This morning I tried to see if I could rejigger preferences within ubuntu's default wm ("metacity" I think it's called?) to see if I could happily live there. I realize that most of what I want is just virtual desktop navigation with my favorite burned-into-my-brain-for-12-years keyboard shortcuts. F2 toggle maximization, F3 is toggle stickiness, F4 is toggle raisedness. And Shift-F1 is "create new terminal". Ctrl-Shift-Arrow Keys move around virtual desktops. That's just how the world is, people. There's no point in trying to change the world with your youthful enthusiasm GET OFF MY LAWN.
Ahem. Anyway I was nearly happy, nearly having achieved all the bindings I wanted, except that apparently no matter what key I assigned to "toggle raisedness" and "toggle stickiness" in ubuntu's keyboard shortcuts preferences dialog, it... didn't actually toggle anything when I pressed them. Everything else worked fine, though, mysteriously.
I found this bug on the forums, though, and so I tried turning off "visual effects" the number of which I had noticed to date was zero. And that, um, fixed my problem. Way to go, ubuntu programmers. I don't know how you made "visual effects" make basic some (but only some) window manager operations totally not work, but you sure did.