29 October 2011


Edna and I lived in Honolulu for those two years.  I say that to make clear that the various specific subjects I will talk about, or have talked about, during that time - working on Yapese, snorkel-and-mask spear-fishing - and, what I will write about in this post, electronics - are not our life.  This sort of thing must always be true, I suppose, in any sort of writing.  One talks about things that happen.  Things that simple are are not so easy to talk about.  Edna's and my life together was not 'specially about these activities of mine - not even about my University studies and Yapese work, large though these loom - but about life and love, especially about our daughter Kathleen, about times with friends, about going places - we went at least once to Hilo on the Big Island to visit my parents.  But, as Tolkien says somewhere in Lord of the Rings, things that are pleasant (and, as the eventual failure of our marriage implies, things that are less pleasant, if they are part of the routine of life) are quickly told and often do not form very interesting reading.  It is the extraordinary that can more readily form a tale.

Sparks.  From childhood I was drawn towards things of science and of technology.  In Oroville, when I was in 4-H, in addition to agricultural subjects - including, obviously, my rabbits - I did projects on electricity and on Morse code.  Sometime during my high school years, I built a Dynakit valve stereo amplifier.  That was, indeed, a very good piece of equipment.  Coupled with two mid-range speakers from my father's vending business - he had some jukeboxes that were part of his stable - they became my amplifier for a turntable (purchased) and an AM-FM tuner (built from a Heathkit), which I carried around and used in California (from whenever I built it - perhaps 1959? - until 1966), in Honolulu (1966-73), in Auckland (1973-76), in Yap (1976-84), and in Pukekohe (1984 until it was finally replaced with transistorised equipment, maybe about 1985 or -6).  It had a long life and did yeoman's service.

I have built many Heathkit pieces of equipment during my life.  When Edna and I lived in Poki Street, I built a television receiver, again Heathkit.  In private e-mail Edna has claimed that I never finished it.  This doubt is deeply hurtful to me :-) !  (Well, ok, maybe I didn't finish it whilst we still lived together - but I do think I did).  Whether then or later, I don't know, but I did, indeed, finish it, and Susan and I hauled it to Auckland in 1973, where I had to fiddle with its tuning to get it to work with New Zealand television signals.  Thankfully, that, at least, I did not drag to Yap - I knew there was no television broadcasting in Yap!

And anyway, I had by this time become a broadcaster myself.

Well, not literally broadcasting - unicasting is the term.  At some point - and I am pretty sure it was in Poki Street - I acquired an amateur radio operator's ('ham') licence.  One reason I am sure that this occurred at Poki Street is because I recall the gear taking over more and more of Edna's living room - much, in fact, as the fish had done in Berkeley.

Your first amateur radio licence is a 'Novice' - and, at least in 1966 or whenever I was licensed, you get a distinctive call sign - sort of like having an 'L' in your car's rear window in modern New Zealand, to broadcast to the world your shame at being a 'Learner.'  My novice call was WH6GPC.  For the Novice class you just had to be able to copy Morse at 5 words per minute, and are limited to using Morse - no voice.  When I was able to master 13 WPM, I was allowed the glory of a real call - KH6GPC.

Amateur radio was something that I stayed with continuously and with considerable dedication right through the end of my time in Honolulu, my and Susan's three years in Auckland, and our eight years in Yap.  I have been:
  • WH6GPC
  • KH6GPC
  • ZL1AMT ("Able Mable Table")
  • KC6JJ (calls in Micronesia are luxury class :-))
  • ZL1WW ("Whisky Whisky")
My interests were not really so much in the idea of long-distance communication as in both the electronic side of things - which, in the event, proved an important help in my early involvement in personal computers - and in learning the skill of Morse - the latter, I suppose, connected with linguistics.  I did, over the years, do a fair bit of radioing, and graduated from kitsets to building my own stuff from scratch - and, once, nearly killing myself in the process (800V DC is quite stimulating).

These two years, from mid-1966 through mid-1968, gave me my Master's degree.  During this same time, however, some of my reading, and some of my other experiences, were beginning to eat away at the sandy foundation my life was built on.

Stormy Weather

My father had built two yachts in his life.  He only ever bought one.  The experience this last boat gave was a little different from the first two.

Well, the first was before I was born.  I only know that I was told that he built (I think!  Now I wonder if he bought it, too.  My brother might know) a 32-foot sloop that he and my mother sailed in when they had no children.

