Unfortunately even robust ML approaches like SVM are full of unsolved and unsolveable problems which you have to address through "tricks" and guesses and brute force optimization.
Anyway I've decided on my overall approach and believe I'm on the right track. Now I just need my arm to heal so I can type agian. I'm not even trying to code lefty, it's too frustrating and requires too much chording.
One nice online resource is http://www.learning-with-kernels.org/ ; it's a really good book and they put the best chapters online. Chris Burges and Radford Neal also have great tutorials online. I have yet to find really good Neural Net material, there's a ton of garbage on Nets and it's hard to sift through. The Wikipedia pages on all this stuff are good jumping off points, they have good intros then links out to more info.