April 2010 Archives

Beer with meals

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Peter used to say that drinking water with meals diluted the food while it was in your stomach, making it harder to digest.

When I pointed out that he often drank beer with meals, he said that was different—he said that beer contains yeast and is sort of like bread in a way, so it actually helps with digestion.

(In case anyone's wondering, five minutes of Internet quasi-research leads me to the conclusion that there isn't a lot of good data out there about the effects of beer on digestion; some sites say it aids digestion, some that it hinders it. Regarding water, a Mayo Clinic doctor says that "drinking water during or after a meal can actually improve digestion.")

Nose adjustment

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One of the semi-magic tricks Peter used to occasionally do:

He'd say that his nose was out of alignment or something, and needed an adjustment, like a chiropractic adjustment.

He would put his hands together palm to palm, as if praying, but with his nose between the index fingers.

Then he would bend his hands to one side a little several times, as if twisting his nose slightly around an invisible axis coming straight out of his face; he'd indicate that he was taking out the slack. Then, one last sudden sharp bend/twist, accompanied by a loud cracking sound.

The trick was that he had one thumb (hidden by the other fingers) in his mouth in such a way that the thumbnail was under an upper front tooth; at the moment of bending his hands, he would snap the thumbnail out from under the tooth, making a noise.

When done well—and Peter did it well—this trick can be remarkably effective, and Peter took great delight in performing it.

Pie-eyed emu

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Peter once told me that when he was a kid, he left a note on a slip of paper in a library book for a future reader to find. The note said, "I'll be a pie-eyed emu," and added something like "If you understand this, contact me" and his address or possibly phone number.

He explained to me that he had at the time just discovered the equation

e + 1 = 0

which he was delighted by: it combined the numbers e, i, pi, 1, and 0 in one equation.

And he wanted to find other like-minded people. So he figured that anyone who understood that his note was a reference to that equation would be a like-minded person. Kind of a message in a bottle, tossed out to the world in hope of finding kindred spirits.

(It reminds me of the Wilmar Shiras stories "In Hiding" and "Opening Doors," which Peter introduced me to, in which at one point a super-bright boy posts a cryptic ad in hopes of finding others like him. In fact, it's possible Peter wrote the note after reading those stories; I'm not sure. He probably would've read them around age ten or eleven.)

But I never quite understood Peter's anecdote about leaving that note; in particular, although I could see the I and the pi and that the equals sign could be read as "be," I never understood why "e" would become "emu."

It turns out that the phrase comes from a 1942 Alfred Bester story, "The Push of a Finger." Peter must have been reading back issues of Astounding, because he was only two and a half years old when the story was published there.

I haven't read the story, but various people's vague online memories of it suggest that the equation in the story did contain the Greek letter μ, and thus was not the equation that Peter was referring to.

I don't know whether he was just conflating the memory of the phrase from the story with the equation he liked, or whether he misunderstood when he read the phrase as a kid, or what.

Tense yourself skinny

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Peter used to say that the way he stayed thin was to "tense myself skinny"—I think it had something to do with tensing his stomach muscles.

Then again, he had the pot belly that most Hartman males end up with, so I don't know that his approach actually worked.

I'm a little unclear on where the phrase came from. The phrase "Tense yourself skinny" appears on the cover of the Who album The Who Sell Out (which I'm pretty sure Peter owned) as part of a fake Charles Atlas ad; I'm not sure whether the line was originally from a real Charles Atlas ad or not.

(It's been three weeks since I last posted; I keep intending to stop by and post, but keep neglecting to do so. I do still have a bunch of stuff I want to post, but it may not be as regular as I'd intended.)