How I met Jim

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I join with others to pay my condolences in the passing of Jim.

I thought that I would share with you how I met Jim in 1971. After the 1971 San Fernando earthquake the National Science Foundation had a meeting of academics with an interest in earthquake engineering to discuss the special funding provided by Congress. This meeting was headed Mike Gaus. Proposals had been prepared and money allocated and I spoke to Mike after the meeting and noted that no one was investigating power systems, which were severely damaged in the earthquake. Mike did find $6000 to support research (a small amount even in those days) and he suggested that I do this with Jim, who I had not met, but who was to join the Purdue Civil Engineering faculty that fall. Jim and I made two trips to the west coast and this was the start of a long and close friendship between us.

On various trips we would eat at Chinese restaurants, as I also liked Chinese food. There was one dish that Jim would often order that we would not share - HOT tofu. Jim would start to eat the white cubes of tofu that were immersed in red oily sauce. Within a minute his face would turn red, approaching the color of the sauce, and in a couple of minutes he would get up, take off his suit coat, which he always wore in those times, and place it on the back of his chair. He would loosen his tie and continue to eat the tofu, which was much too hot for my taste. Then beads of perspiration would dot his brow. His handkerchief would come out and he would wipe his forehead between bites of the tofu, which he enjoyed so much. It was some time later after diner when we were walking back to our hotel that his face color returned to normal.

We lived on the same street in West Lafayette about 2 blocks from each other and I would visit. During some of my visits I would see Timmy and one of the girls practice writing Chinese characters. I also started to practice Chinese calligraphy with a brush and ink under Jim's tutelage. I recall being sternly reprimanded by Jim because when I formed a character I did not make the strokes in the correct order or in the correct direction. "These things have to be done properly," Jim would admonish me.

When we both left Purdue, my inability to walk across campus to casually meet with Jim was one of my major losses in our moves.

-- Anshel Schiff