And then they had children - three of us - so that in 1946, the year my sister Robin was born, he laid the keel of a 40-foot ketch - in our backyard - in the near-desert town of Bakersfield.  Four years later it was finished, towed to the sea, masted, and launched as Robin - and for the next four years that we lived in Bakersfield, it was our holiday home.

In 1966 I was involved with Yapese.  I was clearly going to be involved not only with the Yapese language, but with the Yapese people - and with the island of Yap.  My father had an idea.  I think he had always rather dreamt of doing some long-distance sailing.  He would buy a yacht that could sail between Hawai'i and Yap.

I don't know which year it was that he did this - perhaps 1967.  He bought a nice ketch (I think it was) - 46-foot, I think.  Peter may remember the name.  My father may by this time already have been working at a new hotel near Kawaihae, on the northwest coast of the Big Island.  He, like me and my brother Peter, suffered from spinal stenosis, and for a number of years could not farm.  So here's the plan:
  1. Buy this boat
  2. Sail it to Kawaihae, as a sort of shakedown cruise
  3. Spend some time in Kawaihae getting it into shape for long-distance travel
  4. Go!
Well, step 1. took place all right.  In Hawai'i, to sell a boat, you have to have it 'surveyed' - inspected to make sure it is seaworthy, meets regulations, and so forth.  So, naturally, this was done.  The Hokulea (I think that was its name) was surveyed as ready for ocean travel.

In the ensuing lawsuits, I believe it was found that the surveyor who did the work was in fact a fairly close personal friend of the stock broker who sold it.  I just point that out for what it's worth :-)

At a certain date, my father, mother, brother, sister (can that be right??), Iou, and I set out.  The normal way to sail from Honolulu to the Big Island would, I think, have been to sail in the channel between Lana'i and Maui.  I seem to recall my father's saying that he was a bit worried about that, not knowing the waters well, so he would sail south of Lana'i, and then around to Kawaihae.

In the event, I suppose it would have made little difference - or, if it had, it might have been preferable that we sailed that way.

Some considerable distance south of there was a significant storm.  We were not in the storm itself - but we encountered seas that were ... well, my memory is of mountain-high seas.  Scaling that down to compensate for the fear factor, I suppose the waves were three metres or so high.

Whatever they were, it was pretty bad.  Oh, well, this is a shakedown cruise.  It is just as well we hit a bit of rough, to find out if the ship can take it.

It can't.

Later, when out of the water, one found that one could put a finger into the soft rotten timbers where the ribs (probably the wrong word; I am not a yachtie) meet the bowstem.  The bow opened up.  We began to take on a lot of water.  We had better get the auxiliary diesel going and get into some harbour somewhere.  It was, I think, a Sunday.  The nearest harbour was there.

Almost everything went wrong that could.  There was a bilge pump that could run off the engine.  It ran off the drive shaft by a belt.  The belt dropped into the bilge.  There was a hand-operated bilge pump.  We all took turns.  There was a radio.  It didn't work.  I think the only person on board who didn't appear frightened out of his wits was Iou.  I have a memory of him sitting at the tiller, chewing betel nut, staring out and not looking frightened.  Perhaps he was and just didn't show it.  I was - and showed it.

We limped into Lana'i harbour.  Lana'i is pretty much a company island.  There was a dry dock there - but this was Sunday.  Would there be union issues if workman came out and did something?  I don't remember the details, but I do recall one guy who drove off some place and came back with a petrol-powered bilge pump that he put on our deck and sucked the bilge dry in what seemed like minutes.  Other young men were diving down and hammering sheet metal over the holes in the bow.

Very humiliating, but we were alive.  The rest of us flew back to Honolulu.  My father followed with the boat being towed.  It was eventually repaired and sold - and the lawsuits got him a little of his money back, mainly because his lawyer didn't charge him.  But we didn't drown.

Oh, well, if you don't drown, you can electrocute yourself.


It would, in my opinion, be unfair to say that Iou and I did not work hard during that summer of 1966 on the Yapese language lessons.  Nevertheless, I, at least, was only dimly concerned about deadlines.  Don, my boss, was not dim about them at all.  In September, 1966, some hundreds of eager new Peace Corps Volunteers were to arrive for training courses in Moloka'i  I don't recall how many of them were for Yap - maybe 50 to 60 - but the Yapese language teachers who would teach them needed some sort of language lessons.  And Iou and I had much work undone.

