Getting Cingular to unlock our phones

When we bought our new Motorola V551 phones from Cingular, I was hoping they’d be unlocked — no such luck. I’d been told that there was a shop in Mountain View which would unlock a phone for about $25, but I wanted to find a cheaper (free!) way, especially with three phones needing to be taken care of before our next foreign trip.

Doing a web search on “unlock Cingular Motorola” gave lots of results, mostly not promising. But a few postings suggested either e-mailing a special address at Cingular or calling the customer care number on their web page and asking for the SIM Unlock group. I had a few minutes to spare at work on Monday and decided to go the phone route.

After only having to navigate one entry in the phone tree (press “1” for a new phone, or enter your number for an existing account), I was connected to a pleasant agent named Sandy. I asked her to connect me to the SIM Unlock group — she said that she’d have to get “some information” from me first. The information was easy enough: why I wanted to have the phones unlocked (answer: paying $2.58 per minute to call from one phone to another seemed a bit expensive). She then put me on hold for a few minutes while she checked with someone to make sure that my account was in good standing, had been opened long enough, and that my reason qualified (at least that’s what I think she did), then came back and asked me for the model, phone number, and IMEI number of each phone. Then she asked for a landline and an e-mail address and said they’d be back in touch with me in 5-7 business days.

Less than 24 hours later, I was on a conference call (this is a very usual state of affairs), and I saw that someone was trying to reach me. They hung up, and then tried again immediately. I thought it might be something serious, so when they tried a third time, I excused myself from the call for a minute and picked up the incoming call. It was Sandy — I assumed she needed more information from me and asked her to call back in 10 minutes. She did, but she didn’t need any more information — she had the unlock codes for me. I copied them down carefully and forgot to bring them home until tonight.

Tonight, I dug out my UK phone, pried out the SIM, and installed it in my phone. The phone asked me to “Enter Subsidy Password”; I entered the code Sandy had given me for my phone, and the phone registered with the network, claiming to have my UK number. (Strangely enough, the phone claimed to be on the AT&T Wireless network, not Cingular.) I wanted to check my account balance, which required visiting the Orange UK website and setting up online access — in the process, Orange sent me two text messages, so I guess my number is still active. The phone also said it has a voicemail waiting, but with a balance of only £0.23, I guess the message will have to wait a while longer.

I repeated the process with Diane’s and Jeff’s phones and codes, with equal success. We’re set for our next trip (though I’ll have to buy SIMs for the destination country).

The moral of the story: try the easy way first!

Renting again

The new power steering rack we need is on backorder, so the Toyota dealer just called and gave me the authorization number I need to rent a car (they’re paying, not me, which is a nice change) until they get our car back on the road.


The dealer authorized us to rent from Enterprise, and I wound up with a Toyota Corolla with 43,000 miles on it, which is a far cry from a brand new Prius! But it works, and since my daily commute is only 10 miles, I’ll get by. But I want our car back soon!

Nice rack — NOT!

The Toyota dealer’s service folks called me this morning — Diane’s brand-new Prius needs to have the power steering rack replaced. They don’t have a spare in stock but there are at least two available in the warehouse — but they’re not sure if the relevant warehouse is local or is in Los Angeles. If it’s local, we may get the car back on Tuesday; if it’s in LA, we’re probably looking at Thursday.

Fortunately, we have fairly flexible schedules this week, and Jeffrey isn’t in any classes, so we can get by with only one car for a few days. But it’s still irritating to have bought a new car, and to only have made two one-way trips with it, with a Toyota dealer at one end of each. *sigh*

108 miles and it’s in the shop!

This morning, I took my Prius to a nearby dealer for its 5000-mile service. I didn’t realize that it was just an oil change and would take less than an hour, so Diane followed in her new Prius to bring me home.

When she arrived, she asked me what a red exclamation point in a triangle meant on the dash. I wasn’t sure, but I didn’t think it was good. I opened the manual and it told me to consult the multi-function display, which had a “PS” on it, which meant that the power steering was out and that we should bring the car to a Toyota dealer as soon as we could.

