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English-language version of Luistxo Fernandez's blog

The Wall Street Journal says Basque isn't used in real life

Luistxo Fernandez 2007/11/07 09:39
The Wall Street Journal has decided to insult Basque speakers. What a shame of an article. It's hard to be a minority language speaker, precisely when it's minoritised even in your own land... And yet, looks as if Spanish speakers are the ones being persecuted by Inquisition. No. It's Spanish Inquisition the one that in the 21st century decided to close the only Basque-language daily newspaper, based in false accusations. As false as all content in that article.

Of course, the journalist got collaboration from local idiots. "Euskera just isn't used in real life", says a member of the Basque Parliament. If you're reading this here, you may follow the links to my Basque blog, this public discussion about the Guggenheim Bilbao or the Wikipedia. I hope that proves that Basque is at least used in virtual life.

Besides, the news item in the web mentions a correction regarding that map. Spain's Basque Country, at its widest point, spans approximately 85 miles, or 136.8 kilometers. A map that accompanied a previous version of this article had an incorrect scale. I wonder what they showed previously. But masquarading the Basque Country's map as the Hoped-for Basque homeland shows the political intent of the report.

Not all Basque maps published by American media are so deceptive. This map below was published by the National Geographic Magazine in 1997. Well, that's Euskal Herria. And Euskal Herria means (not difficult to grasp) Basque Country = Pays Basque = País Vasco.

Bernardo Atxaga blogs

Luistxo Fernandez 2007/10/22 12:25
Bernardo Atxaga is the nom-de-guerre of Basque writer Joseba Irazu (Asteasu, 1951). He's the best known Basque writer that we have, the one who has been more widely translated. Now he has a website, in three languages (Spanish, English and Basque), and a weblog as well, that blog only in Basque with no replies. However, the news section has a RSS feed if you want to follow him.

A little work by the company I work for.

Geodata in Twitter's and Jaiku's APIs

Luistxo Fernandez 2007/10/11 17:15
In a travel he made to the Basque Country (he attended a conference) last july, Jyri Engestrom of Jaiku showed interest in meeting the local webscene. Some friends organised that and it was a nice afternoon to talk. I already chronicled that.

(pic by Miguel Garcia, main organizer of that meetup)

Now that Google bought Jaiku, I feel happy for Jyri, his team and family. I hope this is a opportunity to keep pushing this tool. However, just a reminder. Not only Jyri talked at that Basque meetup, but we at the audience also presented some slides. I talked about Geography in microblogging and presence apps. I guess the slide show is always a insuficient way to substitute the talk, but there it is.

However, I would like to raise a point. Comparing Twitter and Jaiku, and how they present location in their systems and APIs, Jaiku gets the upper hand for now. Location is, for the moment, just a string in Twitter, meaning anything. In Jaiku it's more structured, a triple layer of Country / City / Neighborhood is stored, and when combined with the celltagging capabilities of their Nokia mobile client app, that becomes quite useful to determine location of people in your circle:


That's more structured than Twitter's but, please, Jaikuites, make it a little bit more structured:


It would be great to interact with that kind of data thru the API, writing and reading. And, certainly, opening the celltagging data would make us salivate even more ;-)

Microsoft software protects cornfield from birds

Luistxo Fernandez 2007/10/10 17:29
Lately it's usual to find shinning CDs hanging from here and there: they work as scaregrows or to deter birds from crashing into wide transparent windows.

Microsoft arto-saila zaintzen

But in this cornfield in Gaintza, in the Basque Country, the CDs that I found last weekend were particularly interesting: profesional software licensed by Microsoft. Finally, Microsoft's products find a fair and useful application, althought I have doubts if this is legally permitted by the TOS.

This also makes me think about things I've read lately, the momentum of innovation passing from bits to atoms. Well, here we have software being used because of the physical features of its incarnation.

Who will buy OpenStreetMap next?

Luistxo Fernandez 2007/10/02 16:27
After TomTom buying Teleatlas in July, now Nokia buys Navteq. Well, who will buy OpenStreetMap next? They are a hot asset now. I heard that after comment #23 in this BoingBoing post, Miss Teen South Carolina joined them as well to map the US and improve the current state of mental mapping there (image source):

The world needs geography. There's the case of that other TV personality in the US who couldn't tell if the world's flat or not. These two recent gaffes reminded me of another pageant contest in Spain. The Russian ambassador in Spain was part of the jury (hard diplomatic mission, you see) and asked the girl to talk briefly about Russia.

