• Notes From Dave
  • my thoughts on some of the tough issues of short-term missions
  • God's Politics
  • jim wallis' smart, political, and God centered take on the issues of today
  • Progressive Eruptions
  • the liberal side of politics from shaw kenawe. a daily read of mine.
  • Conservatism With Heart
  • a conservative take on life and politics from a well connected missouri mom
  • Truthdig
  • left of center, and very informative. bob scheer's online journal
  • Coffee Klatch
  • home of the best coffee roaster in So. Cal. and where i learned to love coffee
  • The Coffee Geek
  • everything you need to know about coffee and how to make a great cup o' joe
  • Bleacher Report
  • varied sports blog, lots of attitude, and sometimes i'm a featured writer
  • Aubievegas
  • a mix of sports in general with a bent towards vegas and auburn
My Photo
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada

I am a self proclaimed coffee addict and Executive Director of a non profit missions agency working primarily in the Mexican cities of Oaxaca, Guadalajara, and Ensenada. I've been married for over 30 years to Chelle, and we have one grown son, Joseph, a graduate of Auburn University in Alabama.

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Monday, September 30, 2013

the mission is now closed...

Sometimes you need to say, "Enough is enough!"  Sometimes it is time to say cue the finale and ed the show.

Today is that day and I wanted to let all 12 of my dedicated readers know that.  Okay, that's a slight exaggeration, but you get the point.

I started blogging in May of 2005 as a creative release and to have a place to share my sometimes outside of the box thoughts on life, God, politics and sports.  Now my life is going in another direction and I need to free up the time to make things fit.

I'm still passionate about politics.  As recently as this weekend, I thought we should offer Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.) who said on Saturday that Obamacare should be repealed because it "...shows a disregard for the will of the people" a deal.  Here's the deal I'd offer since he seems to believe it is the job of our political leaders to follow the will of the people.

  • Pass the gun control initiative that was defeated in Congress.  The people overwhelmingly support it.
  • Raise taxes on those making more than $150,000.00 a year.  Again, the people overwhelmingly support it.
  • End all this talk and pass the debt limit extension and a continuing resolution to fund the government so even more people do not lose their jobs.

Finally Mr. Stutzman, if you feel strongly that we should follow the will of the people regarding Obamacare, fine, repeal it, but then replace it with a single payer government backed system for all Americans since that would truly reflect the will of the people.

Of course I am still passionate about God and in fact, my time serving in Mexico as a host receiver for short-term teams increases every year.  I will continue to write about that over at Notes from Dave, where my latest post is about American Exceptionalism and Mission.  I also send out a weekly Monday Mission Moment that you can subscribe to through my ministry, Adventures in Life.

I still love sports and will continue to follow my teams, albeit not as fanatically and I will still be thinking and writing about life, just in another context.  After over 20 years of living, working and traveling in Mexico, I've decided to dedicate the majority of my writing time to that great country.  I'll be writing about the people, the culture, the art, the food and the beauty that can be found not just in the normal tourist areas, but off the trail as well.

To that end, along with my good friend Joe Ramirez, who will providing most of our top level photography, I have started a new WordPress blog dedicated totally to my experiences in and around Mexico and her culture.

It's up now, has a few posts and I'd love you to visit, give us a look.  If you like it, please take the next step to subscribe and recommend it to your family and friends, asking them to also subscribe.  We want to win a few awards next year for our work and no matter how good your blog is, you need readers, so please, come on over to Dave Miller's Mexico and follow me on the journey to My Mexico!

Blessing to all of you.  I'll still be commenting here and there when something catches my fancy or gets my goat, but this will be my last post here at the mission.

(All material posted on this blog is the sole property of Dave Miller (c) and represents his personal views.  This blog is in no way, nor has it ever been officially associated with Adventures in Life Ministry, for whom Dave has worked for over 20 years.)

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Lila Downs Wows in Las Vegas

While many people hunkered down avoiding black cats, ladders and broken mirrors on the night of Friday the 13th, a small group of about a thousand people braved the odds and were rewarded with a wonderful night of music at the House of Blues in Las Vegas.
From my seat at one of the tables close to the stage, I had the perfect perch from which to not only see the show on stage unimpeded, but also to experience the feel of this wonderfully designed showroom.
There, backed by a seven piece band, and a great multimedia program, Grammy award winning Mexican born singer Lila Downs thrilled the audience with her unique interpretations of the heart, soul, and unique battles of what is means to be from Mexico. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Syria is not our issue... Heed your own words President Obama...

News is breaking everywhere that a military strike on Syria from the United States is imminent.  If news reports are to be believed, our President and Secretary of Defense Hagel are knee deep in preparations to bomb Syria, perhaps as early as this weekend.

