Thanks for the info. It seems exciting things are on the horizon. I eagerly 
await with much anticipation.....

> Correct me if I'm wrong, please, but it seems that in gimp I have to make a
> copy of the base layer and apply any adjustments to the copy; and repeat
> this for any new adjustment. This seems to be much less flexible, as
> subsequent changes to the middle layer would be obscured by the upper layer?

This is certainly true; all of your points are true.
This is being worked on.
However, the specific idea of 'effect layers' is regarded as severely
broken (basically cause it makes nonsense of the whole layers concept:
all layers have content, but oh! effect layers don't. all layers have
blending mode, but oops! effect layers don't. it's user-unfriendly in
this marked inconsistency.)
The implementation I believe we are currently aiming for is instead
oriented around the idea of being able to attach any number of effects
to a given layer group (btw, martin nordholts is doing some great work
on layer trees presently and in the last few months.. they are shaping
up well.)

> The photoshop method appears to be far more flexible. I was thinking that
> doing things this way might also have a beneficial effect on the file size,
> though judging by the size of photoshop format files, I doubt this is
> actually the case.
Photoshop format generally saves a lot of cached data -- for instance,
there is a thumbnail for each layer, and a composited version of the
image rendered at full size.

> But I tend to save as layered tiff with zip compression
> applied to the layers, which makes them much smaller and preserves much of
> the layer information (though things like selections won't be saved. But I
> can live with that).

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