so I was doing it wrong. ceebx's code works great. (I was checking for currentTab == 0 && cornerWidget, but I needed to be checking for currentTab == 0 && !cornerWidget. one simple little bug...)
of course, I said I'd probably commit this stuff last night. now I want to integrate a ConfigPage in with my commit so I can have a huge commit with new fun stuff in it... :)
mmm. well, it's nice to have Konqueror drawing the tabwidget correctly now. it doesn't look so silly anymore.