Celani suggested to Mathieu that maybe our wire is damaged. So I took pictures of the wires to send on to him. We'll see what he thinks. The pictures are taken at 8 megapixels which is enough to zoom in nicely on the wires and all the other details.
Click on the pictures below for the full resolution image. The Celani wire is the lighter colored one. Note the texture on it and the little flaky bits.
The slight brown smear is actually melted plastic on the outside of the glass from the laser thermometer. :(
There is a good chance that the flaky appearance and the shiny spots are an indication that the wire is damaged. If that is the case, Celani suggested there may be a way to reheat it in oxygen to try to "repair" it. I'll keep ya posted on what I learn.