it's a driver issue, don't install from windows update
Here's how I got adb to work on my Win 7 64-bit system, hope it helps you guys out.
First, let me say thanks to Sempai67, his suggestion gave me the inspiration to work on the problem some more. Although deleting the .android folder didn't fix my problem, it was during this troubleshooting session that I stumbled on the answer.
The key is in thecubed's first post, step 4 he says not to let windows update download the latest driver and to search the system instead. I was never prompted for it, my system was set to automatically download from windows update. During this round of troubleshooting, I noticed the nook 'searching for the latest driver on windows update' - luckily, my laptop was connected via ethernet cable, not wireless, so i quickly yanked the cable which resulted in 'no device driver found.' In device manager, I selected to update the nook driver and pointed it at the \android-sdk-windows\usb-driver folder, was warned that the driver wasn't signed and bam, I had a shiny new android device in device manager. The thing is, I don't know how I 'uninstalled' the nook driver because during my troubleshooting sessions earlier today I did try uninstalling, but it seems I only uninstalled the mass storage device drivers. If it helps, there was a google driver I uninstalled under programs and features in control panel, it hasn't returned since I got adb working.
Also, to disable the automatic downloading of drivers from windows update, go to system in control panel, then select advanced system settings, then the hardware tab, then device installation settings. In there you'll probably find your system is set to "Yes", instead, select "No, let me choose what to do" and there are a few sub-buttons to select, either choose "Never install driver software from Windows Update" or "Install driver software from Windows Update if it is not found on my computer." Either setting should result in a prompt at which point you can point the installer at the \android-sdk-windows\usb-driver folder.
I hope that helps you guys out, and thanks for everyone's input, I'm on to fix the ad-hoc wifi networking. Good luck, and happy rooting!