Thanks for the response. I didn't think of evaling the assignment, that's what I missed. I had tried the string eval previously, but not the assignment. I did have strict and warnings in my original code, but dropped it to post a simple example.
A templating system is a good idea, maybe break the SQL down into segments? Yea, it would be pretty easy to make mistakes, and hard to figure out what the var names are supposed to be. Hopefully in the beta implement of this I can solve some of those issues. Any recommendations on a templating system or process that is already established? I guess I could use some kind of markup....
either way, thanks for the response! It's really helpful.