Will do Carbon. Bundling my stuff up into a nice neat little package.
You keep getting resource screwed because that's just the way the cookie crumbles. I've had lots of games where there's just nothing around me, and then I've had games where I've been blessed by having a huge Volcano planet, a huge ice planet, a huge desert planet, and a huge urban planet all within a couple jumps of my start. I just see the lean starts as incentive to get out there and closer to the star faster then my opponents... Like Draak in the last MP game. Once I had some ships to defend the planets, I jumped out in front of him and robbed him of the ability to expand. However, if you still feel it's just not right, it's a bit of work, but you could always redownload the mod, delete everything out of the mod folder and redo it fresh. There's always the possibility that you just happen to have gotten a corrupt or missing file.
The visual enhancements themselves don't slow the game down, however since they do require more hardware resources then the unmodded version, when the numbers of ships start to climb, so does the resources required to show everything, which in turn slows down the PC as it starts to run out of available resources. A good practice is to not have any of your graphics setting on highest. Medium is usually adequate, and from personal experience, in multiplayer, it seems you should go lower to help cut down on the lag for everyone's benefit.