Steven Cohen at Library Stuff picked up on my frustration with Google Reader. He and the other commenters are correct, you can read the oldest first, but only if you choose that option under view settings....feed by feed. You can not set that as the universal default. Even Google's help says that it is done feed by feed.
If I were starting from scratch, it would be a pain, but not a real problem.
I am importing 174 feeds from Bloglines. I have neither the time nor the inclination to tweak a setting (involving multiple clicks) for that many feeds.
Google Reader has lost me for now, and whatever problems Bloglines has, I will deal with them.
[And it may be a network problem at my end, or the fact I use Firefox, but Google Reader loads noticeably more slowly than Bloglines.]