*SIGH* i hate it when i feel stupid.
So, after having some problems with my switches, I decided to consult the experts... since i didnt have any experts, i had my two friends, an electrical engineering student and a 4th year physics major have a look.
after all 3 of us staring at the switches and the wiring for 20 minutes, i was no further along.. there was much speculation about what was happening, how the switch worked, whether it was because the switch led was running in series or parallel, etc... but no solution.
We decided that the electrical engineer would return tomorrow with his multimeter, and decided to head over to the all you can eat pancakes at ihop... but while they were getting ready, i looked down, and brilliance flashed before my eyes so intensely that i was blinded.
right there, on the back of the switch, it was labeled: earth, load, supply. the longer, middle connector goes to the leds, not the ground. however intuitive it might seem that the one longer connector would be the one that is NOT positive, thats not the way its made.
so, after 30 seconds of rearranging some slide connectors, my case was illuminated with a beautiful orange glow.. too bad they were supposed to be red, and now i have to wait for replacements... =( the led on the switch worked, the led strips were full brightness, and there were no sparks.. that is, until i let the unprotected back of the led strip (the led's solder is exposed, i need to electrical-tape that) touch the case, and sparks flew out... but luckily my new switch was working, and i shut it off without missing a beat!
so, thats what i was doing wrong. glad its working now. i hope to get a short intruction up on youtube or metacafe documenting all of this someday, since its been a great learning experience, and i think its awesome that I will have led case lights for half the price of buying them ready-made.