A Short Autobiography
by Blas Pedro Uberuaga
Hi there. I'm that deformed and stuttering rock from the hotsprings... I mean Blas Pedro Uberuaga. I'm the guy that maintains this group of pages, which includes Buber's Basque page (for those of you who might not have guessed, Buber and Blas are the same person). I figured I'd give a little bit of an autobiography so that those who care (all 2 of you?) would have a better idea of who I am and where I'm coming from.
Anyways, I was born on January 20, 1971 in Caldwell, Idaho. Caldwell isn't a very exciting place, so right after that my parents moved to Homedale, Idaho. Not that Homedale is any more exciting, but it is a nicer place to live. Homedale is about 40 miles west of Boise, right where the Snake river meets the Oregon border. It's a nice enough town, but it's pretty small. Only 2000 people. But, I have a lot of great friends there, so I don't regret at all having lived there.
My dad, Pedro Uberuaga Zabala, is an immigrant from the Basque Country of northern Spain. He is from Munitibar, Bizkaia, a town even smaller than Homedale. His mom, Feliciana, still lives there, and all of his brothers and sisters live in various parts of the Basque Country, most of them in the towns near Munitibar. (My grandma left Euskal Herria (the Basque Country in Basque) for the first time this summer to come over and visit us. That was really neat!) My dad came to the US when he was 18. Like a lot of Basque men, he came over as a sheepherder, since, at the time, there were special immigration laws allowing Basques to enter the country as sheepherders. He did that for three years and went home. He had planned to come here, make some money and then start his life in the Basque Country. He even bought an apartment when he went back home in Gernika. But, he decided to make another trip to the Western US and then he met my mom and, well, he never really made it back home. At least, not for another 13 years or so.
My mom, Monica Ines Telleria, is from Jordan Valley, Oregon, yet another really small town in the middle of no where. (There is something about my family and really small towns...) Her dad, Jose, was the son of two Basque immigrants. Her mom, Maxine, is the daughter of a merchant, the man who started the first store in Jordan Valley, a store which my grandpa ran until his death, and which is currently operated by my uncle, Robert. My mom grew up in Jordan Valley and then spent a couple of years in California (why, I have no idea) going to college. She eventually went back home and met my dad.
They used to run a trucking business. My dad was the driver, and he hauled hay to all of the local farmers. My mom kept the books. There is something in our family about being independent business people too. My grandpa, my parents... two uncles and an aunt in Spain run bars... eventually I want my own business too. And soon, dammit!
A couple of years ago (something like 1996 or 1997; it's hard to remember, the whole time as a blur), my dad had his third heart attack and that was just a bit too much for him. He needed a heart transplant. He and mom came up to Seattle for a couple of months, where I was at the time. Dad laid in a bed for 80 days waiting for a heart while mom and I visited him every day, trying to cheer him (and ourselves) up. He has since recovered, though the side effects of the drugs have dominated their lives since then.
Anyways, I was the first of three boys. About a year and a half after I was born, Jose Antonio, better known as Tony, was born. Tony got a degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Idaho and now spends his time trying to figure out new ways of getting people to give him their money. :) Seriously, he is a slot machine designer/programmer in Reno, where he just bought a condo, so I think he'll be there a little while. Tony used to be a bartender in college and he was the bartender at my graduation party and he did a damn fine job. He also has a great sense of humor, though he has a pretty good temper too. I've been on the receiving end of it a couple of times (though, not without good reason, I would admit). Tony's a very good tennis player. He went to state a couple of times in high school, though I'm not sure how much he plays anymore...
My other brother, David Paul, is about three years younger than me. He graduated from the U of I too, majoring in environmental science. He's the health nut of the family. For some reason, he has become a vegitarian, while I'm the exact opposite. So, things get a bit difficult for mom when we're both home and she is trying to make dinner. In 2000 that Dave married Shelley, who is a wonderful addition to the family. I don't get to see either of them very much anymore, as they live in Pullman. They recently (on January 23, 2006, my wife Lisa's birthday) welcome two new additions to their family: the twins Teodoro and Estelle. Everyone is doing wonderfully! Me and my best friend Bob, on the Salmon river, some where between Moscow and Boise.
We all spent the first 18 years of our lives in Homedale. Like I said, it was fun growing up there. I have a lot of good friends from home. My best friend, Bob Allenger, just got married. He and his wife, Rhonda, live in Moscow. Bob teaches Spanish in Moscow and Rhonda is a social worker in Pullman. We both took our Junior years of college off, Bob going to Argentina and me going to Spain. Dan Itano is my oldest friend. Not that he's old or anything. Just that I've known him since first grade. Dan was in Seattle for a couple of years where we were roommates. Now, he's in Vegas, working for Bank of America. Charlie Garrison is living and working in Homedale right now. We spent a summer at our high school, being janitors (cleaning toilet bowls, getting high off of oil paints...) He married his high school sweetheart (can I say that without sounding too mushy? :) Tonya Cobb. And then there's Roger Edmiston, who is out in DC working in the real world, and who just recently got married.