Well, Russia is a country... full of marvelous people... and there's been some political, er, changes, lately, and cannot tell much more.

Monolingual Basques in Ellis Island

Luistxo Fernandez 2007/09/25 17:33
The New York Times opens its content. No more paid access to their archives. Good news, and already people have put it in use. I see references in Kottke. A similar attempt was carried in the Basque newspaper Berria: they found and portrayed a curious story from 1911, of a group of 150 inmigrants that arrived into Ellis Island with Basque as their only language spoken. Somehow, they manage for communication, hopefully, and then they headed for Idaho.

Attracted by the story, I researched a little bit more in And I found partial records and names of those monolingual Basqques that arrived in that ship, La Touraine, in March 1911.

It's not easy to search for people arriving on a certain date. You have to search for a name... Try with Bustengorry here.

Basques arriving at Ellis Island, 1911

In the results, the ship manifest lets you see the list of people arriving, but I doubt if you get the whole document or the portion where the given name (Bustengorry in our case) appears. But, well, I found people that arrived that day of march, unnamed in the NYT, but now finally public
  • Jean Bustengorry (we would write Buztingorri now, in normalised Basque), from Baigorri
  • Jean Etchegarray (Etxegarai), of Banka
  • Marie Indiana (probably it's Inda), from Aldude
  • Benito Maya (Maia), of Senpere
  • and more
I visited Ellis Island ten years ago, on a trip to the US with my wife. It's an emotive place, worth a visit if you go to New York City. My ethnic impulses were gratified when I saw that the big map in the main hall, listing inmigrant communities in the US by ethnicity, lists Basques distinctly.

Share code snippets and tips with Kelpi

Luistxo Fernandez 2007/09/04 16:43
Kelpi is a new web service and project created by a coleague of mine, Nando Quintana. It's an application to share code snippets, recipes and tips, all free software, with an API and else. Here are some things Nando himself has posted regarding a very promising web project, Freebase.

I'm not a programmer, so I could hardly make any use of it, but nevertheless I sent Nando my wishlist:
  • RSS versions for all pages (already in the workings, as I've learned afterwards)
  • Let the posting interface also show a field for description. Something's coming in this sense.
  • .po based i18n, and then l10n based in so people may contribute with translations.
  • A non-code version. For users like me, of course, but also with some practical uses: Kelpi for haiku exchange, famous quotes repositories... clickable URLs (just another free delicious clone? yes, why not?)
  • Follow list: user and/or tag aggregation: add usernames or tags to a list, and that becomes your "follow list": subscribe to that single RSS to view your personal Kelpi setting. Possible uses: free Twitter clone: in a non-code version where people post "status messages", "presence notes" or any short notices, the follow list becomes a river of tweets that you follow.

Paleolithic art endangered in Praileaitz

Luistxo Fernandez 2007/08/04 17:28
The Basque Country is located in the axis of the area where Franco-Cantabrian paleolithic art was developed in Cro-Magnon times... Lascaux, Altamira are eastwards and westwards from our country, and although the findings around are not as spectacular as the ones from those sites, there's a bunch of caves with interesting things.

One of those is Praileaitz, where Magdalenian marvels have appeared. See documentation in English here.

A delicate Venus also was unearthed recently, and paintings have been discovered. New galleries haven't been explored yet, and more caves are presumed to exist in the same hill. Yet Praileaitz is endangered. Look at the map and at the picture: the red arch, that's Praileaitz. A sister-cave called Praileaitz 2 is no longer there...

Scientists and locals have been asking for protection, to stop the mining, and finally a decree with protection measures has been issued by the autonomous Basque Government. I'm just shocked by the decree. The mining will go on, dinamyte explosions are permitted just 100 meters from the paintings. A official map now depicts protection areas (!) shows radiuses with dinamyte cantities allowed. Whatever is left of the mountain, the area where unexplored galleries and caves may exist, can be exploited until disparition. I didn't expect such a joke from a Department of Culture, which is the one that produced this.

Thousands of years of past legacy, a legacy that could be saved for the generations to come, is endangered. What for? 10 years of mining explotation (an economic activity with zero positive side-effects in society, culture, technology or overall local wealth except for a handful of people) and all will be gone.

