seemed to have solved it.
In a random vista 64 forum, i read that if, in exchange server, the user is a 'member of' the domain guests or the guests groups, it will never retain your settings to a local profile. Makes sense. So, I looked to see if my login was and, of course, it was a member of both. I removed both memberships and everything worked on the first try and all day today, both connected to the network or not.
leaves me with this question, if those memberships are what was preventing this all from happening, why hasn't that been the case with all the other XP machines on the network? They all have retained my settings in a local profile for years.