I thought I might have just made it better by switching to google's dns servers, but I'm not actually sure it's helped yet.
Note, of course, that I'm using wicd on ubuntu 11 (not network-manager, which was actually catastrophically freezing my computer once in a while).
Wow, looking back, realized I never shared my solution: turns out certain dell wireless cards have a problem with wireless standard n, but not g. wish I had all the appropriate linkage and help at my fingertips, but if you find this post, that should get you started. I disabled N for my card, and everything is fine (albeit slower than need be). Who knows, mayhap it be fixed by now. I don't remember how I disabled it, and I probably don't need to think about this whole issue anymore.