WOW major virtualbox shenanigans
i seem to have broken my good boxes with something from this list:
1) upgraded ubuntu to 18.04
2) kept compton but it is not needed now that we have wayland compositor
3) installed virtualbox* packages to try to fix clock
after I uninstalled virtualbox and compton, ONE of them came back to life (but not the other)
the other is having ssh problems of some kind that cause immediate systemd problems

while investigating, we got LOTS of good progress on KEEP GOING