I've got a few ideas for simple web-apps, and I'm looking to learn something new (you know, for fun). I like to code. I like elegance and neatness. I wouldn't mind being able to leave the graphic design to a real designer. I think I know what I'm doing, but I don't know where to start.
I'm not a databases person, but I know a reasonable amount about SQL Server, and I think I know how it differs from MySQL. I don't really know how things talk to databases - when I've done it in PHP/MySQL or ASP/SQL Server it's just been magic. I've played around with phpmyadmin (if that's what it's called).
I'm very Java-literate - that's my day job, and my hobby with Processing - but I've never looked into JSP seriously. Somebody said something about a TomCat. I can write proper C++ with templates and namespaces and exceptions and everything, but I probably write it like a Java programmer (and I never understood all the arguments about strings, and pointers). Would I like C#? If I'm familiar with ASP and VBscript, would I like VB.NET? I'm not a Microsoft person.
I've done a bit of bad C programming using cURL and OpenGL. I know a bit of Python, but I've never done anything serious with it. I know a bit of Perl, but it gives me the creeps. I know a bit of VBScript, but much of it seems back-asswards. I know a bit of PHP, but it likewise seems a bit messy (though intuitive, and I like the look of Smarty). LISP isn't out of the question. If someone wrote web-apps in Prolog, I would probably find it fascinating but it too would give me the creeps.
So... What are you using, and why? If you were learning from scratch, what would you choose, and why?
Why shouldn't I use Ruby On Rails? And what should I use instead?
Bear in mind you have to get me away from Why's Poignant Guide To Ruby...