Jerry, you would learn more by taking the examples that you refer to and trying them on your own system. You can then play with them and really get to know how things work. They are self-contained and not just intended for people to read.
Then, at least you will know the answer to "3) are these things visible on the screen somewhere?", if nothing else.
Have a try and see how you get on.
I've been afraid to try the examples on my system. We are using ClearCase and I didn't want to run any chance of screwing up something there. We are paying our consultans several million dollars and I don't want them to come back at me as an excuse for why they are so late. Being only a relative newbie to Flex, I'm not comfortable with everything.
That being said, I did create a new project (haven't have the cajones to save it yet) where I hope to put things to experiment on them. I think you have a good idea on trying out the things.
I do have a syntax question, however. In this statement:
I see that a class "OptionContent" is being accessed to execute the method "submitSearch()". I don't know what the heck the event part is about. We use this construct frequently in this project so it's important that I know it. I know it must be fairly well known due to the frequency, but I can't even imagine what to do a search on to find it out.