Much less certain is what President Obama hopes to accomplish by bombing another sovereign nation that has not attacked the United States and is not planning to do so.

It seems like a million years ago that a young junior senator from Illinois named Barack Obama launched his bid to become President of the United States.  Here is what he said in a 2002 speech condemning potential military involvement in Iraq.  It would soon become the basis of his campaign for the presidency.

“Now let me be clear: I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power.... The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him. 
But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors...and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history. 
I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. 
I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda.”

Those were strong words back then... and they should be heeded today. 

The parallels are surprisingly similar.  Hussein was in fact a brutal man, just as Assad in Syria is.  Hussein did in fact butcher his own people, even using gas in Halabja to secure his power, just as we allege President Assad has done in his country.

But also like Hussein before him, Assad does not pose an imminent or direct threat to the United States or his neighbors, and in the end, will ultimately go the way of all “petty dictators into the dustbin of history” to quote the man that is now our President.

Senator Obama opposed military action in Iraq because, in his opinion, it lacked a clear rational and strong international support and would “...fan the flames of the Middle East and encourage the worst...”  Mr. President, what will be different in Syria?

The American people are not with you in this.

You have presented no clear rational for our impending attacks.  Is it simply to punish the current regime?  You have not made your case to the American people as to why we should offer up our most treasured resources of life, limb and blood in yet another war, or military action of choice, and not of necessity.

There is no international consensus whether we should attack Syria, as there was for the first Gulf War in 1991 and you’ve offered no reasons why an attack from the US will not, as you so eloquently stated in 2002, encourage the worst of the Arab world and strengthen the recruitment of al-Qaeda.

This is not our war.

If the leaders in the Middle East are uncomfortable with Mr. Assad and his brutality, let them handle him.  Until our president tells us why it is in our national interest to start bombing a country that has never attacked us and is presenting no clear and present danger to the United States of America, our pilots, soldiers and sailors should not be sent into harms way.

A mythical line in the sand is not sufficient justification for risking the lives of Americans halfway around the world.  State Senator Barack Obama of Illinois would never have approved and President Obama should not either.

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Sunday, July 21, 2013

Trayvon Martin... are we honoring Christ in how we respond?

I’m not even going to try and wade into the legal mumbo jumbo of the recently decided Trayvon Martin case.  Better, and in some cases, lesser minds than mine, have already said probably too much regarding this tragic situation.

No matter which way the jury decided, a significant part of our country was going to be upset.  Sadly, it is where we are as a country that when there is a significant case that revolves, even tangentially around race, we will not agree.

But it is not that disagreement that has me wishing there was another way.

It is how we have decided to disagree.

I have seen good friends call each other idiots, fools, racists, stupid and ignorant.  And this is just what I can print.  If you look across the blogosphere, from both liberals and conservatives, you will see an amount of vitriol that surpasses anything in recent memory.

Not only does there not seem to be a way to disagree agreeably, there is a surprising lack of interest in either side to consider the point of view of the other.

This would not be so unnerving to me were it not for the fact that a great majority of the people of whom I am speaking claim to either love God, follow in the steps of Jesus, or be Christians.

If you know me, you know I’ve always struggled to connect the teachings of Jesus and Paul to where we live our daily lives.  Some days are better than others for me in this regard.  Like many, I too often lose my temper, especially when driving and will let lose with an indignant dry of “Throckmorton” or worse when someone cuts me off or is not driving as I think he or she should.

It’s a bad habit and I know it, but I try to keep my indignation confined to my car and my unlucky companions at that moment.

However with the Martin case, people have decided to publicly let loose with all sorts of venom.  Facebook, twitter and any other social sites are full of contempt for anyone who dares to have a different outlook on this case.  It seems as if both sides have dug in, decided the other is wrong, and have thrown caution to wind, confident in the strength of their position.

This is no holds barred trench warfare and let the loudest voice win, regardless of the impact on friendships, or how it makes the family of God look.  Leonard Sweet once asked the question “Would we rather be right, or in relationship?”  Clearly it seems many have chosen to be right.

Is it any wonder people look at Christians and ask why anyone would want to be part of such a loving bunch.

I doubt the angels are rejoicing today in heaven at how we are conducting ourselves.

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Thursday, June 27, 2013

¡Mezcal! Entendamos la bebida más de onda en los EE.UU.

Yo miraba mientras el joven, quién quería ser un mezcalero maestro, esperaba nerviosamente.  Aquél joven vino a In Situ... la meca de mezcalerías... en dónde Ulises Torrentera, el Don de mezcal en Oaxaca, dedica cada día a su búsqueda para los mezcales más perfectos de Oaxaca.

