Crossing my fingers….
Spending time last night tracking processes and queries in the OS and MySQL led me to an amazing discovery — Adobe Acrobat spawns its *own* MySQL process (using its own version of mysqld and mysqladmin) to handle something called “Organizer.” I think the problem has been the fact that there were too many MySQL servers out there listening, and any sort of serial process was getting interrupted because I’m just betting that the Adobe process was not configured to be responsive to any number of things (a port conflict, perhaps?).
After hiding the executables from Adobe, the system seems more responsive. Today will be the test of the fix. If it works out, then I can start looking into figuring out what I would have to do to make the two happily co-exist.
Thanks to those who offered suggestions and advice!