exactly that crisp constipated enterprise-ready look that I was


    tutorial or HowTo.

Actually, there are many tutorials.  Different people find different
ones work best for them.  One that I found very well done is at:

For the most basic sample documents, the latex distribution comes with
small2e.tex and sample2e.tex.

These links and more on http://tug.org/begin.html ...

    Is there any place where I can view daily updates to the list .. just to
    make sure I am set up correctly?  

As Will said, this list is actually pretty low-traffic.  If you yearn
for more, try (mailing list) http://www.tug.org/mailman/listinfo/texhax
and/or (newsgroup) http://groups.google.com/group/comp.text.tex.