After hanging on to vanilla 11.04 (the last gnome2 release) until it became too out-of-date to use, I switched to xmonad with a dzen workspace display in place of gnome-panel. It took a fair amount of time to customize (which I can do now, no thanks to you, Ubuntu), but now my DE is optimal again.
I eventually wound up switching off Ubuntu altogether when I realized that I seriously disagreed with its general direction of removing customizability and features for marketing reasons, that I disliked most of its core applications, and that Arch, with its AUR, had a more complete and up-to-date repository of software that I cared about. That particular switch was pretty time consuming, but I learned a decent amount about the modern Linux userspace. I have a nice sleek system now that does what I want it to, and not the other way around.
Have a nice life, Ubuntu. Good luck getting grandma to install you.