After 24 hours of research, talking with Sony, reading everything i could find online, chatting with my old friends in the pro-video industry, and picking the "brains" at Circuit City... this is what I now think.
1) MiniDV is great, and has at least a few more years left. If I wasn't writing a book right now, I'd stick with this format for at least one more year -- for the time when my big TV is highdef, when my DVD player is Blu-Ray HD, and when the prices for good stuff has dropped a bit more. But this is the decision of a guy with lots of MiniDV tapes and who likes to edit.
If I might be forward looking, and giving advice for the next 10 years, I'd play this differently;
2) Until late last night, my preference had been to opt for a big honkin' hard disc in my camcorder, but after some more thought, frankly, they make me nervous. Discs crash. The bigger the disc, the more stuff you lose when they crash, and each month the disc they insert into the camcorder grows... i was looking at 30-40GB HDDs, but i think they grow harder to find, and newer, "better" camcorders have 80GB-100GB HDDs... which is HUGE. The typical HiDef video on these camcorders appears to run around 7.25mins/GB... in otherwords, at top quality, a 100GB camcorder will hold 12 HOURS of video. This is not a feature. It's a curse. I'm serious. You do NOT want to be shooting this much video, you don't have time to watch this, and you don't want to (a) just toss it or (b) save it on an archive hard disk. It's insane and I'll say it now. For those interested in editing, I recommend shooting bits in 20 minute chunks (that can be edited down to a few minutes).
AND THUS: The memory stick camcorders -- while appearing more limiting due to the small size of a 4GB or 8GB "Memory Stick Pro Duo" (which holds either 30-60 mins of HiDef video), is really quite nice and manageable. Over the next year or two, the storage on these things will go up smoothly, and be plenty good - they are robust and solid-state (no moving parts), and removable. And while I haven't had first-hand experience with these (yet), my inclination is to move toward this type of media in my camcorder. (Downside to be revealed as i uncover it).
Since I am a Sony fan (the hardware they make I have found robust and reliable), I am leaning towards a device like the $800 Sony HDR-CX7. Expensive but not outrageous for what it is; high end, but not top of the line, etc.
Still researching, but i thought i'd report how it was going.
FOOTNOTE - Comparable camcorders include:
Samsung SCHMX10 ($500)
Panasonic HD CSD1 ($1100) but it's 3-chip, which is good.
Cannon HF100 ($840)