fixed the problem without really figuring it out. Basically I think i had too many versions of org-mode in my load-path, and somehow some of org-odt's functions were being overridden by the default versions. I removed the ubuntu ppa packages from my system, took my old git copy out of my load-path, and voila! eveyrthing works. Thanks J! this is a huge help with my grant documents, actually, and comes at a very useful time.