• Can You Hear Me Now? Staff writer Scott Baldauf went to the new farmers call center in India (page 7), but listening in proved more difficult than anyone expected. "I got a reminder of how 21st-century technology can come grinding to a halt because of the poor Indian infrastructure," he says.
"I was sitting next to Sanjeev Phogat, a call center employee, when his phone rang. 'Hello... hello... hello,' Mr. Phogat said. The phone line was terrible. All Sanjeev could hear was static. He asked the caller to try again, and the caller did just that, 12 times. We sat for 20 minutes until Sanjeev finally received a call that he could answer. 'The phone lines out in the countryside are sometimes not so good,' Phogat told me. 'But people do keep trying.' "
• Nesting Grounds: Reporter Simon Montlake went to southern Thailand to report on the separatist violence, but stumbled upon Friday's story about the booming trade in bird's nests (page 7). "I didn't have to look very hard. The basement of my hotel was home to a large swiftlet community," he says.
The nests have been harvested by the Chinese community in downtown Pattani for decades. Only recently have others seen it as a major enterprise. Simon was amused by one tale of sibling greed. "The attic of one of these old Chinese shops was filled with nests. The mother died, leaving the shop to her children who squabbled for years over the proceeds from the nests. Finally, they put two entrances and two locks on the shop. The only way to get the nests now is for both parties to present their keys at the same time," says Simon.
Did he try the soup? "No, but I hear it's incredibly bland. Chicken stock or ginseng is added to give it flavor. It's more of a texture thing."
David Clark Scott