Thanks, JRP. I did read the article you wrote, and also your "brief love story." I was quite envious that your father gave you such a love of photography at a very young age (and also some very nice equipment, it seems).
It is wonderful to find your passion so early in life and to develop it and nourish it to its current level.
I will be doing more tripod work after reading so many comments in this thread. I'm debating a carbon fiber unit, but I don't know if I'll take that plunge or not. My current Manfrotto aluminum will probably do fine until I become a heavier tripod user (no pun intended).