Steven Skiena: Betting on Jai Alai

Holly Emblem is the editor of They recently published an interview with Steven Skiena, author of Calculated Bets. Skiena, a Professor of Computer Science at the State University of New York, is also a fan of jai alai, a passion he picked up during a family vacation to Florida when he was a kid.  As noted in the interview, “From early teenage invention Clyde, to the jai alai betting machine that is Maven, Skiena book charts an arduous journey of applying mathematics to gambling.”

I haven’t read the book, but it certainly seems interesting.  Skiena focuses on gambling as it relates to sports and says “if you don’t understand the mathematics, you shouldn’t gamble,” which makes a great deal of sense.  His passion for jai alai certainly intrigues me.  I’ll be looking for his book.

Eskerrik asko, Holly!

New Book: Spanish and Basque Legends

Richard Marsh’s imprint, Legendary Books, has just released it’s newest title, Spanish and Basque Legends.  Focused mostly on Spanish legends, including El Cid, Fernán González, and The Seven Princes of Lara, it also includes a number of Basque tales. All told, 76 stories are featured, including The Jaun Zuria Cycle:

  • Jaun Zuria – The Golden-haired Lord
  • The Death of Lekobide
  • The Death of Munso López
  • The Goat-foot Lady

For more information, including how to purchase the book, check out Richard’s website.

Today in Basque History: Charles IV of Nafarroa, Miners strike, Jon Bilbao dies, First woman president

1453: After being imprisoned for more than two years after his defeat in his quest to claim his throne from his father, Charles IV of Nafarroa is set free after his father, John II, is pressured by deputies of the Kingdom of Aragon. Charles tries again to claim his throne and is again defeated and imprisoned, though is freed again after the Catalonians revolt in protest. At that time, he is made governor of Catalonia, but soon dies, possibly of poison. During his time in prison, he writes the Chronicle of Navarre, the primary source on the history of the lineage of the kings of Nafarroa.

1890: Miners in Bilbao, having striked against their employers because of bad working conditions (sleeping in barracks, often three to a bed; work hours from dawn to dusk; forced to buy food from the companies; irregular pay), return to work. With the police unable to stop the strike, which eventually comprised 28,000 workers, 16,000 of which were miners, the military had been called in, under the command of General Loma, who established the “pacto de Loma” which improved some of the working conditions. However, the failure of the companies to observe these conditions led to subsequent strikes.

1994: Jon Manuel Bilbao Azkarreta who, along with William A. Douglass, founded the Basque Studies Program (later to be known as the Center for Basque Studies) at the University of Nevada, Reno, dies in Vitoria-Gasteiz. His many accomplishments include building the Basque Studies Program Library; founding Eusko Bibliographia (the Institute of Basque Bibliography) and Harriluze, an institute dedicated to the study of the Basque diaspora; and the books Eusko Bibliographia, Los Vascos en Cuba, and Amerikanuak: Basques in the New World (with William A. Douglass).

2005: Izaskun Bilbao Barandika, born in Bermeo, is elected President of the Basque Parliament, the first woman to hold that post in the history of that body.

Today in Basque History: Siege of Zaragoza, Guerrillas against Napoleon, Basque opera

1118: The forces of Alfonso the Battler, King of Aragon and Nafarroa, besiege Zaragoza in an effort to reconquer the city from the Moors. After a siege of nine months, the city falls to Alfonso, who promptly makes Zaragoza the capital of Aragon.

1809: Mariano Renovales Revollar, soldier from Bizkaia, organizes a guerrilla campaign in the Nafarroan Roncal and defeats the troops of General D’Agoult of Napoleon’s army. He later participated in a plot to restore the Constitution of 1812 and had to flee Bilbao, ultimately landing first in New Orleans, where he published his celebrated Manifesto, and then Havana, where, after an argument with an official, he was imprisoned and later died.

1920: The opera Amaya, composed by Jesus Guridi Bidaola, premieres at the Coliseo Albia in Bilbao. Accompanied by the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra and the Bilbao Choral Society (led by Juan de Grignon Lamote), Amaya is considered the greatest opera of Basque musical nationalism. Guridi would use themes of Basque folklore in his operettas El Caserio (1926) and Mari Eli (1936).

