i bit the bullet and decided to go with an external hosting provider, dailyrazor, that i found with google.
i was very impressed with the simple setup. i'll be able to run tomcat5 with mysql, which was my minimum requirement. it'll run about $10+ a month.
in the past i'd always used dyndns and hosted things on my home machine, but i've always had availability issues. my uptime is probably around 5% given that my wife always puts that computer to sleep! actually, it's probably a good thing in that my old dell machine is loud and runs hot. using a shared hosting environment feels like the right thing to do.