this is the best advise i've seen so far... the best camera to start out with is one that will always be with you.
WTF moderators, why did this get a low score?
OP, unless you're dedicated to becoming a photographer and don't mind carrying around a DSLR all the time, you'd be better off carrying a small compact point-and-shoot camera. get something in the $200 range(8-12MP, 3x optical zoom) they're all pretty comparable, but i've always been partial to the canon xilim or canon powershot series. my criteria was a camera OS that was usable as well as quick and responsive. i've spent time in several stores testing various brands for what i felt were important features: power on to shutter ready; switching capture modes; the ability to turn off startup sounds/animations; size or a pack of cigarettes; sd card. once you've got narrowed you choices down to a couple/three cameras, go to http://www.steves-digicams.com/ and compare your impressions against someone whose tested many evices.
IMHO, if you want to learn how to take photos, you do it by taking pictures. don't get an DSLR. don't get a micro 4/3. you can graduate to these later, when your comfortable taking pictures. don't buy a camera that you haven't actually touched and toyed with.
1) carry a camera with you all the time.
2) take lots of pictures. if you get a one good picture out of 20-36 exposures, you're doing well.
3) not every picture is sacred. capturing the moment with all it's flaws is better than to miss the moment.
4) keep taking lots of pictures
5) don't be afraid to edit out crap images
6) learn the various functions of your camera(night shot, red eye/no red eye, flash/no flash, etc)
i take between 6000-10000 pictures a year(the camera is with me all the time). i replace my camera every year or so(depends on how beat up it gets).
and i get surprisingly good images from a stupid little canon powershot. i have a lot of reject images, but i also more than my fair share of keepers. eventually i'll get a fancier camera, but in the meantime i'm looking at a new refresh(canon s100 is looking sweet) for my daily shooter.