So it turns out that my concerns about the local power grid did not appreciate the scope of the problem.
I arrived at the house in Clendenin last night, and I immediately started seeing the same screen flickering behavior on my laptop that I saw last month. I thought the problem last month was the 32″ tv I was using as a second monitor, but it turns out that the local power company (Appalachian Power) is well-known to be unreliable.
West Virginia ranks as the tenth worst state for infrastructure, and that poor rating is reflected in its power grid. When I stopped by Best Buy to inquire about surge protectors, I was told that I did in fact need one – and not just a cheap power strip with a surge protector built in, but an actual surge protector.
So I got one that doubles as a UPS (uninterruptable power supply). I don’t know that I will ever really need the battery feature, but it was only ten bucks more than a regular surge protector.
EDIT: And it turns out that the unreliable power company might not be the issue. Late last night I saw the same flickering screen behavior again – even though the laptop was on a surge protector. It went away when I unplugged the power supply, which suggests that the power supply was the problem all along. (It looks like this happens when the power supply overheats, or possibly when the laptops battery is fully charged.)
Oh, well, the surge protector is still a good idea.