Since we were parked at a Toyota dealer, that was an easy prospect — we drove over to the service area (again) and gave them the car to look at. A few minutes later, they’d finished the oil change on my car, and we headed home.

Late this afternoon, the service department called — apparently a torque sensor is acting up, causing the power steering to go offline (there was a recall for this in the 2001 Prius). They will have to call ToyotaTech for advice; in the meantime, we’re back down to one car. *sigh*

A rollercoaster of a day

I knew today was going to be unusual. The only thing on my schedule was a funeral at lunchtime (a friend at shul), but I planned to work before and afterwards.

The morning got off to a bit of a slow start — I came to work dressed in a suit, which threw everyone offstride. Shortly after I arrived, I got an instant message from a friend who’d been given 30 days to find a new job or leave the company — he’d found a new job, and it was probably better than the one he’d had. And I was able to help another friend with a question from a client (at least I think I gave her good data!). But one of our summer interns was leaving, having finished her six month stay (she’s from Australia, so she arrived during her summer and left during ours), and that was somewhat sad.

I dropped by the credit union to deposit a check and pick up another car loan preapproval (our first one had expired already); one of the people in line was incredibly happy — it turns out it was his last day of work (he decided to retire at the end of the month and was going on vacation between now and then). I congratulated him, of course. Then I took care of my business and returned to my office to get a little work done.

Very little, as it turned out. At 10:45, my phone rang — it was Bob Martin from Hansel Toyota in Petaluma, calling to tell me that he had a new Prius for us (Blue, AM package, which was our first choice) and wanting to know when we’d be in to get it. Since the funeral was going to go well into the afternoon, I decided we might as well go to Petaluma afterwards instead of coming back to work for an hour or so.

So I worked until it was time to leave — then hurried to Shir Hadash for the memorial service, arriving barely in time. Then it was over to the cemetery for the interment, and then home to change.

There was a Hertz location near the dealership in Petaluma, so we were able to drive up together in the Hertz car and home in the new car. The only catch was getting to Hertz by the time they closed — 6pm. We left home at 3:20 for a 95-mile trip — we arrived at 5:52pm. I guess I shouldn’t have believed Mapquest when it suggested taking the East Bay route — the merge from 580 to 101 took 20 minutes all by itself. But we arrived safely, if frazzled, and got rid of the car.

Now we were 95 miles from home with no car. So we did the obvious thing — we went to the closest restaurant (Cattlemen’s) for dinner. It’s a steak house — and pretty good. I’d go back, though I wouldn’t make a trip to Petaluma just for a meal there.

The dealership was about a 20-minute walk away; we arrived, met our salesperson for the first time (we found him through craigslist), and got started on the actual transaction. Two hours later, we were finished (it did help that we knew the car already, so we didn’t need the one-hour intro we got when we bought my Prius) and on the road for home.

This time, we avoided the East Bay and took 101 to the Golden Gate Bridge, then 19th Avenue through the city, followed by 280 and 85 to home. Elapsed time in this direction: one hour, 40 minutes.

I hope to avoid car shopping for quite a while. I won’t avoid Petaluma, though — we have a trip there with Shir Hadash on Thursday.

Using the appropriate unit

I was just listening to an interview on KCBS-AM with a tornado expert about the increase in reported tornadoes in California in recent years. During the interview, the expert mentioned that California tornadoes rarely exceed a 3 on the 5-point damage scale; the interviewer asked what the ratings were.

The expert answered, “well, a tornado rated 2 would destroy a mobile home.”

Of course. What other possible comparison could there be?

White Wine Notes

We try to take short notes when we drink a new wine; I decided that if I post them here, I’ll have a better chance of finding them again (the notes date back to sometime in 2002, and are somewhat intermittent). Red wine notes will follow some other day.

Since we’re very light drinkers, unless we have company, we reseal the wine with a Vac-U-Vin and have it again a day or two later. Some wines fare better under this treatment than others.

