I really have no idea why my shake-it-up-in-non-dechlorinated-water method works. Since I never had a problem I didn't do any research or experimenting with it. Once I just sprinkled the yeast on the water surface, and it seemed to make a bigger mess at the top of the bottle, so I didn't try that again. Not being a chemist or a brewer I have never given much thought to yeast and sugar water. (I do like baking bread in a bread machine though!)
I agree on the mess at the top of the bottle. I should point that out that you should sink the remaining yeast before that occurs. But I can't give up on the surface hydration without a good argument against. I believe there is something about aerobic hydration and the complexity of the sugars I am still working out.
As far as baking, ME TOO! I started into baking with the bread machine loved it to death. Finally destroyed it by wearing it out needing dough. I bought a Kitchenaid mixer and have since moved on to many tasty things including Pizza, bagels, pretzels, loaves, breadsticks blah blah blah