My wife and I exchanged cameras as gifts this year. I bought her a Nikon D90 (I'm of that tribe) for her November birthday and I am both amazed and revulsed by it. The images it produces are fantastic, but the "death-by-menu" nature of current DSLRs is shocking. It sounds like your are looking for a great shooting pocket camera and the Canon S90 is pretty much the one a lot of folks like. The Canon G11 is the same camera in a Timex G-Shock case for +$100. It's very popular, too. Very available at Best Buy, etc... for $300-$400. See: http://www.kenrockwell.com/canon/s90.htm
for a good review.
Above these great little P&S jobs, there are the new 4/3 cameras with a little larger 'sensor.' They are kinda for camera cognoscenti, but they do bring the capabilities up a bit: see the Panasonic GF-1, GH-1 and Olympus EP-2. These have image quality close to the second tier (1.6 sensor) DSLRs. (Pros now use 'full frame' sensor DSLRs that start around $1800...)
As a note, at this point image quality is more important than number of pixels. More pixels have been crowded into many little cameras/sensors and it reduces low-light performance and other important qualities. Balance.
I went completely reactionary against the menu mad DSLRs and bought the same camera my dad used in the '50s-'70s. Back to film... Do not follow.