It is probably not the case that the development of printed materials took longer in the days before word processors - but the work certainly required a lot more labour.  A small army of workers was needed.  Iou and I planned out a lesson - working, of course, completely by instinct, since neither of us had any training in what was involved in language teaching.  I had been a student of foreign languages, and I suppose I followed the model thus presented to me.

We would write out some pages of material.  It was given to the typist.  No nice word-processors, backspace or click with a mouse to fix errors, nice fonts for phonetic symbols, click to print multiple copies.  These were typewriters.  They were the latest and greatest of typewriters, to be sure - IBM Selectric "golf ball" typewriters, with carbon-film ribbon and white-out tape for correction!  These were, as well, the days of photocopiers - fairly new at the time - so the typists didn't have to fight with carbon copies.  Nevertheless, it was a lot of work.

Don could see that Iou and I were not going to make it - so he threw us out, off-island, to Kaua'i.  The University hired a small house for us to live in.  No electricity - we wouldn't need it!  No car for us, and quite a distance from town - I guess we were near Lihue, but maybe not.  The secretary who did our typing was our contact - twice a week, I think - because her boyfriend was the pilot who regularly flew to Kaua'i.  I suppose that determined our location.

Iou and I were there for several weeks - maybe as many as six, if memory serves.  It was very boring :-)

We worked hard.  We were motivated!   We were not to be allowed to leave until the lessons were done.  I remember that we had a BB pistol.  In the evening the light of our petrol lantern drew enormous numbers of insects to the fly screen on the door.  The BB pistol did not have enough impact to pierce the screen (fortunately) - but it was a break in the boredom to shock the observers from their posts - for a minute or two.

We must have finished, because eventually we did return to Honolulu.  I began my studies as a student.  But I lived in Honolulu only part-time.  Regularly - was it every other week?? - I was flown to Moloka'i to help with the language teaching.  I don't recall details, but I think I spent one - or was it two? - nights there each time I flew over.  It was on one of these trips that we saw Judy the jaguarundi, mounted with her lips pulled back in a snarl.

I had another experience connected with Moloka'i that almost ended in disaster.

23 October 2011

New career!

If I ever had time to write that autobiography that Eddie, Johnny, and Marko have asked for, it would be called "Confessions of a Failure."

And nor do I mean anything particularly negative by that negative-sounding title.  I mean only that my life appears to have been a series of undertakings, each of which I have imagined as being something ultimate - and each of which has been, viewed purely in temporal terms, at best incomplete, and in reality a failure (my friend Alan Creak, a sometime-reader of this blog, will recall the World's Best Shortwave Receiver).

In June, 1966, accepting that my intention of being the World's Best Astronomer had not panned out, I set out to be the World's Best Yapese Linguist (choosing a sufficiently-small pond to aim at being a Big Frog in).

"[sigh!]Oh, well - ok. Where's my informant?"
That was what I asked Don, when I had accepted that I would be working on (yuck!) Yapese.

"Uh ... you'll have to go find one."

Right.  OK, I'll just go out into the street and ...

Well, Don did give me a little help.  I just try talking to students at the East-West Centre - there would be some Yapese students there.

I went to the East-West Centre and, sure enough, there were Yapese students there.  Almost immediately I found out something about Yapese young people: they were unwilling to say 'no' to me about anything.

Barbara Leeguroy was the student I talked with.  She was a student there, and, yes, she would be glad to work as my linguistic informant.  I would have to talk with ... well, someone, I have forgotten who, but someone in charge of the programme that she was there with ... about permissions.

"Mr Jensen, students on the [whatever-it-was] grant programme are not allowed to work more than 15 hours per week."  This in addition to the fact that, once the summer's full-time job creating language lessons was finished, there was to be the actual training of Peace Corps Volunteers.

I had, by this time, met a number of Yapese students at the East-West Centre.  They were all sympathetic, but they were all on the same programme, and, yes, they had known about the 15-hour-per-week restriction.

But ... hey!  one of them remembered one student whose marks had fallen below standard.  He was not going to be able to continue with his engineering studies, and was to return to Yap - oh, maybe he is already gone?

'Phone calls.  No, he hasn't left yet, but he is just packing to leave this evening.  You had better hurry over to his apartment and talk to him.

Thus a long relationship began between me, eventually also with Susan, and John Iou - one of the co-authors of the two books that he and I, with Pugram and Defeg, wrote about Yapese: "Yapese Reference Grammar" and "Yapese-English Dictionary" (apparently some hopeful person is offering copies of the former at US$60 on Amazon - if you are hot for a copy, I can do you a deal).

