What is the best route or place to get started with arcobjects if one is not a developer and not aiming to become a developer?
I've been using gis professionally for a long time, almost two decades, arcinfo/arcgis for most of that; I'm pretty good. I'm learning software development, and even have a modestly successful small python application used in a public project; I'm not good! I don't want to become a full fledged software developer but I keep running into things I just can't do without programming (example). In the arcgis world this puts me pretty squarely in the python camp, which is fine by me since I like python, however python does not have straightforward access to arcobjects. (Python and arcobjects is possible, but it's an unsupported route. This question is about following a beaten path.)
Soooo, I need to get started, but where? Arcgis help says to get started with the ESRI Developer Network but $1500/yr is definitely not in my budget, and sounds like using a sledge hammer to swat mosquitos. And which language .NET, Visual Basic, or Visual C++?
UPDATE: Thank you everyone for the wonderful answers. In light of them I realise I unecessarily narrowed the scope of my question be pre-supposing "arcobjects" is the direction I need to go in. A more open ended formulation is more along the lines of:
I keep running into problems I just can't solve with arcgis and python alone. What else can I learn/use to solve problems like X? I've no interest or intention of becoming a software developer. I just need to do a couple things which aren't exposed to the arcgis python modules.