InfoQ has a bunch of really great Java talks on their website:
Start with the granddaddy of software engineering books, "They Mythical Man Month":
If you're in Windows, VB is definitely a good way to quickly put something together and see your results quickly.
Gina Trapini wrote a good article about this a while back:
Labview is an interesting choice for intro to programming. I'm assuming you'll be learning other languages as part of the program?
If you have some formal education, I'd recommend that you keep learning. Get an ACM (http://acm.org) or IEEE (http://ieee.org) membership and read articles. Read books. Go to conferences. Other professions like architecture and engineering require their members to take part in continuing education. Even though it…
Follow your passions, and don't be afraid to start small. One thing that kills of dreams like this is never starting because it seems like so much work. It's better to write ten little programs and learn something from them than to dream about, but never actually write, an iPhone app.
Good point about the local experts. Finding a community that can help you grow is very important.
My recommendation is to talk to some people in the part of the industry you're interested in and see what skills they're looking for. Different companies have different requirements for "entry level", so find something that seems like a good match for the skills you currently have. Talking to people also helps you…
This question comes up a lot. I think learning any language will involve some degree of effort. Your best bet is to find a language that lets you do something you're interested in. That way, when things get hard, you'll have a goal that's motivating.