davextreme just informed me via comment that Google Reader has added that he, bp, and me all seem to want: sort by oldest. Sorting by newest starves those older entries and sometimes it just doesn't make sense to read feeds in reverse chronological order.
The also announced the "sort by auto" feature, though this has actually been live longer. The sort by auto feature tries to give your least frequently updated feeds (i.e. friends) higher placement so that you can get to them sooner, while leaving things like Gizmodo/Engadget/BoingBoing further down for the daily feed slog.