El joven le ofrecía una prueba a aquél romántico moderno, quién le parece mucho a Diego Rivera.  Mientras probaba, el Don hacía unas preguntas antes de pronunciar un veredicto.

Para muchos americanos, pensar en mezcal es pensar en imágenes del actor Clint Eastwood en una de sus películas de vaquero con un cigarrillo en una mano y una botella de bebida con gusano en la otra.  Sin embargo, como lo explica Ulises, ya no es así: el mezcal ya está ganando lugar entre los grandes licores del mundo, saliendo de las sombra de su hermano mayor, el tequila.

El mezcal, un licor embriagador que puede transportarte a un lugar de memorias increíbles, se está convirtiendo rápidamente en uno de los licores de onda en ciudades estadounidenses como Seattle y Chicago.  Parte de ésta nueva popularidad es la gran variedad de mezcales que se producen en México, principalmente en el estado de Oaxaca.

Ulises, David y su Amigo Paco Garcia
Recientemente, visité con Ulises con el propósito de aprender cómo piensa él y de aprender de ésta bebida fabulosa.  Como dice mi amigo Paco Garcia, “Oaxaca es mezcal y mezcal es Oaxaca”, o, en otras palabras, “David, no se puede comprender Oaxaca a menos que se comprenda el mezcal!”

En una entrevista que cubría desde terroir [es integralmente importante] hasta su deseo como niño de ser escritor, empezamos con la historia vieja del mezcal.

Mezcal . . . un repaso

El mezcal como lo reconocemos hoy tiene ya más de 400 años de edad, a pesar de la insistencia de algunas personas que es un éxito nuevo  Descubierto y destilado por la gente indígena de México, el mezcal tiene una historia compleja.

Por cierto tiempo, el mezcal sufría una persecución más común en los Estados Unidos.  Acusado de ser responsable para todo tipo de maldad, su peor pecado fue que era la bebida preferida de las clases bajas para sus fiestas y sus celebraciones.  La clase alta de México (la gran mayoría de ella siendo europea) lo echaba la culpa por el crimen, las enfermedades de niños, la violencia y la corrupción.  Naturalmente, esto contribuyó a su prohibición.

Llegamos a la primera mitad del siglo veinte y la industrialización de la producción de la tequila.  México, con su cultura de machismo, aceptó a la tequila y tiró a un lado el mezcal, siendo que el mezcal tenía la reputación de ser algo bajo y primitivo.

Pasando a la segunda mitad del siglo veinte, vemos que la versión moderna del mezcal tomaba forma en Matatlán, la Cuña del Mezcal, una región al este de la Ciudad de Oaxaca.

El Maguey y el Proceso

Ulises, el Don de Mezcal en Oaxaca
Cocinado en ollas de barro y cobre en palenques locales, el mezcal era preparado por mezcaleros locales utilizando los métodos de destilar que ocupaban sus antepasados hace muchos s
iglos cuando la gente indígena de México descubrió que se podía hacer un alcohol fuerte por destilar la pulpa y los jugos del maguey y el agave.

Después de cosechar el maguey, se lo concina en un horno volcánico invertido.  Se lo muele con un muela antes de echarlo en tinas de madera para fermentar.  Dependiendo del mezcalero, se lo puedo destilar varias veces y ponerlo en botellas para vender.

Como dice Ulises, este proceso no se ha cambiado mucho a través de los siglos.  El cambio más grande será las ollas de cobre, aunque algunos palenques siguen usando las ollas de barro.

Hay tres tipos de magueys que se usan en la mayoría de los mezcales que vienen de Oaxaca.  El más popular es el espadín.  Alto con ramas que llegan a ser hasta dos metros, el espadín se madura en siete años.  Aunque lleva años en madurarse, lo bueno es que se reproduzca fácilmente.  Esta facilidad de reproducir explica la presencia de estancias en Oaxaca donde se puede encontrar miles de este tipo de maguey.

Magueys Espadin, Madre Cuishe
y Tobalá
Los otros dos tipos principales de maguey son el madre cuishe y el tobala.  Estos magueyes son especial a causa de los sabores complejos que dan al mezcal.  Sin embargo, el madre cuishe y el tobala no son tan numerosas como el espadín porque toman quince años para madurarse.  A pesar de las esfuerzas de mezcaleros dedicados, como la familia Garcia de Wahaka Mezcal, no se ha logrado mucho éxito en reproducir ni uno ni otro de estos magueyes.

