think i solved it..
The best things about diesels is that even the seemingly most complex issues always prove themselves out to be a basic malfunction of the operating principles. After many iterations of troubleshooting, I discovered the hose clamp on the fuel line feed from my fuel tank was partially loose---I was able to tighten it 3-4 more turns. Hard to believe this could have let enough air into the feed to create the symptoms I experienced, but since I made this adjustment, the issue has gone away (knock wood 2x). Have faith in your trusty diesel engine...