Apple has surprised me again and really come through. Apparently it's no longer the case that all laptop repairs are sent in; they now do about 95% (according to the woman at the Genius Bar that I talked to) right in the stores. They had the right size hard drive in stock, so I was in and out in less than an hour with a fully functional MacBook. Also, for the first time since the Genius Bar concept really took off (it took about a year, really) I didn't even have to wait in a long line for service and even got in before my scheduled appointment. So apparently they've done something to vastly improve the appointment system.
On top of all that, since they had to replace the hard drive I got a fresh OS install. And the version they installed is 10.4.8. Ordinarily I'd be a little annoyed about the forced downgrade, but in this case I'm rather happy about it. I've been one of the unfortunate few who's been experiencing AirPort problems in 10.4.10 (although I was only having intermittent dropped connections and not kernel panics like some people), so I'm leaving it at that version for now. Hopefully the 10.4.11 update that should be available in the next day or two will fix those problems, otherwise I'll just wait for Leopard to update.
In other news, the Indian place in the food court at the CambridgeSide Galleria is extremely disappointing. At first I thought their prices were ridiculous. Then I saw how huge their portions were and though the prices might actually be fair. Then I tasted the food... Needless to say I won't be going back (not that I often eat at mall food courts anyway).