Ulises dice que esto es un crises.  Si los intentos de proteger los magueyes silvestres no tienen éxito, no habrá cantidades suficientes de las plantas silvestres para satisfacer la demanda creado por la gente que quiere las matices que dan al mezcal.  Hay que preguntarse qué haría la industria si de repente se encontrara una escasez.  No hay muchos mezcaleros que quieren pensar en eso.  En lugar de eso, escogen esperar que la naturaleza resolverá los problemas que se formen.

Mientras confrontan este problema, algunos están decidiendo a mezclar varios tipos de magueyes como parte de su estrategia por sobrevivir.  Estas esfuerzas en mezclar los sabores nos dan algo que la maestra mezcalera Cecilia Rios, La Niña de Mezcal, llaman “la belleza del mezcal”.

La tequila se trata de la uniformidad, pero cada tipo de mezcal se diferente y nos provee con su propia aventura.  Esto se atribuye en una parte a la gran variedad de los magueyes que se usan en la producción del mezcal; de otra parte, se atribuye al local donde se crece el maguey.  Esto se llama “el terroir”.

El Terroir 

Según lo que dicen muchos mezcaleros, el terroir es el factor que más influye el sabor del maguey y, por extensión, el sabor del mezcal.  El medio ambiente, la tierra, la altitud y el clima se combinan en hacer un papel crítico.

Un aficionado refinado puede distinguir las diferencias sutiles en las minerales, la flora local y el clima de la región donde se encuentre el maguey.

Por eso, mucho screen que el palenque y el mezcalero deben de ubicarse muy cerca de su maguey.  Es esta proximidad y familiaridad que hace el retrato completo. Por unirse con la tierra, conocer sus plantas y el ambiente local y por usar los procesos antiguos, el mezcalero completa el círculo con su antepasados.

Como dice Ulises, esto es indispensable.

Yo le pregunté a Ulises si piensa que el mezcal llegará a ser más popular en los Estados Unidos.  Me dijo que esperaba que no, porque él quiere que la gente venga a Oaxaca para probar los grandes mezcales.

¿Por qué?

Porque Oaxaca es mezcal y mezcal es Oaxaca!

(c) Copyright Dave Miller 2013 - 2016. All Rights Reserved.
Translated by Brian Cumings

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Friday, June 07, 2013

Faux Mexican? Five ways to know your food may be great, but not Mexican...

An old friend who was raised in Mexico told me about the day his dad came to him after they had lived in the states for many years.  “Octavio” he said, “Tonight we are going out to dinner to a Mexican restaurant.  The food will not be Mexican, but it will be delicious.”

So off Octavio went with his family years ago in the San Gabriel Valley east of Los Angeles to get some “Mexican” food.  When he told me the story, Octavio told me his dad was 100% correct.  The food was wonderful, but it was not Mexican.

Gustavo Arellano, in his excellent book “Tacos USA, How Mexican Food Conquered America” would argue with the assessment that it was not Mexican.  He celebrates all the variations of Mexican food, from mission style burritos to the famous combination plate laden with rice, beans and fried tacos as he explains in this great interview.

All of this came back to me last night after a visit to Wahoo’s Tacos here in Las Vegas.  The food was indeed delicious, but Mexican? Not a chance.  A burrito with lettuce?  Cajun beans?  Seriously guys, simply serving food centered around tortillas and Modelo Negro beer doesn’t get you into the panteon of quality Mexican Restaurants now spreading around the country.

With that experience close at hand, as a public service, I’d like to offer five clues you’ll see if your local taco shack is more Taco Bell than what we’ll find south of the border, down Mexico way...

1. If the beans on that combo plate you ordered are covered in triangles of yellow cheese or the grated four cheese blend you can get at your corner market, you won’t find it south of the border.

I have never seen a Mexican variety of yellow cheese.  Cheese in Mexico is usually white and if it is served on beans, tends to the crumbly queso fresco type.

2. If your tacos come with any of the following, ground beef, lettuce, tomato slices, grated cheese, yellow wax paper or even turkey, you are not in Mexico.

Tacos come with onions and cilantro in Mexico.  They are also made with steak and all the other parts of the cow or pig, but never have I seen a taco filled with ground beef.

3. If you can order shrimp, chicken, steak or any other type of fajitas, you won’t be finding that plate in too many taco stands or restaurants in Mexico.

Sorry folks, as wonderful as fajitas can be, I’ve never seen fajitas in Mexico.  I’m sure they are served somewhere in that great country, but this is a dish popularized by the Orange County restaurant chain El Torito in the 1980’s.

4. When you ask for salsa and the spiciest option you get is Amor or Tapatio bottled sauce, you certainly are not ordering your food in Guadalajara.

