Join date of 2007, but this was your first post? Amazing. Haha.
Anyway...most of your questions will probably be better answered on these forums. I find that most LHBS's (not all) give bad information. Some of the things I overhear employees telling new brewers blows my mind.
__________________ He who drinks beer sleeps well. He who sleeps well cannot sin. He who does not sin goes to heaven.
I've learned more here than I ever did at my shop, like when they said as long as I had a 6 gallon carboy a blowoff tube wasn't necessary. I was cursing them at midnight when I was cleaning up honeyweizen off the floor! I think they all mean well though, but they do want to sell you stuff that you might not need. I find my brew shop a great place to go though when I need supplies in a pinch...