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The government has announced that it has ruled out plans (made under Labour) to look into charging households for the amount of non-recyled domestic waste. The plan is instead to 'reward' people based on the weight of the waste they leave on the kerbside for recycling. The first scheme, which is no longer being considered, was to charge people based on the weight of non-recycled waste over a certain threshold, thus encouraging them to recycle more. The Tories were keen to label this as a 'bin tax' and have campaigned against it. As far as I'm aware, no local authority has used such a scheme.

There are a number of issues surrounding both schemes that have raised comment. One is the fact that bins in such schemes need an RFID chip or other marker, and there are concerns about some sort of 'Big Brother' monitoring of rubbish. While there are many reasons to be concerned about surveillance  and monitoring by the state, this is not one of them. There is a level of paranoia here that can easily be ignored. After all, if the council really wanted to it could weigh your rubbish right now - people who use wheelie-bins have an easily-indentifiable container without having to use any chip. Privacy concerns are a non-issue in this case.

The real concern is the effect that these schemes this will have on the overall goal of the policy, which is reducing the amount of waste going to landfill. Consider the old 'weigh your non-recyclable rubbish' scheme. This would encourage you to reduce waste by: (a) recycling more, (b) making an effort not to purchase non-recyable items in the first place, and (c) consider more re-use. A charge on the weight of non-recylables directly encourages all of these points:

Point (a) is clearly desirable since a charge applies to disposing of non-recyclables. Everything that goes into the landfill waste rather than the recycling may cost you more money, so people will make an effort to sort their recycling.

Point (b) is desirable because it will actually cost money to dispose of non-recyclable goods. I'm mostly thinking of excessive packaging and throw-away goods here. If you're looking at two comparable items, one in a massive amount of plastic and one in easily-recyclable cardboard, it starts making actual monetary sense to choose the one in the sensible packaging. A result of this may well be the reduction in the ridiculous amount of packaging used by supermarkets, since the cost-consious shoppers (as well as the existing environment-consious ones) will stop buying items with excessive packaging.

Point (c) is more indirect but will be encouraged by waste charging. For example, people may be more ready to put serviceable items onto FreeCycle or give them to friends or charity shops rather than simply throwing them away. People will also be rewarded for home composting or feeding chickens food waste, etc. This will all help to reduce landfill.

Finally, charging for excessive waste is fair. Where there is no charging, people who make an effort to reduce their waste are subsidising those who don't through their council tax. The wasteful are, in effect, being paid by the rest of us to continue their wasteful ways, and the environment still loses out.

So what about the scheme being discussed by Eric Pickles, where people receive rewards based on the weight of their recycling box? Let is consider our three waste reduction incentives discussed previously:

Point (a) - recycling more. This will be something that will undeniably be encouraged. People will have a financial incentive to sort their waste and put recyclable things in their recycling bin.

Point (b) - not buying non-recyclables in the first place. Here's the big problem with the scheme. People will actually have an incentive to buy products with more packaging. True, this will only apply to packaging that can be recycled, but it's more packaging none-the-less. As a direct result of this, retailers and manufacturers will face considerably less pressure to reduce their packaging. People will also directly financially lose-out by home composting, or otherwise processing their own waste. What would have been dealt with at source will now become the council's (and therefore the tax payer's) problem. This is also true of reducing food waste - people may end-up actually being paid to waste food by throwing it away. Let me be quite clear on this - paying people by weight for recycling is directly rewarding waste with taxpayers money.

Point (c) - the incentive to re-use items that would otherwise be thrown away is reduced. Things like composting at home have already been mentioned, but items that may otherwise be appreciated by the community may find themselves being thrown away rather than used. Imagine living in an area where electronic goods can be recycled, as happens in some authorities. People may put a perfectly good but old TV into the recycling rather than advertising it on FreeCycle as they'd receive a healthy payment (by weight) on a TV. The TV costs the council money to process, and the potential recipient still has no TV. This might be an extreme example, but there's often a way to reuse a lot of waste. As we know, re-use is better than recycling.

So it seems fairly clear that charging for waste is a better system than rewarding recycling. So given that, why does the 'carrot' approach seem to be the one that the government is favouring? It's probably down to political philosophy and a general Conservative aversion to taxes. In the much-publicised example authority using this approach, Windsor and Maidenhead, the American company RecycleBank also does rather well out of it.

The company receives a flat-rate payment from the council to administer the service but receives further revenue based on the savings in Landfill Tax it makes the council by diverting material from landfill. Councillor Liam Maxwell, lead cabinet member for sustainability at the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead has said that the costs of the scheme were "commercially sensitive". Should we be paying foreign companies for such services? Would our own councils be able to do it for less? The fact that the Conservatives are not willing to let us know the figures makes me rather suspicious that the sums don't add-up, and yet again, money is flowing out of the UK for things that we should be doing ourselves.

In any case, whether you believe that the private sector should be taking a slice of the pie or not, it seems reasonably clear that charging for not recycling is the more efficient and effective policy for reducing waste. If we really want to make our society more efficient and cleaner it's really what we should be trying to do. If you would like to see your Council Tax being put to a more effective use, and most probably paying less of it, I would encourage you to let your council know your views.

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It may have been a couple of months since I got back, but here's my post-Glasto roundup.

I think I arrived earlier than I have before. First weren't running the bus from Bath this year (boo!), so I got a train to Temple Meads and the shuttle bus from there. It all went pretty smoothly, and even though it started pouring with rain just after I got on the bus, it was sunny by the time we arrived on-site about 40 minutes later. They've sorted-out the traffic this year, so only buses could go through Pilton. I don't know where the cars were sent, but it made the bus a lot quicker not having to sit in all the plebby car traffic. Hurrah!

