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Help Me Build a New Monster

While I know you Gentle Readers are hockey fans first and foremost, chances are you're fairly PC savvy as well, since the online version of this humble tome does so much better than the print subscription. So I've got a thoroughly non-hockey related problem that I'd like to get your input on...

OK, here's the scoop; I may have, through my own stupidity, fried my desktop PC at home, and am facing the prospect of getting a new one, so I'd like to get some input on which direction I should take, since it's been almost 5 years since I last did this.

The PC that may be dead has a Intel P4 3Ghz processor on an ASUS P4C800 Deluxe motherboard, 1GB RAM (DDR400) and some peripherals worth salvaging (hard drives, DVD drive, etc.). I was trying to plug in some additional memory, decided to take it back out and check a few things online before proceeding, and closed the box. When I fired it up, a rather nasty smell starting coming out of the case, and when I powered back down, I realized I hadn't taken the new memory card out after all, and worse yet, it was only sitting halfway into the slot. Now when I try to boot I get one long beep followed by two short ones, an endlessly repeating cycle that I haven't been able to get definitive info on as to what it means (some say main memory failure, others the video adapter).
Dead PC
I'm trying to figure out if perhaps the existing memory got fried and putting different DIMMs in might resolve the issue, but I'd rather not pay for that only to find out that's not the problem, and the mobo is indeed toast. So I've started browsing online for a new rig.

In terms of how I'd use the new box, I do a little gaming (NHL08, duh), but mostly it's database and spreadsheet work. Since it's been so long since I've had a box built, I don't even know where to start. AMD? Intel? 2 or 4 CPU? 2GB RAM? 4GB? 32-bit or 64-bit OS? I assume, based on everything I've read, that XP is the way to go over Vista (Windows only for me). I'm not looking to blow huge sums of money here, so I like to find sweet spots where the diminishing returns for that extra $ start to tail off.

Any insight you folks have to offer would be greatly appreciated...