wash and dry them, and store them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator until you have a batch to eat.

Here in the latter part of July, my garden is already looking a bit sad and tired, but I’ve learned a lot in this first go-round.  The tomatoes have long since hit their peak, and a couple of those plants will probably meet their maker in the composter this weekend.  The beans are still trying, but now with more rain than we need interspersed with the mid-summer heat, try is about all they can do.  What does love all this hot weather is the

Every kitchen should have at least one cast iron skillet. If it gets rusty from disuse or moisture, don't throw it away. Clean it with steel wool; then wipe it well with a paper towel and cooking oil. It will be ready to use again!

okra.

There are about 20 plants, at varying stages of maturity, not because they were planted at different times, but because some of them were almost crowded out by faster growing tomato and cucumber plants.  Now, though, the okra are the kings of the garden, flowering and producing their pods at a faster rate each day.

I’ll pick more today, and if they continue so prolifically, I’ll try my

A mouth-watering supper with all homegrown veggies: skillet-fried okra, yellow and green beans with bacon, sliced turkey, feta, and tomato on jalapeño and cheese bread from my local Kroger bakery. (This bread is to die for!)

hand at pickling.

Most people who eat okra are more accustomed to either having it batter fried or in gumbo.  On the farm in Kansas, my mom pan-fried the okra in a cast iron skillet.  It was one of my favorite summer vegetables.  I have to admit that I haven’t gotten the “do” on my fried okra anywhere near Mom’s.  Maybe the taste is all in the nostalgia.

A week ago, I tried cooking the okra a bit differently. and I really liked the result.  Instead of putting oil into the skillet, I just cut up one strip of bacon into pieces and fried it.  Then I cut up the okra into the bacon grease and cooked bacon pieces, continuing the rest of the cooking process in the same way as always.  The end result was yummy, if I do say so myself!

Pan Fried Okra

5-7 okra per person

2 tablespoons cooking oil, lard, or bacon fat

3-4 tablespoons flour

Salt and Pepper

Heat a tablespoon or two of oil, lard, or other “grease” in a heavy skillet (frying pan).  When it starts to sizzle, start slicing in the okra, about 1/4 inch slices.  Okra cooks down a lot, so I’d recommend 5 or 6 okra per person.  When the okra is all sliced, keep turning as it cooks.  It will begin to change to a darker green and even “blackened”.  Salt and pepper.  When the okra starts to get a bit “slimey”, sprinkle a couple tablespoons of flour over the cooking okra.  Mix the flour into the okra.  Turn with a pancake turner, and sprinkle the other side with more flour.  Let the okra get crispy on one side before turning again.  Cook and turn until the okra is cooked through.

Argentina Does It! Now Marriage Equality at Both Ends of the Hemisphere as U.S. Held Hostage by Social Stick-in-the-Muds

I’m happy for what happened in Argentina in the wee hours this morning, when that country’s senate by a vote of 33-27 voted for gay marriage, and based on earlier passage by the house and the strong support by President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, the Senate vote was the final hurdle to be passed.

Wow! Argentina, you as a country have my respect.  It’s almost unreal, that now we have gained rights at both the southern end of the hemisphere (Argentina) and the northern end (Canada).

I’m sad too for my own country.  I used to think of the U.S. as the country of progress–in both the areas of invention and technology as well as culture and civil liberties.

But here we sit, a nation whose industrial and technological might brought an end to World Wars and put a man on the moon–here we sit, stagnant and controlled by our unfettered need for oil and all of the problems it has brought along with it, yes, and here we sit, stagnant and controlled by religious and political conservatives, who in reality want to take us back beyond the Disco 80s, the Love-in 60s, maybe even further back than the Eisenhower 50s.

These Tea Partiers, these Glenm Becks, these bible holders (yes, they really only want to hold them, for some sense of tactile security it brings them) spit out the word progress like its something dirty.  They don’t want a country that’s moving ahead in any way.  Whatever happened to being a country of forward thinkers?  The country that does it first?  The country that others want to emulate?  I really don’t believe that most Americans want to go backwards, but for whatever reason, too many in federal and local governments have given an ear to these stick-in-the-muds, who, if they had their “druthers”, would  take us back to the 1920s, when many in the country gave the same attention to another group: the Ku Klux Klan.  (Do your history homework.  The KKK didn’t just go after Blacks.  They were against unions, Jews, Catholics, and anybody else that didn’t think like they did.)

So, hurray! Argentina!  I have hope that one day soon, this country will put on its hip boots and wade through this languid river, kicking the muddy carp to the side, and follow you to the other side, then keep marching forward, only to glance back at the muck that kept trying to hold this great country back, in this world that does not stand still.

(Take a look at the celebration in the streets of Buenos Aires when the announcement of the vote was made.  Progress–it’s a good thing.)

Trip to the Outhouse’s Favorite Players of World Cup 2010 (Yup, there are some redeeming factors)

Another weekend in full force, with summer baking (actually here in southeast Texas, summer steams more often than bakes) most everything outside, I’ve cranked down the AC inside and “chillin'” on this Saturday afternoon.

I’ve just finished watching the 3rd Place World Cup game–and that’s a big lie, I clicked over less than three times to see what the score was.  The first time the national anthems of Uruguay and Germany were being played, so the score must have been 0-0, or nil-nil, as they like to say in Futbol-speak.  Then I clicked it over later to watch all the excitement, but, alas, too late, I was, and the game was over with the Germans weinerschnitzeling the South Americans 3-2.

I’ve kind of worn out my opinion of soccer in an earlier post. (See here.)  But, we must, I say, give credit where credit is due, and place the laurel crowns where they are deserved.  And too, it’s been awhile since I’ve posted here just for prurient interests.

So without further ado, here are Trip to the Outhouse’s Favorite Players of World Cup 2010:

Piotr Trochowski, member of the German team that placed 3rd

Robin van Persie, member of the Dutch team, which was defeated by Spain in the championship game

Lukas Podolski, teammate of Trochowski

Carlos Bocanegra of Team USA, which made it out of the group rounds only to lose to Ghana

Saturday Morning Musings: Weekend Reflections

The sunflower lost a bit of its luster in all the rain, but I wanted to get in a picture, just for the sake of history--well, yeah, my garden's history.

There should be little danger of fires around here this Fourth of July weekend.  In just the past couple of days, we’ve had more than six inches of rain.  This Saturday morning, I’ve already been out dumping water from all the pots and other containers so that mosquitoes won’t have even more opportunity to increase their numbers.

The sun is trying to shine through, but the patchy clouds seem to be winning, so it looks like there’ll be even more rain  Although six inches is a lot of rain, fortunately, the showers that came weren’t deluges, so the plants in the garden weren’t mashed down into the soft soil.

Last evening, I started reading a new book just as a heavy shower came through, and felt so snug and protected in my house.  It’s a feeling that a year ago at this time I had never experienced.  Then, out in the garden this morning, picking some okra and tomatoes, and having the whole weekend before me, I couldn’t help but remind myself how I had spent many of my weekends a year ago.

At that time, I’d be peering through the online real estate listings, and later, out in my car, checking out possible houses and neighborhoods.  It was how I spent a lot of my free time for more than a year.

I have to admit I still like to go through the online listings from time to time, just out of curiosity, but I’m happy with the choice I made, and glad that this weekend, I will have the pleasure of puttering in the garden, taking some action at getting this very room finally arranged, and curling up on the sofa with a book, rain or no rain.