In school, I was a pretty shy and even nerdy kind of guy (some may still think I am...) I played the trombone in the concert and jazz bands and we went on several trips to Pleasant Hills, Oregon, and Santa Cruz, California for jazz festivals. I was a pretty good player, though I wasn't into it enough to become great. I was good at school, but, then again, if I wasn't, I probably wouldn't be here now, now would I? I wasn't very athletic back then. Still not, too much. But, I did try to play baseball my junior year. I figured that, if I'm trying to get scholarships or jobs or whatever, it would look good to have taken some sport in school. So, I was on the JV team. The only junior on the JV team. But it was a lot of fun. It was really relaxed. No pressure to win. Which was good. I didn't help the team effort too much in the batting department. I ended the season with a zero batting average. Really great, huh? :)
After I graduated, I went to the University of Idaho to get my degree in physics. Why physics? Cuz I didn't want to be an engineer. Actually, I did, but I worked at Hewlett-Packard for a year with some of their engineers and saw that all they did was fix problems. They didn't do much designing or anything like that. And that's what I wanted to do. So, I figured I'd major in physics. You know, experiments and that kind of stuff. So, far, I'm happy with my decision (except that, unless I invent the next computer or something, I think I'll be missing out on the big money).
Idaho was fun. I lived on Graham Hall the entire time I was there. Met a lot of great people on Graham Hall. Devin, John, Jon, Brad, Vern, Andy, PK, Bob, James (Jon's sister)... We had some fun times there. I could tell a couple of stories, but most of them make me look bad so I think I'll pass... at least for now. :) I played in the jazz band there until my horn got destroyed (another nasty story!) I was also in the Honors Program and for a while I was Graham Hall social chairman (how I got that, I have NO idea! I think they probably regretted voting for me...) There were also a few wonderful ladies that I met during my time at Idaho - Rayme, James and Consuelo - all of whom I had crushes on of varying degrees. Things didn't work out with any of them, but they were special people in my life and I'm glad I got to know them, though I sometimes regret that we haven't kept in touch as much as I would have liked.
After my sophomore year, I spent a summer in Laramie, Wyoming, working with Dr. Robert Howell. We studied the volcanic activity on Io, one of the moons of Jupiter. I wrote a program that modeled Jupiter passing in front of Io and the light intensity received from Io. From that information, we tried to determine the location and size of volcanoes. There were a lot of other students from all over the country in Laramie with me. The only one I keep in real contact with now is Leith Dwyer, who is going to school at the Ohio State. Leith studied physics education while drawing dragons is her hobby. She is married and has two kids, I believe, who I'm sure keeps Leith from doing much drawing these days. The others were Jeff, Susan, Cathy, Jim, Julie and Keith.
Immediately after I finished up in Wyoming, I went to Spain for a year. That was a blast! I recommend the Basque Country to anyone who is looking to get away. I went over there as a part of a large group of Americans, which was good in that I met a lot of great people from here, but bad in that I socialized with them more than with Basques. I also met all of my dad's family and a bit of my mom's. It was great. I lived in one of the Basque Country's most beautiful cities, Donostia. We had a lot of fun just running around from bar to bar during the weekends. Every weekend I would travel to my aunt's house, where I would get spoiled and fattened up. The bar scene in Euskal Herria is unique and very interesting. People wander from bar to bar, drinking a txikito, or small glass of wine or beer. It's a lot of fun. So are the sagardotegis, places where they make hard cider. I recommend both to any and all who plan on being in the Basque Country.
During spring break, Jay and I and a whole bunch of Spanish and Basque students got a bus and headed north... to Amsterdam and Paris. Paris was cool, though I got the impression it was just one big museum. And, I had the typical run in with the locals who acted rude towards us. Amersterdam was... different. We spent most of the time wandering around the Red Light District (I swear! All we did was wander. Ok... I had a beer or two... but nothing more! :) We saw a lot of interesting things, things that you can only see there. (Some things you wouldn't want to see, there or anywhere else!)
After classes finished, I took off on my own to visit Ireland and Greece, and had a great time in both. Both are definitely worth visiting again. Some of the good friends I made in Spain are Rey Philips-Santos, Mikel Lopategui, Jay Hartig, Brian Williams, Tim McKay, and Mark Ashton. Mikel and Rey are the only ones I'm currently in contact with.