Wine Comments
Fetzer Echo Ridge Sauvignon Blanc 2002 Pleasant, survives well.
Geyser Peak Sauvignon Blanc 2002 David thought it was light and fruity; Diane thought it was rather astringent; we both liked it.
Trentino Pinot Grigio 2002 Liked it.
Johannesburg Riesling 2002
Sweet, but goes well with salmon.
Pacific Rim Dry Riesling (Bonny Doon) Liked it with chicken and the next day with salmon.
Beringer Chenin Blanc Nutty, the way a Chenin Blanc should be.
Brancott Vineyards Marlbourough Sauvignon Blanc Sweet.
Camelot Sauvignon Blanc 2002 Nice, slighly sweet and very slightly nutty.
Ferrari Carano Fumé Blanc 2002 Diane liked it.
Armstrong Ridge Sauvignon Blanc 2001 OK.
Mezza Corona Pinot Grigio 2002 Very good.
Coppola Bianco 2002 OK
Nobilo Icon Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc
A winner!
Ca’del Solo California Big House White 2003 Yuk. Better than Two Buck Chuck, but still Yuk.
Kenwood Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc 2001 Better than OK.
Buena Vista Sauvignon Blanc 2002 We both liked it; fruity.
The Stump Jump Riesling/Sauvignon Blanc/Marsanne 2003 Not worth buying again.
“Cloud Piercer” Sauvignon Blanc 2004 Nutty, good. A favorite.
Airlie Pinot Gris 2001 (Oregon) Very fruity. Too fruity, in fact.
Merryvale Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2004 Crisp and fruity the first night; not nearly as good the second. Worth another try.

Father’s Day 2005

It was a quiet day here in Lake Wobegon…errr, Los Gatos. I spent a good part of the morning schlepping up to Palo Alto to buy bagels at Izzy’s while Diane was at the Y (I did my Y time yesterday, so I don’t feel guilty about skipping today).

This evening, we went with some good friends to Fontana’s for Father’s Day dinner. The menu posed more challenges than I’d expected (most dishes had pork or shellfish), but we all found something we could order, and the food was quite tasty. As was the wine, a 2002 Dry Creek Sonoma Fume Blanc. And the desserts were really good: Jeff had the killer dessert, Tartufo Nero (“a big scoop of dark chocolate gelato rolled in grated chocolate served with raspberry puree, sprinkled with white chocolate”), while Diane and I settled for splitting a Pure Decadence! (“sinfully delicious chocolate torte with raspberry sauce”). I have a “Free Pasta or 50% off a bottle of wine” card for Fontana’s, good for a year — we’ll be back.

A Date Certain

I just got a call from one of the dealers I’ve been working with to replace the old Prius; he says he has two blue BC Priuses on the next boat, arriving at the port at the end of this month, expected in his hands by July 2. Now he only has one unallocated car (and my poor credit card has yet another $500 deposit on it).

Diane would actually prefer the AM package, which is slightly less loaded (no navigation, no CD changer), but time is of the essence. Similarly, if another dealer can provide us with a car sooner, we’ll go there (all of the dealers I’m working with know that).

But at least we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Pages I find through SiteMeter

I use SiteMeter to track traffic to this site (I guess I could use the logs that my ISP provides, but I started using SiteMeter years ago for Defenestration Corner, where logs weren’t available, and I like the reports they provide).

Every so often, I look at the referers they report, and if something looks interesting (usually a search engine referral), I’ll click on it. Today, I found that my blog had been reached by a Google query for “kedit macros 2005”; I was curious enough to look at that page of Google results to see what else showed up. There wasn’t much, but because it was the second page of results, I decided to look at the first page.

And there was an entry with a very intriguing title: Eastern Orthodox Editors (XEDIT/KEDIT/THE, etc). It is one page on an interesting site ( prepared by Dr. Nikolai Bezroukov as a service to the UN Sustainable Development Networking Programme.