Please raise awareness if you can. The other side is trying to do so as well: the Real Sociedad, regional football team, has a new sponsor for 2007-2008, Construcciones Amenabar, the mining company responsible for this.  If you happen to know institutions related to prehistoric art, make them know what's happening here. Visitors to the Basque Country: there's beauty and culture at the Guggenheim Museum, yes, but if  you are offered the option to write down a feedback note at any site that you see, mention Praileaitz and ask for effective protection. Thanks.

Interacting around Jaiku

Luistxo Fernandez 2007/07/26 07:52
It's been nice to meet with Jaiku's founder Jyri Engeström twice this week in our little city Donostia. First in this course, and then a meetup with the local geek & blogging scene yesterday. In the university thing, Jyri basically followed this slide show, adding some notes about creativity.

Yesterday, at the meetup, Cadius Donostia Lab (Cadius Donostia being the local mailing list), he spoke more freely about Jaiku.
  • Its origins in mobile, partly because of the background of Jyri at Nokia's R & D section.
  • Its particularly brilliant phone app, suitable for some Nokias, which was quite unknown to us, web users largely, living in a place where flat access rates for mobile Internet are not an easy option.
  • He explained how the mobile Jaiku app does celltagging when posting photos to Flickr. Look at the machinetags in Jyri's pics. Interesting talk about opening databases of geolocated cell antennas.
  • Business model: ad based, and we'll see, let's focus on the product. Don't want to be distracted by carriers asking for particularly tailored apps.
  • Compact team, 7 people. Technically, Jaiku begun on Ruby on Rails, then the web side has been built in PHP, but many components, particularly in the mobile side, are in Python, so they're going to rearrange it pythonically in Django.
  • Localisation. We'll see multilingual Jaiku. They've got advice on this from the i18n team at Mozilla foundation at it will be an open process, if users volunteer to translate into Basque, there will be Basque Jaiku.
The locals also gave some talks. I made a presentation about how I see the interaction between geo-things and these microblogging platforms (Jaiku, Twitter and also Facebook, not microblogging properly but with some resemblance to it): I think Tagzania may have things to do interacting with microblogging sites from that geo perspective. Gorka Julio Teketen spoke about his nanoformats in Twitter and showed some clever Yahoo Pipes examples. He announced that the nanoformat wiki-based process and discussion goes now to, it's been kind of accepted into that group after some contacts between Teketen and Chris Messina, who has been pushing the idea of picoformats. Now, around, pico and nano may converge hopefully.

David Gonzalez Ketari, a local hacker who acts like a one-man-orchestra, announced, a fotolog platform for geolocated pictures. A mixture of Panoramio and fotologs... Ketari's multilingual bloggin app Nireblog has seen great success over the last months, and maybe he'll repeat that with this.
And those were not the only speakers. We all interacted a little bit. 20 people talking freely around web ideas and projects... A good afternoon. We lost the Aubisque finnish of the Tour, won by Rasmussen.... Well thought, I think that we lost nothing.

Jaiku in the Basque Country

Luistxo Fernandez 2007/07/19 16:28
Next week, Jyri Engestrom, the finnish creator of Jaiku, a microblogging/presence web service, comes to Donostia to take part in a summer seminar about creativity and entrepreneurship, have some holidays, and also share a meetup (or lab meeting) with geeks and web fans of the local group Cadius Donostia. Fortunately, 'll be at both events.

Jaiku is fun. I find it more interesting than Pownce, though I see that Twitter has more traction. Then, Facebook came in storm to capture us grown-ups, and that's also some kind of microblogging / networking app. So, can you open accounts in all those and hope to be consistent? Difficult. Right now, my Jaiku account has my Twitter feed among its inputs, and in Facebook I have both apps, the one for Twitter and the one for Jaiku (also Powncer!). So, what I do is, I send msgs to Twitter from Facebook, and as those are fetched by my Jaiku, they're also there. Straight and clear (well, almost).

I'm preparing a lightning talk for the Cadius Lab meetup with Jyri. I'll try to make some points around Geography in microblogging and presence services.

Luistxo works in CodeSyntax, tweets as @Luistxo and tries to manage the automated newssite Niagarank. This Cemetery is part of a distributed multilingual blog (?!). These are the Basque and Spanish versions:

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