Thanks to all for jumping in and sharing their experiences in response to my RAW questions. It is much appreciated.
Some of the answers and comments that people made may not necessarily be applicable to my situation but I think it got me in the ballpark.
I am photographing with an older camera, a Canon EOS 10D and so far it has and is serving me well and I see no immediate need to upgrade which in part may be the reason, as stated in your answers, why I am getting some funky file extensions.
Second, I have an older version of CS2. I think my ACR version is something on the order of 2.5 or something like that and when I went on the Adobe web site to look for an upgrade I had a hell of a time navigating their site first off but more to the point the any upgrades to ACR were not to be found but they were just a month ago. I think Adobe is trying to force everyone to go to CS3 which means they are getting ready to bring out CS4.
Here is a photo from the shoot I did in the RAW format. I used a tutorial written by RFS to help guide me through the steps and I think for the most part I did ok. One slipup I made was not photographing my Photo Vision target as a RAW image so when I opened my files in ACR I had no target so the first part of RFS's tutorial went out the window.
I can see a difference in RAW vs JPG. The colors seem to be richer and more vibrant and there is definitely more detail as can be seen in her hair, you can see the strands. I know that I have blown out some highlights like on her blouse but otherwise I am pretty happy with my first foray into RAW.
I would appreciate critiques but please be constructive. RAW is new to me and I see the benefits but my main goal is to improve so everyone, please help me out. As for screen shots which a couple of people have asked for, I don't have them figured out yet but I am working on it. Thanks to all.
One From My RAW Shoot w/ Nikki