My ultimate advice though is to completely forget about mega-pixles and specs. Go to the shop, try out different brands, and find which is the most comfortable to hold. I can't stress that enough. I almost bought the Pentax K-x till I went into the shop and found it was very unconfortable, whereas the Nikon was far better. Of course do the research and find the model with the best reviews, but when it comes down to a couple of choices, just go the one that feels better. Because you will be spending a lot of time holding it! Yes, the grip (?) is very important, and from what I've heard Nikon cameras are extra good at those. But on the other hand I find my Canon much more comfortable than my boyfriend's Nikon D40, so be sure to try different brands, because I guess it's very individual.
Damn straight. I specifically didn't buy a Canon after holding it in the store. It's gotta feel solid in your hands and the controls need to be in a natural spot. Strangely, the trend towards miniaturization is causing the problems. A full sized battery compartment is what allows you to wrap your hand around a camera.
Myself, I went with Olympus. Fine optics. A nice feature set. And since their name doesn't begin with Nikon of Canon, it's remarkably affordable. I can definitely appreciate the superior optics in a Nikon, but I think it's pretty rare that they're actually going to come into play.
Now for a question. My Photobucket account automatically re-sizes the pictures I upload to it. People here are posting pics that can be viewed full sized. Is it a matter of upgrading ones PB account, or just using a better hosting site?