gnome-panel lag?

i've got helix (ximian?) -gnome installed, debian unstable, xfree86 4.02,
kernel 2.4.1
sometimes when i click the items in the 

the task-list panel works fine, but the buttons on the panel, including the
"start" button (the launchers) sometimes take ages (up to a minute!) to respond
to the click...
sometimes when i have a menu open and it "lags", all input stalls and i can't
do anything until it "unlags".
note the desktop icons work fine, thank god i have an Eterm icon on the desktop
i've had this problem ever since i installed this copy of debian about 4 months

my sources.list is as follows:

deb unstable main non-free contrib
deb unstable/non-US main contrib
deb unstable main 
deb sid/

anyone had this problem? heard of it? solutions?
nb: removing ~/.gnome and others doesn't fix the problem.

also, my mate has very similar (helix-gnome etc) setup, and doesn't suffer
these problems.

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