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July 27, 2006

Harry Olivieri — Co-inventor of the cheese steak as a 17-year-old boy in 1933 — is dead at 90


How is it possible that such a singular man should go so unremarked?

The New York Times simply republished a brief AP story on his passing on Thursday of last week in Pomona, New Jersey.

Only the Washington Post, among the myriad newspapers pouring in here daily, deigned to spend a little space on Harry.

Anita Huslin's evocative July 22 story made me vow to visit Pat's King of Steaks cheese steak emporium (above) in Philadelphia when the bookofjoe World Tour™ hits the City of Brotherly Love.

Here's the article.

    Harry Olivieri, The Man Wit' A Steak in His City

    If the character of a place is best explained by its food, then Harry Olivieri's cheese steak made it pretty simple to understand Philadelphia: You got your one wit', two wit' or your cheese wit'.

    That would be one steak with onions, two steaks with onions or one cheese steak with onions. The cheese being of the Whiz variety.

    This is all you really had to know to enjoy the iconic delicacy of the city. Didn't have to be any more complicated than that, something that John Kerry learned when he went to Pat's King of Steaks once and ordered one... with Swiss.

    You don't want Swiss, he was informed. Cheez Whiz. (Bill Clinton and Al Gore somehow knew that when they came to visit.)

    In the 76 years since he first slung a slab of beef on his hot dog stand and grilled up dinner for his brother, Pat, and himself, Harry Olivieri gave Philadelphians something to drool over.

    Thinly sliced eye roll, sauteed in oil and slipped into a fresh torpedo roll, now slathered with your choice of toppings and condiments: onions (raw or grilled), mushrooms, hot peppers, catsup, mustard and relish. Slightly greasy, generously beefy and with an unapologetic sense of dietary balance, it has evolved from the working man's dinner into the tourist's delicacy.

    "If you really sit down and think about it you have protein in the meat, carbs in the bread, dairy with the cheese, and onions, peppers and mushrooms -- your vegetables," says Maria Olivieri, Harry's daughter, and the proprietor of the business he left behind. He was 90 when he died Thursday in Atlantic City, where he was getting ready to launch a new string of franchises. He had suffered from heart disease since 1972.

    "As long as you're not eating them every day, every hour, that's quite a healthy combination," she says.

    Her father -- tired of eating hot dogs at the stand he ran with his brother -- made his first cheese steak one night after he bought a pound of beef for 7 cents and fried it up with some onions. A regular customer, a cab driver stopping for dinner in the middle of his shift, came by for his usual hot dog and smelled the fresh beef sandwich.

    "I don't want a hot dog, I want that," he supposedly said.

    "That's my dinner," Harry Olivieri replied.

    The cab driver insisted, and so Harry and Pat sold it to him for 25 cents.

    Since then, Pat's King of Steaks (so named because his brother, who died in the 1970s, was nine years older), has sold countless thousands, putting the cheese steak in the panoply of culinary greats such as Chicago's half smokes and Boston's lobster rolls.

    For 45 years, Pat's was open 24/7, closing only for holidays starting in 1975, when Maria began insisting on having the family home for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's and Easter.

    The cheese steak store on Ninth Street where it crosses Wharton and Passyunk avenues became a mecca for politicians, who learned that if they came to Pat's, "you can swing a few of the Italians, and that few will swing the rest for you," Olivieri said. Entertainers learned the same thing; from the performers who'd come after the shows at Palumbo's down the street to "American Idol" contestant Justin Guarini, who'd come to Pat's and sing for votes.

    Harry Olivieri's invention produced its own competition, when Jim's, Joe's and then Geno's opened across the street. The rivalry between the Olivieri brothers and the owner of Geno's has been long-standing, though Harry, raised a Quaker, always declined to disparage the competition.

    His daughter, Maria, is determined to maintain the tradition.

    "They do a nice business on our overflow," she says.

