Is this camera too advanced for a Newbie or do you think that I'll be able to learn both all of the features of the camera and all of the basics of SLR simultaneously?

Second. There are two buttons at the left fingertips on the side of the lens. From the stunted manual that I have it seems the top button is the AE lock. The book indicates that this lock releases with the shutter, so it's not a very good lock then is it? If I wanted to maintain that exposure I'd have to re-set it... ANYWAY, what is the bottom of the two buttons for?! I can't find this anywhere. Is this a lock that will stay locked even after shutter release?