Dr. Bezroukov has some definite views on editors (ones which aren’t far from mine). I am going to have to take a closer look at vim the next time I fire up my Linux box — I’ve been using it strictly at the same level of knowledge that I had for vi back in 1992 or so, and it appears that it’s far more capable than I’d given it credit for.

The old Prius is really history now

We’ve gotten our checks from State Farm and from Toyota (refunding the balance of our extended warranty), so I guess the story of the old Prius is officially over at this point.

We’re on the waitlist for a new Prius at six dealers so far (only one of which has actually charged our credit card for the deposit). The next batch of cars is due in this weekend — I’m hoping that one of the dealers will get the color/equipment combination we want, because I’m tired of driving rentals, not to mention paying for them!

The current rental, by the way, is a Chevy Classic — it is completely innocuous and personality-free. This puts it enormously far ahead of the Chevy Cavalier that I rented for the first part of this process, but I wouldn’t want to own one anyway. Sorry, Rick.


My latest copy of BusinessWeek arrived smelling like cologne; it turns out that they’ve started running scented ads. I called their customer service number, and almost before I finished complaining, the rep told me that they’d code my record for “no scented ads” and extend my subscription. I suspect I wasn’t the first one to complain.

We made it

The flight from O’Hare to Albany was a bit bumpy at times, but uneventful. The flight attendant had a great personality — her commentary would have been right at home on Southwest or PSA (even the pilot had a sense of humor!).

Unlike last time, we avoided Buca di Beppo.

The Desmond seems to be a nice hotel; we have a four-poster bed (no canopy, though), to which we will repair soon.

Four-poster bed at the Desmond

Tomorrow starts far too early.

Connecting with the past

Irving Wladawsky-Burger writes about his experience with the Genographic Project. Since he was an early participant, he’s already gotten his results (both Diane and I are still at stage 1, “sample received”), and though there weren’t any surprises, it helped him reconnect with his recent ancestors (and with the villages they came from, and what happened to them in the Holocaust).

I’m looking forward to getting our results.

In French, “Reunion” is just a meeting

Diane and I are at O’Hare Airport, about half-way through our trip to RPI Reunion ’05 (my 6th). I was on the organizing committee, though somehow I missed the last few calls (or they didn’t happen), so I will be surprised by whatever we do for the Parade of Classes.

I turned in our rental car this morning at Hertz Local Edition near (but not at) the airport; they gave us a ride to the terminal, and it may have been faster than if I’d returned the car at the airport itself — my experiences with the SJC shuttle have not been good ones. I had, of course, planned to return the car at the airport, but the nice folks at Hertz told me that trying to return a car rented as an “insurance replacement” to the airport would cause me nothing but grief, and I was willing to believe them.

I’d been unable to check in online, so I was expecting at least one of us to undergo the dreaded “secondary screening” at the airport — but that didn’t happen. There were only a couple of people ahead of us in the check-in line; security was no different than usual. And we had plenty of time to wait for our flight (which left on time and arrived a few minutes early).

We’ve got another two hours ahead of us here at the Concourse G Admiral’s Club; time to have some lunch.

Speaking of knowing Rexx…

Cory at Boing Boing says:

Weirdly, the mainframe business shows no sign of declining, despite the low cost and high power of commodity PC hardware. However, many of the old mainframe jocks are dying or retiring, leaving mainframe-dependents businesses without enough techs.

(Original article at

Maybe that’s why Howard Fosdick just published a new Rexx book!

It’s hard being helpful from across the country

There’s good news on two fronts this afternoon.

My father-in-law checked out of the hospital today and was admitted to a physical rehab center, where they’ll help him recover from his knee replacement (and he gets a private room, too!).

And I just solved a nasty connectivity problem for my Mom — it may have started as a glitch in the DSL modem or the router, but while she was on the phone with the ISP, powercycling the equipment, one of the cables got disconnected. She discovered the hanging cable while I was talking her through the same procedure — and now she’s back on the air.