Today in Basque History: Death of a korrikalari, Children refugees, World’s best female climber

1922: Jacinto Etxenagusia races against the Franco-Belgian Leon De Nys along the famous 13 kilometer Zarauz-Aia route, the setting for countless numbers of wagers. Etxenagusia had earlier beat Vicente Erro, who had covered the Tolosa-Pamplona-Tolosa course, 125 kilometers, in just over 15 hours. However, De Nys was a professional runner with excellent times on the track in Paris. At 11:30 in the morning, under a relentless sun, Jacinto Etxenagusia sets off. The Belgian follows three minutes and forty-five seconds later. De Nys takes 54 minutes and five seconds to run the 13 kilometres separating the two towns. Etxenagusia drops panting to the wayside. He died two days later after intense suffering. This type of race, between two Korrikalaris for wagers, was common in the Basque Country until the 1970s.

1937: The ship Habana leaves Santurtzi for England with about 4000 children, refugees from the Spanish Civil War. It first stops in Stoneham, with the hope that the children would later be distributed by various reception centers. However, the stay at Stoneham is longer than expected, with the children sheltered in some 250 tents, prepared by the Basque Children’s Committee. They are latter scattered across the whole of Britain.

1998: Josune Bereziartu becomes the first woman to climb an 8c, the Honky Tonky of Araotz, in Onati. Born in Lazkao, Gipuzkoa, in 1972, she is recognized as the best female climber in the world. In 2002, she established a new women’s world record, ascending the Swiss Bain du sang, with a difficulty of 9a. She blogs about her experiences at

The Crime of Old Blas, Part I, by Catulle Mendes

I found this searching for old texts related to the Basque Country. This story is set in the Basque Country, though that is the only Basque connection of the story. But, it also features two characters named Blas, so I had a particular affinity to it. Parts II and III will be coming soon.

The Crime of Old Blas


Catulle Mendes

Part I: Old Blas and Young Blas

It is a pleasant thing to begin a hard day’s work by sitting down in the low-ceilinged dining-room of the farm house, amid the copper vessels glistening in the opening daylight, before the well scrubbed wooden table and, leaning drowsily on the elbow, to eat long slices of black bread, moistened in milk still foaming round the edge of the bowl.

Cadije, twenty-nine years old, bare-armed, her rosy face made still more glowing by her red cotton, Basque head-dress, goes to the foot of the staircase and cries, “Heavens! are they deaf, those people up there ? Halloo, father, husband, boy! Are you not ashamed to be sleeping still, after I am up?”

Continue reading

Today in Basque History: Battle of Cocherel, Invasion of Nafarroa, Bilbao Fortune

Unfortunately, I’ve been too swamped with work to keep up with the Today in Basque History articles.  I’ll do them as I get a chance, and hopefully fill in missing days in future years.  If anyone would like to assist me in this endeavor, please feel free to contact me.

1364: The Battle of Cocherel takes place. Charles II of Nafarroa had designs on the Duchy of Burgundy, which the newly crowned Charles V of France wished to give to his brother, Philip II. In the Battle of Cocherel, Nafarroan forces under the command of Jean de Grailly, an English knight and Captal of Buch, meet French forces led by Bertrand du Guesclin, who soundly defeated the Nafarroans. The Navarran army took up a defensive position, as was standard English tactics, forcing du Guesclin to be the aggressor. Du Guesclin managed to break the defensive formation by attacking and then pretending to retreat, which tempted the enemy from their hill in pursuit. A flank attack by du Guesclin’s reserve then won the day. The victory forced Charles II into a new peace with the French king, and secured Burgundy for Philip.

1521: A French-Nafarroan army, led by André de Foix, Lord of Asparros, invades High Nafarroa via Roncesvalles with the end of reconquering kingdom of Nafarroa for King Henry II of Albret. Two days later, the Lord of Asparros, leading his army, reaches Villava. On the following day, the 19th of May, he receives a delegation of distinguished men from Pamplona, who had risen against the Spanish. The Lord of Asparros hears and accepts their demands. That same day, according to tradition, he swears to keep and respect the Fueros of Nafarroa while the delegation swears allegiance to Henry II.