    Besides, she says, the Olivieri brothers' contribution to society has been noted in the nearby Franklin Institute.

    "My father is just as famous as the man who created the wheel," she says, "except the wheel is a little less fattening and it won't end up on your hips."


The floor is now open for comments.

If you feel they'd more appropriately festoon the walls or ceiling, by all means let them fly.

July 27, 2006 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

World's best business card: 12¢ apiece


And that's if you order 50.

Order 100 and the price drops to a dime each.

Why is it the world's best card?


Because people keep it and look at it over and over.

From the website:

    Personalized Plastic Calendars

    Plastic Calendars ensure you're remembered all year long!

    It's the size of a credit card to tuck easily into a wallet.


    Pocket calendars are a welcome enclosure in cards and letters to friends.

    Each calendar is 3-3/8" x 2-1/8".

    Print up to 28 letters and spaces for "ALL CAPS" top line, up to 32 for lines 2-4.

    Makes a unique new year business card... great promotional giveaways!


If someone tosses your business card in the trash or a drawer, it might as well not exist.

This one stays in the wallet — up front and easily accessible.

You won't believe how often you pull out your handy-dandy little calendar once you realize you have it.

No one else ever seems to have one.

Humphrey-approved (above and below) so you know it's even better than "As Seen On TV."


As noted, $5.99 for 50 or 9.98 for 100, right here.

July 27, 2006 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack



Perhaps you like the idea of networking your home computer in a project aimed at the greater good but simply can't get behind the excitement others find in the search for extraterrestrials while you sleep.

I feel your disdain.

For people who'd prefer to keep it more real and right here on Earth, there's Africa@home.

Long story — from the July 13 Economist — short: "[It] is a collaboration between the Swiss Tropical Institute, CERN (a big particle-physics laboratory also based in Switzerland), and a group of universities, including three from Africa. Its aim is to develop a long-term model of malaria epidemiology, which it can use to test different ways of combating the disease."

The project recently began accepting 2,000 volunteers: apply within.

Not to worry if they fill up —


we come in peace for all mankind.

July 27, 2006 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sesame Seed Toaster


Some years ago a girlfriend told me to toast my sesame seeds in the toaster oven to enhance their aroma and flavor.

Like most things she said, this proved to be true.

Now comes Williams-Sonoma with a specialized implement to produce the same result.

From the website:

    Sesame Seed & Spice Toaster

    This tool offers an easy way to toast whole spices and sesame seeds, which will bring out their full flavor and aroma.

    Designed with a bamboo handle for holding over an open flame, the stainless-steel mesh basket has a latch opening.

    4-1/4" diam. x 13" long.



Florence Fabricant wrote about this tool in her "Food Stuff" feature in yesterday's New York Times Dining In section, as follows:

    A New Take On Toasting Spices

    Toasting whole spices like cumin seeds, mustard seeds and sesame seeds to bring out aromas and flavors is essential in a number of cuisines, notably Indian and Mexican. The usual method is to toss the seeds in a pan over heat and to expect that some will dance about willy-nilly and pop out of the pan, littering the stove and floor. But they can be tamed in this stainless steel mesh gadget with a secure lid and a heatproof bamboo handle.


$14 (seeds/spices not included).

July 27, 2006 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'Making a Buck Off Your Pet-Trick Videos'

Say what?

Tell me more — much more.

Jessica E. Vascellaro wrote a story with the headline above that appeared in the July 12 Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

Not two days later, on July 14, my cat Humphrey appeared in his breakout YouTube video (above).

I have yet to see one red cent in proceeds from his star turn.

I must be doing something wrong.

You can click here to read Ms. Vascellaro's article or go with the quick-and-dirty version below.

Long story short: In the past few months a whole slew of new websites have emerged which pay for your video clips.

Those mentioned in the WSJ story:





If you're trying to waste even more time you can watch the Wall Street Journal's Marketwatch reporter Paul Lin interview Ms. Vascellaro "about new videohosting sites that allow users to earn money from ads associated with their uploaded clips."