Hi, Mom!

28 is a perfect number

That was just about my first thought this morning (but since I wasn’t quite sure I remembered the perfect numbers, I had to verify it — yup: 1+2+4+7+14 = 28). It’s unlikely that we’ll make it to the next perfect anniversary (496), so I decided to make the most of today.

So we spent it doing the usual sorts of Sunday things. Diane had a Women of Reform Judaism meeting party in the morning, and I went to the Y while she was there; then she went to the Y, and I called car dealers (blue BC Priuses are in very short supply — if we wanted silver or white, we could have one within a week, but we’d rather wait a bit longer for blue); then we all went for a walk to Starbucks/Jamba Juice, and finally we had Indian take-out for dinner. It was a very nice day.

Dinner at Forbes Mill

Diane’s dad’s recuperation seems to be more complicated than we’d expected (of course, it’s hard to tell exactly what’s going on from 2500 miles away), and so we spent much of the afternoon on the phone trying to sort out his status and what’s going to happen when he’s discharged from the hospital on Monday (answer: we don’t know yet, and trying to get information from a hospital on Saturday afternoon is a futile errand).

Neither of us felt comfortable committing six hours to a road rallye (including travel, rallye school, and post-rallye activities); Jeff, on the other hand, wanted us out of the house so that he could study and watch The Empire Strikes Back in peace. So we compromised, and Diane and I went out for dinner.

With just the two of us, our restaurant horizons expand considerably; we decided to try somewhere new but local, the Forbes Mill Steakhouse. We had no reservations, but thought it should be fairly easy to grab a table at 6pm, even on Saturday night. When we arrived, first they said that there were no indoor tables; I was ready to leave, and suddenly they discovered one table, near the kitchen. That was fine with us, and we took it.

Our waiter arrived promptly with menus, the wine list, and an offer of cocktails (which we declined) or water (which we accepted). We both wanted the Bosc Pear and Gorgonzola salad; Diane ordered the mixed grill (which, interestingly, includes a lamp chop rather than the expected lamb chop), and I ordered the ribeye. My salad had the dressing pre-applied, rather than on the side, as I’d ordered it — but it was very tasty, so I didn’t point out the error.

We both liked our wines; I had Terrazas de Los Andes “Vistalba Vineyards” Malbec, Mendza 2003, and Diane had Montage, California 2002.

When the main course arrived, the server mumbled something about “cowboy cut” (which had been a daily special), and I noticed that it was a bone-in steak — not what I expected. So I flagged down yet another waiter (there were some advantages in being near the kitchen), who brought over a supervisor, who said that the bone was “free” and that he’d make sure the bill was correct. I was hungry; the meat had been cooked the way I wanted and was reasonably close to what I wanted, so I said “ok”.

Neither of us was particularly thrilled with our steaks (though Diane said her lamp chop was good). There wasn’t anything wrong with them — but they weren’t worth the price. And mine was far too big to finish, and I didn’t want to save it, either.

We passed on dessert.

The check arrived, and it showed the bone-in ribeye, but they corrected it as soon as I pointed out the error.

If I could just order the salad, I’d return cheerfully (and then go somewhere else for a main course), but otherwise, I’m in no hurry to go back; the meat wasn’t up to the price, and they got too many things wrong in handling our orders.

After dinner, we took a nice walk through downtown Los Gatos, and then came home to find Jeff busily studying (he’d finished watching the movie first, of course).

Maybe we’ll try next month’s rallye, Car Wars III: Revenge of the SI.

Friday at last

Although this was officially only a four-day week, and in some ways really a three-day week for us, it’s been an awfully busy one.

In health news, Diane’s dad had his knee replaced yesterday (we talked to him this morning, and he’s doing well — he even claims that the hospital food is “not too bad”), and I found out that one of my Academy colleagues is going into the hospital next week for an autologious bone marrow transplant to cure his multiple myeloma, so we have a couple of names for Mi Shebeyrach at services tomorrow. (By the way, the National Marrow Donor Program Registry is worth checking out — signing up is simple and painless, especially if you’re already a blood donor.)

