Are there secrets to getting to the place where this makes sense or it is just exposure, rereading, and experience?
No shortcuts that I know of. I've spent thousands of hours researching, studying, and making cheese, although if I had someone to teach me, that could have been waaay less. The challenge is that there are few intermediary voices to translate academic knowledge into practical realities for cheesemakers. And for the voices who do exist, it's rather expensive to learn from them. There are many many great academic resources, but they are similarly inaccessible due to price and over-technicality. I've read every article in the journal of dairy science, for example, and most do not translate well into helpful suggestions for artisan cheesemakers.
There are a few works in progress that will make it to the market over the next few years. Gianaclis Caldwell is writing a cheesemaking mentor book to complement her creamery advisor book, but that won't be out for nearly two years (in 2012). I know there's a new nonprofit organization that Mike at Uplands, Alison at Vt butter&cheese and others just started to get grants and increase education; it's a sister org of ACS. David at joyofcheesemaking is writing an intermediate cheesemaking book, but that's still a ways away. Marc Druart at VIAC is trying to bring part of his program online so people can do remote education. And of course, there's my own project to build a comprehensive online education series of classes that cover all the latest developments in the scientific research in a very clear and understandable way, with videos and demos. Distance learning for cheesemaking, basically.
I'm pretty excited that there's a bunch of us working on the issue. They're complementary approaches. In terms of practical help for you, I'm 10% done writing and should have the first 10-12 hour module done right after the new year. Maybe not all the videos, but content will be done and online. The rest of the efforts out there are pretty far away. The challenge is sifting through all the amazing information out there and making it available. It's not online, it's expensive, and often written in a way that's hard to read.
In the meantime, I'm happy to help if you have questions.