1800: Simon Gurtubay Zubero, Bizkaian businessman, is born in Igorre. An error, legendary in the history of the town, changed his fortune. During the second Carlist siege of Bilbao, he sent a telegram to his suppliers, asking to send him “100 o 120” pieces of bacalao of highest quality. A typographic error replaced the “o” with a “0”, and he received 1,000,120 pieces. This filled the food shortage of the besieged city, popularized the ues of cod, and made him one of the first fortunes of Bilbao.

Today in Basque History: Pedro de Ayala, Juan de Onate, Basque theater, and more

1407-04-161407: Pedro II López de Ayala, politician and writer born in Vitoria, dies in Calahorra. He originally supported Pedro of Castille in his claim to the throne before switching sides to support the pretender to the throne, Henry of Trastamara. He fought with Henry at the Battle of Najera (Navarette) in 1367 and was captured by the Black Prince but was later released. He is best remembered for his Libro Rimado de Palacio (“Palace Verse” or “Rhymes of the Court”), in which he acidly describes his contemporaries and their social, religious, and political values.

1605-04-161605: Juan De Oñate, founder of Santa Fe, New Mexico, inscribes his name on El Moro, a sandstone promontory that features ancient Native American petroglyphs. The Inscription reads “Passed by here the Governor Don Juan De Oñate, from the discovery of the Sea of the South on the 16th of April, 1605.”

1825: Willem J. Van Eys, Dutch linguist who dedicated more than 30 years of his life to the study of Euskara, is born in Amsterdam.

1861: Toribio Alzaga Anabitarte is born in Donostia. He is the most popular author of works for theater in the Basque language. He wrote his comedy, Aterako gera (We will leave) in 1888 from his refuge in Ziburu. From then on, he dedicated his life to comedies and even opera, always in Euskara.

1933: The second Aberri Eguna, or Basque National Day, is celebrated in Donostia. The central meeting takes place in the field of Atotxa. Speakers include Manuel Carrasco Formiguera, President of the Democratic Union of Catalonia and Francesc Maspons Anglasell and Ewal Ammende, vice president and general secretary of the Congress of European Nationalities (CNE).

1989: Pedro Manuel de Arístegui Petit, Gipuzkoan diplomat, is killed in Beirut, along with his father-in-law and sister-in-law, by a Syrian rocket while he was Spain’s ambassador to Lebanon.

Signed copy of ETA – Estimated Time of Arrest by Delphine Pontvieux

MissNyet HIGHRESDelphine Pontvieux, author of ETA – Estimated Time of Arrest, has a special offer for readers of Buber’s Basque Page:

During the month of April, when you buy ETA – Estimated Time of Arrest on, you will receive a special “Estimated Time of Arrest” bookmark for free, as well as a signed copy of the book by the author!

Offer valid until April 30th, 2010 only on purchases made via

Egunkaria askatu da!

egunkaria-p13At the time of its closing, in 2003, Egunkaria was the only daily newspaper published solely in Euskara.  It had been in operation for 13 years.  In 2003, however, Spanish authorities raided the offices of Egunkaria, confiscating computers and equipment, and arresting many of the leading figures of the newspaper.  The charges were association with ETA.  Those arrested were Iñaki Uria, Joan Mari Torrealdai, Txema Auzmendi, Xabier Alegria, Pello Zubira, Xabier Oleaga, and Martxelo Otamendi, who was editor of the paper.

In a case that has lasted these 7 years, the five defendants that were still being prosecuted — Iñaki Uria, Juan Mari Torrealdai, Jose Maria Auzmendi, Xabier Oleaga and Martxelo Otamendi — were finally acquitted of any wrong doing.  During this time, Martxelo went on to become editor of Berria, currently the only Euskara-only newspaper in the Basque Country.  But, the actions by the Spanish authorities did result in the liquidation of Egunkaria’s assets and thus the closure of the newspaper, a result of a set of charges that not once lead to any conviction.

For more information, see this Wikipedia entrythis report on EiTB, and this article by the Guardian.

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