Thanks OUTL4W, f4780y, and sh0nuff for your inputs. I downloaded a mix of the recommended apps and came away much happier just overnight.
Here's my current list:
Activator - allows you to assign gestures/buttons to any app or action you want.
Airplane SBSettings Toggle - Toggle phone into airplane mode (SBSettings required)
Animate - Boot Logo Animations
Backgrounder - enable and manage true forefront multitasking. ***Since Uninstalled***
Calculator Widget - SBSettings Calculator Widget (SBSettings required)
ChangeCarrier** - Change "iPad" name in upper left corner to whatever you want.
CyDelete** - Delete Cydia apps from springboard like normal apps.
Dimmer** - Allows you to dim the screen beyond the brightness minimum default. VERY useful. (iOS 5 beta 2 notes - works with defaults but extensions don't show up in Settings so you can't control anything)
FullForce - Force iphone apps to open in fullscreen mode. Formatting off a bit sometimes.
FullScreen for iPad - allows fullscreen and gesture control in Safari. (iOS beta 2 notes - crashes safari)
GridLock - Place Icons anywhere on Grid. (iOS 5 beta 2 notes - locks up iPad after respring. had to do a full system restore to correct.)
iFile** - File Manager.
Infinidock - Scrollable dock and allows more than 4 icons on dock. A MUST. (iOS 5 beta 2 notes - locked up iPad and required a restore.)
iPadRetro - Retro apple boot logo.
Lock Calendar** - Calendar entries on your lock screen. (iOS 5 beta 2 notes - caused no problems but since no extensions show in the Settings, there's no way to activate it.)
ManualCorrect - Simple app that reverses the spell correct feature on the iPad. Instead of autocorrecting immediately it will allow words to be mispelled, keep them underlined, and then allow you to "replace" them after you're done typing.
Multifl0w - expose-like or palm pre like multitasking preview.
MultiIconMover - allows you to move more than one icon at a time.
NES A.D. Plus - Full-featured NES Emulator. Built-in ROM downloader, Wiimote support.
OpenSSH - SSH into iPad to modify root files. ex: enable HDMI mirroring on iPad1.
PkgBackup - Backup and restore Cydia apps.
Pull to Refresh Mail - pull-to-refresh feature to Mail app.
Pull to Refresh Safari - pull-to-refresh feature to Safari.
Safari Download Plug-In - download stuff from safari.
SBSettings - useful toggles for wifi, BT, etc... dropdown from status bar.
Serious SBSettings HD - Retina/HD SBSettings theme.
ShowCase - Make keyboard show current case. By default the apple keyboard is always in uppercase even when you're typing in lowercase. this fixes that.
SplitMail for iPad - split-style iPad mail app in portrait.
Tab+ - adds more than 9 tabs in Safari, though after 9 the tab counter shows blank instead of 10, 11, etc...
TV Tube Sleep - Tube TV sleep effect when screen times out or is turned off. doesn't show a different effect in landscape, meaning only shows a portrait effect all the time.
WinterBoard - Themes.
Still looking for more!
Edit: ** = compatible with iOS 5 beta 2. not all tested, stopped after Lock Calendar.