Luckily it rained a little overnight... not enough to put out the fires or anything, but enough to cool the house a little.
I managed to find somebody to come out and look at the air conditioner, and of course everything looked fine and worked as it should.
Our current thinking is that the seals in the 25 year old compressor could be coming apart and jamming stuff internally. The compressor's going to cost more than the system's worth to replace (not helped by using the obsolete R-22 refrigerant) and I can't do it myself - there are a lot of rules about that. I'm going to start looking at getting a new unit installed, as this one's had as much work as I can do to it, and it's obviously past its prime.
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