In Mexico, we love our chiles.  Habañeros, jalapeños, serranos and chiles de agua, we love them all, and expect to experience these tastes in our food.  Unfortunately, the American palette is not ready for this type of experience so we mostly get a tomato blend spiced up with a little bit of pepper.

5. Finally, when you walk in the door, if the first thing that greets you is a wall of mariachi hats or a chile in a beach chair, you can bet you’re gonna get a lot of that yellow cheese covered stuff.

The derivative here is that if you see folks getting drunk wearing mariachi hats and dancing like loons, you are more likely in Papas-n-Beer or the old Carlos Murphy’s than an authentic Mexican restaurant.

So there you have it.  My top five ways to know you are not in an authentic Mexican restaurant, at least as I’ve experienced it in my 20 years in Mexico.

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Monday, June 03, 2013

Spring is in the air... and so is FEMA

Please tell me why.

I'll preface this by saying what I am talking about is not likely to be popular.

But please tell me why people continue to live in areas that are so vulnerable to extreme weather disasters?  And while you are at it, please tell me why the people that choose to live in those areas are entitled to continued government aid from those of us who have made better choices as to where to live.

Now before you stop reading and send me a note that this is a symptom of the liberal mindset, a few facts.

FEMA was started in 1979 by Executive Order under Democratic President Carter.  But the roots of government aid in the face of national disasters go all the way back to the 1930's under Republican President Hoover.  Programs were expanded, contracted, improved, or let to languish under administrations of both parties.  Additionally, congressional leaders of both parties have been critics and boosters of this type government aid, depending on whether or not their citizens, or better said, political constituents were affected.  In short, the history of federal aid to states, localities, and individual citizens, in the face of tragedy has been truly bipartisan.

There is no other way to honestly characterize this reality, so let's not go there.  Instead, let's ask some tough questions.

For hundreds of years the mighty Mississippi has flooded, sending waves of water into cities and homes up and down the banks of this important river.  And for years, government has been paying to help rebuild peoples homes, renovate farms, and bail out businesses that have chosen to live in a place where almost annually, the river floods.

New Orleans is a city sitting on a powder keg, or rather, under that powder keg given its below sea level status.  Due to the risk of flooding, dikes and sea walls are maintained at a huge cost to tax payers so that people can live in an area of almost constant risk.

Across the midwest, people live in what is called Tornado Alley, so named because almost every year, tornados rip into this area like what we have seen in the last few weeks.

Recently, President Obama and Governor Chris Christie celebrated the continued rebuilding of the Jersey Shore, devastated by Hurricane Sandy, largely on the dime of the federal government.  Soon you can bet that our President will be standing beside Governor Brown in California pledging support for people whose homes were lost in yet another forest fire raging in that state.

Year after year, time after time, people in places like Florida, Iowa, Oklahoma, California and Missouri swamp the government with requests for aid, help and relief from their poor decisions to live in areas of risk.  It is as if we have forgotten the old real estate maxim of caveat emptor, or buyer beware.

I am not against government giving immediate aid and relief to people who have been devasted by things like Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, intense flooding like what we saw recently in San Antonio and the recent spate of tornados that have moved across our great country.  When people are in immediate peril, our governments, state, local and national should spring to action to help those get to safety.  Our goal should be to do all we can to save lives and get people out of harms way.

What I am against is the constant paying for, in some cases time and time again, the rebuilding of homes and businesses in known disaster prone areas.  You want to live in a forest or or on the coast?  You cannot imagine giving up your view of the Oklahoma Plain?  Fine, but you should accept the risk and the consequences of your decision, because disaster in those areas is fairly common and predictable.

Why should someone like me, who lives in a relatively safe state, but pays for that with extreme summer heat, have to effectively subsidize those who choose to live on the Jersey Shore, Gulf Coast or the mountains above Los Angeles?

You want to live there?  Fine with me.  You want to rebuild your home below sea level in New Orleans?  By all means, feel free to do so.  But beyond life saving emergency aid, you should not expect your government to be your rebuilding partner.  Get yourself some insurance.  Save your money for a rainy day. Tap your relatives, but don't expect me to pay to rebuild your patio overlooking a hurricane plagued seashore or a tornado prone great plain.

As President Obama has repeatedly said, we, the people of the United States, are here to help when there is a need.

What we should not be here to do is repeatedly rescue people from the poor decisions they have made to live in harms way. You want to live there?  Go right ahead.  It's your right.  But if you are living in an area that has a history of repeated disaster, you should not expect me. the federal, or any other level of government to rescue your from your bad judgment or continued stubbornness.

What say you?

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