"I know you guys aren't impressed. However, thirty-five-ish pounds as a total weight was about to make a universe of difference."
Compared to the traditional weights you came from, 35 pounds should have felt heavenly! Comfort is different for everyone, but I found that I noticed major improvements everytime I dropped even a little total pack weight... from 45 down to 40, down to 35, down to 25, etc... until I got below 20 pounds total pack weight. Below 20 pounds it all feels about the same to me - that is that it really doesn't noticably affect my stamina.
I've had similar experiences to you when hiking with "un-enlighted" companions. It usually only takes one trip to get them looking into lightweight methods! And usually I feel guilty and end up carrying some of their stuff in the meantime.
I really enjoyed my own metamorphosis process, and it has been fun reading about yours - thanks for sharing.