My computer doesn't work. If you own a computer, I'm sure this admission doesn't surprise you. This morning, for instance, I powered up my new, $3,000 machine, hoping to check my E-mail. I launched (an optimistic verb) a communications program, and double-clicked an on-screen button.

The button refused to respond. I couldn't get my E-mail. When my computer doesn't work, I engage in a few modern rituals. I turn it off, then on again -- the equivalent of throwing a cup of cold water in its face. Or I try starting it while holding down the shift key; that secret handshake...

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