There are days when technology is not my friend. This morning, as I prepare to write about web services -- conclusion: industry politics and market manipulation lead technical excellence and common sense by three goals to one at half time -- my computer freezes in mid mouse movement. I say another word associated with movements, and commence diagnostics: nothing doing. Solid as a rock, with my various documents, Web pages and emails fossilised on the screen. Of course, with interrupts off the power switch doesn't work: in and out with the mains lead -- don't you love that meaty pop it makes as the power supply capacitors charge up? -- and back it comes. This time, it lasts just long enough for me to log in. There then follows half an hour of swapping processor, memory, peripheral cards, wires, plugs, sockets... all to no good effect. Something has died on the motherboard -- probably of boredom, given the number of Microsoft middleware corporate positional documents I'd been reading. Come lunchtime, and no work has been done. I get into the lift and moodily poke the ground floor button as if it alone is responsible for my misery. Simultaneously, my cellphone goes off. It's the Scottish Lady, currently installed chez moi during a visit to the Smoke. "Hello... er, your laptop is making a strange ticking noise and there's a blue screen on it saying something about memory dumps." She's always been an enthusiastic sneezer. Where the nostrils lead, the whole body spasm follows: it's quite a spectacular sight, on a par with Old Faithful or Vesuvius. This time, I later discover, a miscreant pollen grain triggers a major neurological event while she's typing away on the family laptop: this gets banged down on the Pictish knees with enough force to brain a badger. Unsurprisingly, it takes exception to this and the hard disk -- an IBM Travelstar with 'pixie dust' molecular coating -- departs this life sounding like a clock with a stutter. So much for pixies. But I don't know this yet. I'm still in the lift, trying to work things out over the phone and thinking the blackest of thoughts. Hey, hold on. Why am I still in the lift? Why does it say Third Floor? Why are the doors shut? That's right. The lift too is on the fritz, and I am trapped within. Anyone got an opening for an apple grower?