people have talked about p2pool mining and some mentioned 'baking' it into the protocol. is this possible and would this be desirable for monero?
The one problem with a p2pool baked into the core code is that the payouts would have to be distributed to everyone participating in the p2pool (which would presumably be everyone), and each of these payments would be infinitesimally small. Or, you would have to have a payment threshold to reduce the amount of crazy small outputs from being created, and this threshold would be so much that a participant wouldn't get paid for a long time - probably the same amount of time that natural mining variance would permit the user to find a block.
Ultimately, satoshi was a smart guy and the block reward distribution via random lottery works within the confines of a tokenized ledger consensus currency network.
But thats not to say that it could be built. It just has a lot of interesting dynamics to be worked out.