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.