In car news, I sent State Farm the title and keys for the 2002 Prius today, and we should receive a check next week to help replace it. We’re still waiting for a dealer to tell us “come on down!”, so in the meantime, the Kia will continue to serve as my commute car.

And work has been busy — among other projects, one of my colleagues and I have set up a departmental blog and status report site to make it easier to keep track of what we’re all doing. I still have to write the announcement for the group before I leave for the week so that we can start using it next week.

But things are looking good for the weekend. There’s an interesting new geocache near one of our favorite restaurants. Diane’s reading Torah tomorrow at services and I’m giving the D’var Torah (hmmm, I guess I’d better write it soon!), and then there’s what looks like a fun rallye tomorrow evening. And Sunday’s our 28th anniversary!

Shabbat Shalom!

(Geocache link fixed. Thanks, Sam.)

Maybe I should learn Morse Code again

When I first became a ham, I learned just enough Morse Code to pass the 5wpm Novice test; I’ve had, at most, one CW QSO. And I didn’t upgrade to General (let alone Extra) until the code requirements were lowered so I didn’t have to take another test.

Despite that, I wrote a program to turn my callsign (well, any string) into a cellphone ringtone (both in Nokia format and in IMelody) so that I’d know when it was my phone ringing.

Now, though, I’m tempted to learn Morse again so that I could use Morse Texter (thanks to Russell Beattie for the link. It’d be great on a Palm — much better than Graffiti!

Back to work, despite everything

I decided to ignore work for the entire Memorial Day weekend — I don’t even think I saw any IBMers other than Diane. Instead, we geocached our neighborhood on Saturday and Monday, and visited friends for a cookout on Sunday (caching their neighborhood while we were there). We also made our first trip of the year to the Los Gatos Farmer’s Market; wild salmon is back, as are ripe peaches, plums, and apriums. Yummy!

Tuesday, although the holiday weekend was over, none of us made it to the office (or school). The father of one of the girls in Jeff’s class had died during the weekend; school was closed so that anyone who wanted could attend the funeral and shiva lunch. Diane and I both know the family, so we wanted to attend, too, so we worked at home before and after the ceremony and gathering. I can’t say I was very focused on work, though I tried.

Today, we were supposed to get back to normal, and all was going swimmingly until I started the rental Prius. Or, to be more accurate, I tried to start it. The 12-volt battery had gone flat over the long weekend (I don’t think I left any doors open, but maybe…) and couldn’t get the car going. I didn’t have time to call Hertz for assistance, so we carpooled, and I only got to work 45 minutes late.

When I got home, I called Hertz, and they said they’d send out a truck to jump the car so that I could drive it back to them and swap it. While I was waiting, I decided to try again, and the car started (very reluctantly) — so I phoned Hertz to cancel the service call and drove to the nearby Hertz Local Edition. Usually, if I have battery problems with a car, I hope the engine won’t die again until I’ve had a chance to drive it far enough to recharge the battery — but with a Prius, the engine stops as part of normal operation!

I made it there with no problems; I even restarted the car, but I could tell that things weren’t quite right, and so I was happy to swap for a Kia Spectra. It’s definitely not as nice a car as the Prius, but it’s much nicer than the Chevy Cavalier I suffered with last week — my only real complaint with this car is that the radio doesn’t sound very good.

We’re still on The List for a new Prius at four dealerships in the area; two of them have given us ETAs of next week, which would be just fine. I suspect we’re not the only ones on multiple dealers’ lists, either.

Oh yeah, I mentioned “work” in the title of this post, didn’t I? Power stayed up in my wing all weekend, so I didn’t have to do anything with my wiki server (and I could have left my refrigerator plugged in, though defrosting it was a good idea anyway). And I am continuing to work on my report and proposal to the CIO’s office, with increased urgency; I have a call scheduled for next Tuesday to make the case.