Iou ... I should point out here, since Yapese names will recur throughout these posts covering the next twenty years or so - that Yapese naming is not - or was not; there are signs of changes in the westernisation of Yap - structured like English.  English names have, at least, a "first name" and "last name."  The last name - well, except for politically-motivated reasons - is inherited from the father.  It is the "family name."  The first name is the person's name itself.

Yapese persons do not have family names.  What looks to us like a first name is actually a baptismal name.  So Iou's name is Iou (pronounced, by the way, like the 'Yo-'' in 'Yo-ho-ho').  I myself was always 'Jensen' - and so forth.

Iou - to get back to my story - was in fact waiting for his ride to the airport when I showed up.  We talked.  His view appeared to be, "Oh, well, I really don't want to go home without my degree.  Here's a job.  Maybe that will be fun."  Iou and I were given an office, a typewriter, one which was able to type IPA letters, and we started in to work.

And Iou became effectively a part of my and Edna's - and Kathleen's - lives.  Over the next two years, I suppose Iou was at our house at least once a week - often more.  He and I used to go fishing (mask, snorkel, and spear - not pole and line) pretty much every week-end - bringing home dead creatures that Edna was supposed to deal with

When, in August, possibly mid-July, we were banished by Don Topping to Kaua'i, not to be allowed to return to Honolulu, until we had finished the 20 (I think it was) Yapese language lessons that had to be done before teaching, I wonder whether he still thought it was fun.

16 October 2011

1712 Poki Street

It is said that persons with Alzheimer's Disease can remember things of the distant past, but are not so good at recent events.  Perhaps this means I have not (yet) come down with Alzheimer's.  I can (usually) remember what people said to me yesterday.  I am less certain of the address Edna and I lived at during the two years we were together in Honolulu - but I am pretty certain it was 1712 Poki Street.

"Only two years!" I say to myself.  We arrived in June, 1966 - and Edna and I separated in September, 1968 - so yes, two years, or a little more.

It seems longer, perhaps because it really was a formative time in my life, in so many ways - and so, I believe, it was for Edna.

For me, it was the time when I:
  • definitively thought of myself as a "Pacific person"
  • got my MA in linguistics - and, therefore, became, in some serious sense, a linguist
  • was irreversibly committed to study of the Yapese language
For Edna, if I may speak for her:
  • she was definitively set in a career in field of medicine
  • she, also, became at least strongly attached to Hawai'i - this, anyway, is the way it seems to me
And for both of us, we began the painful process of transition from late childhood to genuine adulthood.

I wish I remembered the details of our getting this apartment - I am sure Edna does.  It was a two-bedroom second storey (= American third floor) apartment.  The back had a lanai - a patio hung off the back glass sliding door.  The lady who lived in the apartment below us was Korean and cooked - every Saturday, as I recall - kimchi - a very smelly procedure!

The fish!  Yes, you may recall that I said Edna shipped, single-handedly, the tropical fish from Berkeley to Honolulu.  I had thought they all arrived without incident, but she tells me that many died in the process.  I don't recall that - but it wouldn't be surprising.  It was a fairly major operation.

Nevertheless, many did survive.  In Honolulu, of course, tropical fish have their natural climate.  Perhaps I continued to use tank heaters - I don't recall - but the fish tanks went on the lanai this time, instead of filling the (very small) living room.  That, at least, might have been progress.  Edna and I did actually talk to one guy on the far side of O'ahu - in Kaneohe, I think - who did tropical fish for a living.  I even imagined our doing the same - very unlikely of success, I may say!

Edna worked for Straub Clinic.  I may be wrong, but I think she got her job there from the very beginning, and certainly she continued working there until ... well, until we separated, at least, and, I think, until she left Honolulu many years later.  It was there that she trained as a psychology technician - the sort of person, I think, who administers and analyses psychological tests of various sorts (I am somewhat nervous of saying all this as fully expect her to respond with laughter telling me all the ways I remember it wrong - so I hereby say that I am only telling you things that I remember :-)).

I was a linguistics graduate student at the University of Hawai'i.  Rather, I was that from September, 1966, when I enrolled.  From June, 1966, when I first arrived, I was an employee of the University's "Pacific and Asian Linguistics Institute" (PALI).  It may no longer exist - at least, I could find no modern reference to it on the web.

I arrived in Honolulu alone, Edna still struggling away in California at disposing of our belongings, shipping the fish, bringing herself and Kathleen to Honolulu, and presented myself to Don Topping, who was to be my teacher, friend, eventual thesis adviser as a Phd student.

