My faithful Google has done it again. After several false starts, missteps, and the complete loss of all my gadgets, I finally found the customizable 3-column template of my dreams to play with! I case anybody else wants to play, there are an assortment of Blogger-Beta-compatible templates here. Mine is the "minima white".
As you can see I still have some tweaking to do, but from now on it will be fun rather than frustrating. Thanks for all the good luck wishes - you have no idea how much I appreciate your company here online.