to my non-geeky friends, please ignore this post, or email me to correct my English.
Mint-on-papadam epilogue: I plugged a DVD drive into papadam (Gateway tower/frankenbox) and Mint played a DVD movie just beautifully. I'd have to say, this is the first time a Linux distro has ever done everything I wanted it to do with media without having to futz around with codecs.
So I installed the 64-bit Mint on samosa (HP G71-340US laptop). Had a little trouble with the audio drivers on my 82801I ICH9 hardware, but I was ready for it and just copied the /etc/modprobe.d/alsa-base.conf over from my Karmic partition. Had to reboot it (no, 'sudo service alsa-utils restart' wasn't quite enough) and after that sound from the speakers worked.
I played with stuff like Compiz settings, testing out various media types, tweaking the desktop to look more like the one I'm used to in openSUSE 11.2. Then I pulled in some developer tools for Ruby on Rails. This list is probably not complete, but it's everything I could think of then and remember now: gvim, subversion, netbeans, ruby, rubygems, rails. If I need/want something else, I'll get it when I do.
I get a lot of enjoyment out of playing with the tools, but if you find yourself making a special trip to the Levenger store and using different colors of ink and developing a tagging scheme just to write up a grocery list instead of scribbling it on the back of an envelope with a putt-putt golf pencil, you're probably doing it wrong.
In other words, it's time to roll up my sleeves and write some code.