The Shapiro Files

Monday, August 28, 2006

Quick Update

Marcie and I made an 11th hour decision to buy a new house (well, new to us that is) and have been neck deep in home buying/selling stuff ever since--thus the dearth of recent updates here at The Shapiro Files. Between working full time, raising Melody, and now all this house insanity (including just finishing two days of open house madness with possibly more to come), things have been stressful and very exhausting.

Hopefully, things will setting down soon and I can get back to my random ramblings (plus long-awaited Melody photos) in the very near future. Keep checking back; there's plenty more to come!

Friday, August 11, 2006

Meeting Randy Newman

It’s not every day you get to meet one of your heroes.

Marcie and I went to see music legend Randy Newman in concert at Redwood City’s Fox Theater earlier this evening. Not only was this exciting enough, but through my association with a very cool group of fellow Randy-philes called Little Criminals (LCs), Marcie and I were able to get our names on Randy’s backstage guest list. So not only did we get to see an excellent concert by one of the greatest singer-songwriters/film composers of all time, but we were actually able to meet him afterwards!

While I don’t like to think of myself as the star-stuck type, I couldn’t help but to be nervous to meet someone whose music I’ve loved for so many years. But he was as nice as you can imagine and we spent a few minutes chatting about a number of random topics. Marcie told him that I love playing his music on the piano and that Melody has had almost continuous exposure to his music since day one. Throughout it all, I tried not to drift off into rambling incoherence, but he was always very kind and genuine.

Before we left, I asked if he would mind posing for a photo and he didn’t hesitate to put his arms around us and strike a pose. Although the resultant photo (below) catches him with his eyes closed, I’m still thrilled beyond words to have it. And as Marcie reminds me, Randy typically sings with his eyes closed, so his “peaceful” pose is perfectly appropriate.

I’d like to extend a special thanks to LC Susan for helping to coordinate the backstage guest list and Randy’s manager Cathy for actually making the list happen. And of course, I’d like to thank Randy most of all for being so open and welcoming to his fans.

Steve and Marcie with Randy Newman!
Click for a larger image

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Cuts Like a Knife

KnifeA few years ago, I caught an episode of the television series Everybody Loves Raymond that I felt epitomized what it is to be married (fans of the show might argue that every episode did this). The episode concerns a suitcase left on the staircase (I missed the beginning so I don’t know the events leading up to its being placed there) and for the rest of the episode, Ray and his wife Debra passive-agressively wait for the other to remove the misplaced item. Each grows increasingly frustrated with the other (both avoid explicitly saying anything to the other out of stubborn pride) and Ray even raises the stakes by placing some rotting cheese in the suitcase hoping the offending smell would motivate Debra to cave and put the thing away. And so the episode continues in this vein until the inevitable funny (but surprisingly insightful) yelling-match conclusion.

Well, it looks like Marcie and I are now caught in a similar standoff over a Henckels paring knife.

For the entire time that we’ve been married, we’ve been pretty equal in terms of dishwashing duties. The general rule is that whoever cooks, the other person cleans. But there’s one very strange exception to this: knives. For reasons I’ll probably never understand, Marcie avoids cleaning knives like Mel Gibson avoids sobriety. However, she certainly likes to use knives well enough. Such is the case with a nice set of Henckels knives we received as a wedding gift back in 2000. In particular, she loves using the set’s little paring knife for just about everything that requires cutting.

Unlike Marcie, I typically avoid using the Henckels knives because they require hand-washing (life’s short enough) and I find that our everyday machine-washable knives work just fine for most uses (slicing bananas, cutting up small pieces of food for Melody, etc.). But I realize that cutlery preferences are a personal thing and I have no qualms about Marcie’s paring knife inclinations.

However, once she uses that little guy, it ends up on the counter or in the sink where it seems to me that it remains untouched until I end up having to clean it. Now, in her defense, Marcie insists that she indeed does, in fact, wash knives. But I have a feeling that in the case of the paring knife, it’s either the exception to the rule or she only washes it before using it instead of after (the difference is subtle yet significant).

So after seeing that little paring knife make yet another appearance in our sink this weekend, I vowed to not wash it and just see how long it’ll remain in the sink. Well, today is Tuesday and it’s still there. Will it continue holding its position until tomorrow? Next week? Next millennium? Stay tuned.

UPDATE (8/11/06): The knife is no longer in the sink. Clean at last, it sits happily in its hardwood block home with all its Henckels neighbors. Minus the few days Marcie was feeling under the weather this week (poor Marcie!), I'd say the knife remained unwashed for maybe a total of 3 or 4 days. Not quite the comic results I was hoping for, but I guess life can't always imitate art!

Something Phishy

As a follow-up to my previous post about my recent trials and tribulations with online identity theft (vis-à-vis Ebay), I’d like to encourage everyone to take this brief phishing IQ test brought to my attention by Joe C. (thanks, Joe, for the link!). Take it, learn it, be it.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Ebay Headache

For several years now, I’ve been enjoying the ability to recapture some of the more tangible odds and ends of my childhood by way of the wondrous Ebay. Everything from The Letter People (arguably the reason I’ve grown up loving reading so much) to Dynamite Magazine and everything in between has been available to me through Ebay’s funky “everything and the kitchen sink” virtual garage sale site.

So you can imagine how broken-hearted I was when I recently received a series of email alerts from Ebay that someone had stolen my account and created dozens (possibly hundreds) of auctions selling expensive name-brand handbags (of all things!). This, in turn, led to my account being suspended.

“How did that happen?” I asked myself. After all, I do work in the tech industry and know to be very careful about not being fooled into clicking on links found in “spoof” emails. And it’s not like I’ve been especially careless with my passwords either. Nonetheless, Ebay identify theft happened and I had to deal with it.

The good news is that Ebay has a relatively user-friendly online “Live Chat” support system and they were able to set everything straight fairly quickly. It looks like my user feedback rating is unchanged (all positive!) and I am once again free to continue searching for a replacement to that Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots set that went missing during a move at age 11.

So if nothing else, I guess I might as well look at this odd bump in the Ebay road as a learning/teaching opportunity. And with that, here’s some advice for fellow online shopaholics:

  • Change your passwords regularly (and try to combine both letters and numbers if possible)
  • Make sure your email and online shopping passwords are different
  • Periodically check your account information on your various online shopping destinations to ensure the address and phone number listed is actually yours
  • Never click on links directly in emails from Ebay, Amazon, Paypal, etc. unless you know how to view the email message’s raw source code and can verify the email is not spoofed. Remember, you can always log on a website from scratch and click on the “Account” link from there. There’s never any reason to click on such “Account information needed” links directly from emails.
  • As a courtesy to your friends and family members, avoid using “share with a friend” input boxes/links at all but the most well-known websites (sites such as, The Onion, and a handful of others are OK). Instead, just copy and paste the URL (web address) from your web browser address bar and email that link directly. Otherwise, when you enter an email address into one of those online input boxes, you’re often inadvertently signing up that address for every spam list on the planet.