joe, when you got to Synaptic did you remove all things KDE (but not complete removal) and then install task-KDE4 or task-kde4-minimal? I used minimal and so far don't seem to be missing anything I want. The removal is what made the difference for me. The desktop lost its wallpaper, went to (I guess) the default theme, and lost a few small K apps like KJots. But all the major programs like firefox, libre office, etc, work fine. Mow it's easy to use my new Mini partition as backup and keep building on it. Sounds like you still have the core pretty intact, so hopefully you'll get back there soon.