I hope you become richer than Croesus.

Speaking of which, I just made up a joke for you.

Q. What do you call gold nuggets handed out by Croesus?

A. Croesus' pieces.


July 27, 2006 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Control your iPod via your backpack strap


What will they think of next: remote control?

But I digress.

From the website:

    iPod-Controlling Electronics Backpack

    This backpack allows you to control all features of your iPod without having to take the music player out of the inside pocket where it is safely stowed.

    It also has a padded laptop compartment and organizers for your other personal electronics.

    Your iPod simply plugs into a jack located inside and a universal jack located on one strap accommodates your headphones, allowing complete control of your music player through the five-button control panel on the strap.

    The panel controls volume, pause, menu selection, and stop functions.

    The backpack has six additional pockets including a padded pocket to hold a laptop and organizer pockets for PDA, keys, pens, cellphone and other accessories.

    The durable 1680 ballistic nylon pack has self-mending zippers for long life and durability.


Red or Black.

$149.95 (iPod included — not. Just wanted to see if you were awake yet).

July 27, 2006 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: Can tea tree oil shampoo cause breast growth — in young boys?


Abnormal breast development in boys is called gynecomastia.

Now come National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) researchers Derek Henley and Kenneth Korach with the results of their investigation of this question.

Long answer short: Most likely yes.

Here's Jeffrey G. Ghassemi's July 17 Washington Post story.

    Lavender, Tea Tree Oil May Cause Hormonal Changes in Boys

    Unpublished research looks at effects of some shampoos, soaps and lotions

    A preliminary finding presented at the Endocrine Society's conference last month could prompt parents to read product labels more closely. The unpublished research suggests that shampoos, soaps and body lotions containing lavender and tea tree oils — commonly added for their aromas and marketing cachet — might cause hormonal imbalances and breast growth in young boys.

    The study was carried out by scientists at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences after a Denver pediatric endocrinologist reported abnormal breast development, known as gynecomastia, in five boys, ages 4 to 7, who used products containing the oils. The symptoms subsided after the boys stopped using the products.

    Institute researchers Derek Henley and Kenneth Korach tested the effects of lavender and tea tree oils on human breast cancer cells. They found that both oils mimicked estrogen (a hormone that promotes the development of female breasts) while reducing the activity of androgens, which inhibit such growth.

    "Boys are getting a double hit," said Korach, who added that this hormonal imbalance might explain the Denver cases.

    Steven Dentali, vice president of scientific and technical affairs for the American Herbal Products Association, a trade group, said it's premature to worry about these substances, given the paucity of clinical evidence and many questions that the lab work left unanswered. Still unknown, he said, are the tolerable limits of use and the specific compound in the oils that may be producing the observed effects.

    While they acknowledged that more studies are needed, the NIEHS investigators said they hoped their preliminary research would alert doctors and parents to the possible association. They advised parents to discuss any fears about herbal oils with their pediatrician. Parents who notice potentially related symptoms in their boys should also report them promptly to their physician.


Old ways


are the best ways.

July 27, 2006 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

CD Duplicator — Better hurry 'cause it'll be going real fast...


Wait till the music industry sees this.

In the meantime, check it out.

From the website:

    One-Step CD Duplicator

    Unlike other duplicating systems which must be connected to a computer or another disk drive, this stand-alone unit is a complete one-piece CD duplicator system that makes an exact high-quality replica of your CD in approximately three minutes.

    It does not require any complicated wiring or software installation and it works at the touch of a single button.

    A large memory buffer prevents recording mistakes and helps to maintain efficiency and speed, resulting in faster duplication and greatly reduced errors, all while taking up less than one square foot of desk space.

    A built-in LCD and LED indicators alert you to the unit's progress.

    Not for use with copyrighted materials.

    6 -3/4"H x 7-1/2"W x 11-1/4"D.


July 27, 2006 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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