This hack isn't particularly innovative or complicated, but I feel there's a need for it regardless. The Dashboard in 1.5 is superfluous to many users needs -- whilst WordPress development is something followed by some of us, many users couldn't care less what it is, so long as it works.
Of course, that's not the only problem with the Dashboard -- it also takes a substantial time to load, even on fast servers with fast connections, simply because it's dependent on other sources being available for syndication. When a DNS server was slow the other day, it took 72 seconds for the Dashboard to load here -- admittedly, that's the fault of the DNS server, but it proves the point nicely.
In light of this, I've written a simple drop-in replacement for the WordPress Dashboard index page, which doesn't syndicate any external content whilst still providing a quick overview of the internal status of the weblog.
You can see screenshots of DashLite on my personal weblog, as well as download the source (released under GPL).