I combined what I have learned about aperture, f/stop and film speed and attempted to take a few photos in the garden. Right now, much of my photograph-worthy life happens inside. As I've learned by going the through this tutorial, the "auto" settings are much better for indoor situations. I can play with manual focus, but the other settings work just fine on automatic.
Today, I finally took some photos of the garden, and they look properly balanced and reasonably attractive. I am still not convinced that for the types of photos I take, manual is better than automatic, but I am convinced that playing with the film speed makes a huge difference in the quality of the photos. Onto the next photography lesson!