My Mac's UI has locked up.
Is there any way to unfreeze the system short of cycling the power?
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I'd like more to find the reason for lock-ups and not just workarounds for symptoms.
UI freezing sounds very much like overheating video chips --- a common problem with many Macs, especially now during the summer in northern hemisphere.
I suggest you use e.g. smcFanControl2 and tweak up the minimum fan speeds to keep your Mac running cooler.