So, then I came back and finished my junior year of physics. During that summer, I went to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and worked at Lehigh University with Dr. Arnold Kritz. We were studying the power absorption of a relativistic plasma with an arbitrary electron distribution and it's possible applications as a source for current drive in a tokamak. I didn't quite finish that project, but I think Dr. Kritz and others have taken it and finished at least the preliminary parts of it. I made a lot of friends there too, though I don't keep in contact with too many of them. Aaron Redd (who also went to UI) went to UW and worked on plasma physics. Jamie Williams went to NIST. Tasha Miles went to Penn State and Pam Johnson to CSU. And there are others: Brian, Christy, Regina, Islam, Heather, Sharon, Colleen, most of whom I have no idea what they are doing or where they even are.
I graduated in 1994 from Idaho, and spent the summer working with my dad and visiting friends. It was good to spend a summer at home. Then, I went to Seattle and the University of Washington. I graduated in 2000, after six long years of working hard and drinking beer. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Seattle. I met a lot of great people through school, some of my best friends. I also met many through the Seattle Basque Club, which I helped found and was the first president. I had a great advisor, Hannes, who did a great job advising me. Most of my friends have now moved on, having graduated and needing to find jobs. Amar is still there, writing a book on ski mountaineering. Hans and Jeni, recently married, are working in Chicago. Steve was doing a postdoc in Belgium. Grace has moved to China with her husband, where she is the proud mom of two children. Brett and Vicki have moved to Portland, where he works at Intel and she teaches at the Community College. Jean is still there, working on his English degree. Most of the Basque club is still there too. The club is, I would say, better than ever. I miss Seattle and all of the other friends I have there: Debbie, Michelle, Niloo, Ron, Gildardo and everyone else. John, who I had met at Idaho, moved to Seattle for work shortly after I did. I spent many afternoons with him and his wife, Karyn.
In 1997 or so, I met this awesome woman, Lisa Van De Graaff. She went to high school with John Waite, who I met in college. Lisa and I met at his wedding. On May 12, 2001, Lisa and I went hiking in Bandelier National Monument, which is about 40 miles from Santa Fe, where we live. We hiked into the park a mile or two and then climbed about 40 feet of ladders, a hard thing for Lisa as she's scared of heights. We got to the landing at the top of the ladders and, after looking around a moment, climbed down into the Kiva that is there. And then Lisa surprised me by asking me to marry her, and I said yes.
We got married on Sept 14, 2002 in Boise, Idaho, in the backyard of Lisa's parents. Lisa did all of the planning and designing of the wedding, including the ceremony, and she did a great job on all of it! One of her best friends, Jot, got ordained on the Internet and married us. A lot of our close friends and family were there and it was a lot of fun. We had the reception at the Boise Basque Center, where a lot of wine was had by many of us. We danced and sang and had fun until the early morning. I'm very lucky to have married such a very special and wonderful woman who adds so much to my life. I love you, Lisa. :)
Lisa and I have been living in Santa Fe, NM since I graduated from the University of Washington. We originally moved here since I got a Postdoc at Los Alamos. After we moved here, Lisa left her job of something like 13 years at Hewlett-Packard and decided to go to back to school. She studied massage therapy and currently has a massage business she runs out of our home. She is loving it and she is really good at it too. We really like the area, though making friends has been a little slow. However, the few friends we have made have been great: Neil and Kriste, Srini and Sheela, Jeff, Sven and Shirish.
During my postdoc, I worked with Art Voter, who is a great guy to work for. In 2004, I was hired as staff at Los Alamos. I currently work with Kurt Sickafus on radiation damage effects in ceramics. I also studying aging in metals. Most of this work is focused on making nuclear energy safer and better for future applications.
Once I became a "permanent" employee, Lisa and I purchased a home in Santa Fe. We have slowly but surely been making improvements, remodeling rooms and fixing small broken things. One day it will be the house of our dreams. :)
In October of 2001 I took my dad to Spain to visit his family. It was the first time I'd been there with him, and the first time I'd been there since 1996. We had a great time, running around seeing just about everyone. We went again in June, 2002, this time with the *entire* family. It was the first trip there for my mom and my brothers, not to mention for Lisa and Shelley. It was a great adventure. We met a lot of family and ate a lot. We were able to show mom where both her grandmother (Ispaster) and her grandfather (Mutiloa) were from. Lisa and I spent one evening in San Sebastian, a very beautiful city. We all rented a remodeled Basque farmhouse, where we ate together and talked and had a great time.
In 2005, both of my grandmothers passed away. Dad's mom, Feliciana, passed away early in the year at her daughter's home in the Basque Country. While her health wasn't perfect, her death was unexpected. My mom's mom, Maxine, passed away in November after a relatively short but intense illness. Both will be greatly missed. My dad's brother, Jose, also died this last year, from a sudden heart attack. He was a man full of life, and he too will be missed.
Well, that's about it for now. I hope that those of you who made it all the way through this got a better idea of who I am (and didn't fall asleep in the process). Anyways, time to get going. Take care.