The laptop is still non-functional, but my backup is in place and Help Desk returns!
I've received some good advice from people who have suggested that rather than assuming my troubles stem from a loose connection on my motherboard I should consider whether or not my hard drive is dying. I hadn't thought of that simply because the laptop is new, but I have to admit it's doing exactly what an old desktop computer did when it's hard drive was about to die.
NaNoWriMo 2007 was a bust this year. Not in general -- as far as I can tell it went off without a hitch... they even had various writers (including Neil Gaiman!) send off the weekly pep talk emails that were sent to all participants.
It turns out that I will be working a two-month contract in New Orleans starting after the Thanksgiving holiday. Any readers in New Orleans who can point me towards information about living in that city (i.e., bus routes and schedules, places in the city that offer short-term leases, etc.) please drop me a line. Thanks!