Today's elisp accomplishments:
(defun spawn-terminal ()
"Spawn a new terminal window"
(call-process "gnome-terminal" nil 0 nil)
(defun spawn-explore-pwd ()
"Spawn a filesystem window on pwd"
(call-process "gnome-open" nil 0 nil ".")
(defun start-current-buffer ()
"Run the current buffer"
(unless (buffer-file-name) (error
"You have to save this buffer someplace first"))
(call-process "gnome-open" nil 0 nil
;start with no input, and ignore output
(defun dired-start-this-file ()
"Run current/selected files"
(function (lambda (x)
(call-process "gnome-open" nil 0 nil x)))
(dired-get-marked-files t current-prefix-arg)
Apparently call-process is what I've been looking for all this time, for these various tasks where I don't want to capture output, wait for the process to finish, etc.
Further observation: grepping
Caffeine is a wonderful thing.