"Here I am, ready to work on a Micronesian language, sir!  I would like to volunteer to work on Marshallese, if it's all the same to you."

"Ah, well, yes, thanks, but Professor Bender is actually already working on Marshallese.  This seems appropriate since he has been working on the language for thirteen years now."

"Oh - well, ok.  How about Trukese?  Or maybe Ponapean?"

"Well, John, actually, all the other Micronesian languages have linguists assigned to them.  We want you to work on Yapese."

"Yapese??!!  But Yapese isn't even a Micronesian language!!"

"Ah - yes, that's true.  Nevertheless, Yapese is the language we need you to work on."

"[sigh!]Oh, well - ok.  Where's my informant?"

08 October 2011

Life in Berkeley

What, after all, did we do in Berkeley?  We lived there for nearly two years, after all.  I have talked about fish.  I was, of course, a full-time student at the University, and, as well, worked part-time in the language laboratory, and at computer programming.

I am ashamed to say that, again, my self-centredness comes to the fore when I say that I am only rather vaguely aware of Edna's life during those times.

She worked.  She worked hard, and, I think, in frustrating circumstances, because, rather than having a permanent job, she 'temped' - worked for agencies that supply a person here for two weeks, there for a month, somewhere else for two days - that sort of thing.

But ... she may well correct me to point out that she did get a permanent job - my ignorance of which tells you something about me.

And she was Kathleen's mother.  Kathleen was just about thirteen months old when we moved to Berkeley.  We put her into a day-baby-sitter - who almost killed her.

The woman was, I'm afraid, the sort whom your great-grandmother would have called 'slatternly.'  She was our age, I think.  She lived in a flat that was always messy.  I remember once she said she had tried to get the company that picked up the rubbish to agree to pick up her rubbish bin later in the morning - it was just intolerable that they came along making noise at ungodly hours like 7AM (or whatever it was) when people were asleep!

The accident that caused us to change baby-sitters was, I think, a consequence of her sleeping habits.  Edna dropped Kathleen off on her way to work - about 8AM, I suppose.  Well, the lady had to be up then, of course.  But I think she just went back to sleep, leaving Kathleen to play.  With whatever was lying around.  With, in this case, a US one-cent piece - a 'penny.'

13- or 14-month-old babies play with things principally by putting them into their mouths.

Thankfully, no surgery was required to dislodge the coin, and nor did she choke to death.  I assume it was lodged in her oesophagus rather than the trachea, or she would have died.  The doctor was able to remove it through her mouth.

We changed baby-sitters.  I think, but am uncertain, that the next arrangement was with a proper day-care centre rather than an individual baby-sitter.

I think it was in Berkeley that my first exposure to the world of illegal drugs happened.

To modern ears, my awareness of the world of illegal drugs must seem astonishingly naive - and so, indeed, it was.  The use of chemical means of altering consciousness is, I suppose, nearly as old as mankind - at least as old as Noah, as the Bible tells us (Genesis 9:20-21):
20And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard: 21And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.
At various times, governments have attempted to regulate the use of such substances.  My own awareness of such matters stemmed almost exclusively from a film shown to us (twice, I think, in successive years) in high school, about the dangers of addictive drugs.  The film was not the famous 1936 "Reefer Madness" - though the date of that film shows how far back the problem goes, and how far back the fear on part of governments that 'ordinary' people might be involved.  The film I saw showed men starting with soft stuff - marijuana, I suppose, though I think that I didn't even understand that at the time - and then going on to hard stuff - heroin - followed by withdrawal symptoms.  The film was intended to frighten us.  It frightened me.

So that when my Best Man Harry Frank offered to get me to smoke 'pot' - encouraged me, I think, though I may be wrong - I had two fears:

  1. Fear of not being well thought of by him (be refusing);
  2. Fear of the drug.
The second fear was by far the stronger.  I remember getting together, then, with him - was Edna there?  I do not remember - taking one or two puffs on the joint offered to me, assuring him, nervously, that I was now 'stoned' - and finding an excuse fairly quickly to leave.

It was not until late 1968, under very different circumstance, and in very different frame of mind, that I smoked marijuana again.  That time I did not limit myself to one or two puffs.

