Reporters on the Job

THIS INTERVIEW WILL SELF-DESTRUCT IN FIVE SECONDS: While reporter Gretchen Peters was interviewing Pakistan's interior minister about the capture of top Al Qaeda members (page 1), she was interrupted regularly by his cell phone ringing. Except, it wasn't a ring. "It kept playing the theme song from 'Mission Impossible.' I asked him if the music was a commentary on his job. He laughed, and said his son had programmed it to play his favorite movie tune," Gretchen says.

COMPUTER BAPTIST: Iraqi Kurdistan isn't the best place in the world to have computer problems. The Monitor's Cameron Barr learned that lesson the hard way yesterday, when he spilled a few drops of 7-Up on the keyboard of his laptop.

"What an idiot," he thought to himself. He flipped the machine over and shut it down as quickly as he could. Just as quickly he sank into despair. He pondered having to write in Internet cafes with unreliable connections and antiquated computers. He fretted about losing access to the e-mails, research, and family photos accumulated on the laptop.

Then he inspected the machine, dabbed up some remaining 7-Up, and borrowed a hair dryer from a colleague. After gently warming the keyboard, he pressed the power button. The machine appeared to boot up, but then it began emitting terrifying beeps, interspersed with even more terrifying crackling noises. He turned it off. More despair. He lay on the bed in his room.

After a few minutes he got up to begin rewriting today's story (page 7) on his Palm pilot. No easy feat. In the meantime he put the laptop on the floor, in the sunshine. An hour later, he turned the machine on again. It worked just fine.

He vows to stop eating at his desk.

HARD-HAT REPORTING: Until this week, reporter Ben Lynfield figured the greatest risk he faced as a reporter covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was getting caught in the crossfire. But after his reporting trip to Gaza (this page), he has a new concern: falling debris.

"I spent the morning inspecting the site where the Israeli army had demolished several homes. It was only later, as I was looking at some photos I'd taken, that I realized I'd been prancing through an area where a couple of concrete blocks were perched precariously over- head. I didn't even notice them at the time." Ben doesn't have a construction hard hat, but he does own a hardened-steel army helmet which now may find new use.

David Clark Scott
World editor

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