(I got my memory back today... Get it? Get it? Sorry. I know. Pretty lame.)
Well, Athena has her memory back. I stuck it in, and it's working, although I still don't know as of writing whether or not the problem will persist (about half the time, the RAM fails startup test). It's the same RAM. Newegg simply tested it and sent it back.
I think the problem might be with the motherboard. There are a few work-arounds if it keeps happening. The easiest and most obvious would be to enable the 'quick' startup test, which doesn't encounter the problem. If I don't have any freezes other than during startup, then that seems like a viable solution. I could also slow the memory speed down in the BIOS, or add another gig in the two empty slots (which would prevent it from utilizing DDR and therefore slow it down). Most likely I'll just use the quick test, since I don't like to sacrifice performance,0 and I haven't had any trouble once it's booted since I flashed the firmware.
I'm kind of glad for the break that the RAM issue caused. It allowed me to accomplish some things and set some priorities right in my schedule.
The other thing I was having problems with was that I couldn't get GNOME to build. It wasn't compiling, and I couldn't figure out what the top error was bacause it scrolls by so fast. redirecting output to a file using ">" didn't work, because the errors weren't going to stdout. Then I remembered my schoolin'. We had a Sun lab at school, and most of our programming projects had to compile on those machines. Turning in an assignment usually required three things: access to a binary from the prof's account (if applicable), a printout of the source code, and a printout of the program output. The best way to prove that your program works is to use the script command to make a file that records everything that gets displayed on the terminal.
So, I found the error, then went to the trusty forums on gentoo.org and found this, which (I hope) is the solution to my problem. With any luck, as soon as she's done crunching code, Athena will (finally) have a graphical environment!
0 Not that I'm hurting for speed. It's the principle of the thing.