May or June, 1966 came around.  I had passed my final exams - with very good marks, all through (better marks than I had been beginning to receive for my astronomy studies).  I had been accepted to enroll as a Master's student to study linguistics at the University of Hawai'i in Honolulu.  In my application I expressed an interest in "Micronesian languages" - I had Marshallese in mind.  Don Topping, writing to accept me as a grad student, had asked whether I would be interested in a summer job, from June through August, at $800/month - a much higher salary than I had ever earned before - to prepare language teaching materials for "a Micronesian language" to be used in instructing Peace Corps Volunteers.

"Would I??!!"  An income, a high salary, work in exactly the area I wanted to occupy myself with - I responded with alacrity, unregrettingly dropped any idea of attending my graduation ceremony, hastily dumped on Edna the responsibility of disposing of our furniture and car and of shipping our belongings - including those tropical fish - to Honolulu - and flew forthwith to Honolulu.

02 October 2011


I spent only two years as a linguistics undergraduate.  It appears odd to me now, on reflexion, that I so readily adapted to my linguistic studies.  I had, after all, been a keen amateur astronomer from about age 11 or 12, and had majored in astronomy during my first two and a half years at University.  On the other hand:
  1. Your first two years at an American University are 'breadth' years - at least so it was when I was there, and I will only speak to that.  Everyone not doing a 'professional' course (e.g. law, engineering, or medicine) does a BA.  This is by contradistinction to the situation in New Zealand where, from the first, I would have done a BSc if I studied astronomy, a BA if I studied linguistics - and my courses would mostly or perhaps all have been major subjects.  In the University of California, as an astronomy major, I had to do a certain number of units of what were called 'social sciences' and a certain number of 'humanities.'  Thus my first two years were not at all exclusively scientific subjects.
  2. I had studied languages - as opposed to linguistics - fairly extensively from high school.  Four years of high school French, two semesters of University French, two semesters of University Russian, one semester of University Spanish - all whilst I was still majoring in astronomy.
  3. As I have indicated elsewhere, one of my 'breadth' courses - which simultaneously satisfied both 3 credits of the 'social sciences' requirement and the 'humanities' requirement - was entitled "Linguistics for non-majors."
Thus I was not a linguistic greenhorn when, in 1964, I began the first of two years that would lead to my BA in linguistics.  Nevertheless, it was a fairly new subject for me.

I took to it like a duck to water.  I loved linguistics.  I was fascinated by every aspect of it.

The linguistics course at the University of California in Berkeley, despite the fact that that University was one of the most important centres of studies of American Indian languages - Ishi, of Oroville fame, had been their subject - was nevertheless strongly traditional (in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries' tradition).  The core of areal studies was Indo-European.  All linguistics students had to study Sanskrit as well as either Greek or Latin.  Historical linguistics focussed on the Indo-European language family.

So these were the special subjects I studied at the beginning.  Nevertheless, my interest was soon pointed towards the various languages of the Pacific.

The reason for this is, surely, not far to seek.  My family had moved to Hawai'i in 1963.  In 1964, Edna and I spent four months living in Hawai'i.  I was, I am sure, quite enchanted with Hawai'i - as, indeed, who wouldn't be?

So at some point between September, 1964 and June, 1966, when I was graduated, I had decided to do graduate work at the University of Hawai'i.  That point has to have been moderately early in that period.  In the spring semester, 1966 I had applied to, and been accepted at, the University of Hawai'i graduate school.  I had said that I had a special interest in Micronesian languages.

And during those two years I studied Indonesian, had taken a course in Austronesian historical linguistics, and had, as I mentioned earlier, done a fair bit of (paid) computer programming in connexion with comparative Austronesian.  I suppose it was during that course that I said I had become interested in Micronesian languages.

Nevertheless, the only actual connexion I had with a language of Micronesia - a language which is not linguistically a Micronesian language - was in helping a linguistic PhD candidate named Bob Hsu.  Bob was studying a language called Yapese.  I knew of Yapese, knew that it was rather a linguistic orphan within Micronesia, being not closely related to the other languages of the area.  I was not specially interested in it linguistically, except for an oddity in its phonology - like many of the American Indian languages, but unlike any Pacific language I had ever heard of then - or since - it had glottalised consonants, which was kind of cool.  But my interest in Micronesian languages was historical - and Yapese was not related.

I worked for the University language laboratories, however, and Bob wanted to do some word elicitation - where a native speaker pronounces words in his language and you record them - so I did this work for Bob.  I quite enjoyed it.  It had been one of my first experiences actually working with a language as a linguist.  I thought that was the end of my involvement both with Bob Hsu and with Yapese.

This was not, of course, to be the case.