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 >>Most notably Python, as in my brief survey

  I too looked at Python, and _almost_ thought it was a good candidate. 
That's because I _almost_ believed it was a reasonably small language. 
Then I discovered a 1.5M DLL hiding in my system directory which put
everything back into perspective.  I haven't looked back after making the
Lua decision, so it may be that Python has lost some weight, though my
honest fear is that, if anything, it's probably bigger.

  At the time I was contemplating it, and for the particular project
involved, size was a big issue.  Lua definately wins on size.  Speed was
less of an issue, at the time, but Lua made that a moot point since it was
at least _no worse_ than Python.

  In hindsight I still think Lua was the right decision for me.  Apologies
in advance to anyone who feels the need to flame me on this, but my
findings were that:  Perl, Tcl and Forth are too ugly; LISP, SCHEME are too
arcane; Python, Java, VBScript are too big; many of the "small-C" type
sources out there are too unproven.  Plus I had that instant "warm fuzzy"
feeling with Lua when my very first attempt at compiling the source code
actually worked!  <grin>

  I think a telling question for you might be your desire for a strongly
typed language.  That seems to be a frequent glass-is-half-full/empty
limitation/feature that people disagree on.  If you want declared and typed
variables, and the associated syntax checking that can come with those
restrictions, you won't get it out-of-the-box with Lua.  You can work
around it a bit and force some typed-like features with tag methods, but
it'll still be run-time checking, not compile-time.  You may or may not
like that.