OK, I've pushed this a little more, and I am fairly happy with how easy it has been to add the additional features that I wanted -- a counter (there's optimism for you!), comments (that now match the color scheme), and a couple of other doodads. Blogger still kills all the tag content every time I try to edit my template, though. So I guess it's going to stay fairly static from now on. I did get smart, however, and grab a copy of the vanilla HTML so that I can cut and paste all of the values back in whenever I do the editing. Still, this should be my last observation on the blogging process for the moment.
UPDATE: Owing to a fight between Webwasher
and blogger on my browser, I accidentally wiped out the blog this morning, and eventually brought it back from backup. So the comments are lost (not that there were many) and the timestamps are a bit wonky.