I'd sent my tent up and had a cup of tea by about 1:30pm, so I headed off to find some music. I spent a lot of time at the Small World Solar Stage where I caught Crystal Masters (sort of bluesy/country stuff), Celeste Lovick (who I thought was excellent - I bought one of the CDs she was selling), and Cornelius. I spent the rest of my Wednesday poking around the Green Fields and enjoying the site in its pre-mud state. Shrek III was inexplicably cancelled in the evening, but hey ho.

On Thursday there was a big fire at a scrap-yard outside the site, but the huge amounts of black smoke that hung around in the sky all day provoked some debate. I had discussions with random people about everything from 'terrorist attacks on music' to 'Street is on fire', but thankfully all were false. I spent most of the day catching the bands playing on the Bandstand, including The Doubtful Guest, who were as good as ever.

Friday kicked-off with breakfast at Henry's Beard, then Kate Nash on the Pyramid stage. I don't really know much about her, but she was ok. I stuck around for The Subways (who were unimpressive) and Get Cape, Wear Cape, Fly, who were ok. I then trundled off to the Other stage to catch Vampire Weekend, mainly thanks to people going on about how good they are. They were ok, but I think they suffered from the immediate downer that my brain adds to any Other Stage performance. I wandered-off to the Green Futures field to watch Caroline Lucas wipe the floor with some Tory in a debate entitled 'Can the Tories Deliver A Green Agenda?', one of a number of interesting events in that tent. I then strolled over to the Avalon stage to catch Hazel O'Conner, which was suprisingly good. I then caught a strange act called 'Dancing On Your Grave' by 'The Cholmondleys and the Featherstonehaughs', followed by a cute singer/songwriter called Hera from Iceland/New Zealand (another set I liked enough to buy the CD afterwards). There then followed a few hours of managing not to meet-up with some friends, but I did catch the surprise Franz Ferdinand set on The Park stage.

Saturday morning saw the site beginning to dry-up a bit after the rain on Friday, with the Pyramid Stage not looking too bad. First up was Shakin' Stevens, who was pretty poor actually. For some reason he now refuses to sing 'Green Door', which leaves 'This Old House' as the only song anyone cares about. Martha Wainwright was up next, and she was suitably barmy. I didn't catch her whole set though as I had to be at the Leftfield for 12:30 to catch Seize The Day, who were as excellent as ever. Immediately after them came the mighty Flipron, who I've probably seen almost as many times now as I've seen anyone. Then it was back to the Pyramid to see the ever excellent Crowded House, followed by a bit of James Blunt (who really isn't that objectionable - I don't know why he gets so much stick). It was then time for a comedy break, so I went to the Cabaret tent to see Simon Munnery, Jeremy Hardy and Mitch Benn - all excellent as usual. Jeremy Hardy just doesn't do enough stand-up. Then it was off to the Jazz World stage to see Imagined Village, who had Billy Bragg on for a bit. I can't really remember the rest of the evening thanks to cider overload, but I think I saw Massive Attack. I definitely ignored Jay-Z.

Sunday morning brought another very pleasant breakfast at Henry's Beard in the Green Fields, then on to the Pyramid stage to see Marina Topley-Bird. I also caught Scouting For Girls on the Other Stage, before heading to the Pyramid Stage to get a spot for Leonard Cohen. I caught the end of the unimpressive Neil Diamond and the better than expected Goldfrapp, before the highlight of the festival, Leonard Cohen. He was blinding, as expected... and I've managed to see him live! I never thought I would. All is well with the world.

Monday was lovely and sunny. I spent a good few hours strolling around and poking at the (now much quieter) markets. It really was a lovely, sunny day. After the nightmare of last year's departure (thanks to See Tickets awful bus planning, the weather, early starts, and other rubbish), this year was about a million times better. Just look at the lovely, sunny and mud-free bus station!. The mud came over the top of my boots there last year, and we were all close to being hypothermic. Good times.
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There have been some worrying noises coming from the government about GM crops recently, and the pro-GM case is being made more loudly every day. One might think that we don't have to worry about this since public opinion is so strongly against GM, but such opinion is easily swayed by only hearing one side of the argument, or worse, invalid argument. This has been demonstrated recently by the shift of opinion towards nuclear power that has taken place in a relatively short timescale, thanks mainly to piggy-backing a genuine concern (CO2 emissions). The government presented a false dichotomy - it's either nuclear power or more fossil fuels - rather than anything valid. Will the same thing happen with GM?

The news has recently been full of reports of food riots in developing countries due to the increasing costs of grain. The 'obvious' solution to this, as trotted-out by sections of the press, ministers, and those with vested interests, is the use of GM crops. However, what would these crops actually achieve, and are they in fact our only choice?

The main selling-point of GM crops is their resilience to herbicides. Companies such as Monsanto don't try to hide this fact, and yet it's a commonly held belief that using GM crops would allow us to use less chemicals on the fields. This is a myth. Many GM crops make the plants more tolerant of them, allowing the farmers to use far more. This does its job and kills the weeds, but also causes far more pollution. Funnily enough some crops, such as Monsanto's ''Roundup Ready' varieties, are specifically engineered to be resistant to their 'Roundup' herbicides. It's not unusual for GM crop producers to modify plants to further their other products.

Monsanto is a particularly shady company, of course. They have a history of suing farmers who happen to have had their crops wind-pollinated by GM crops in neighbouring farmers fields. It's actually amazing that Monsanto win in such cases - what are farmers meant to do? Pollen can travel for several miles and can remain active for up to ten years, and if it happens to fall onto non-GM fields it can pollenate plants there, making it very difficult to prevent contamination. If your crop is contaminated with GM pollen like this then you lose the ability to say GM-free, through no fault of your own. However, it gets worse - if you decide to keep some grain to replant next year, and unknown to you it has been contaminated, you can be sued by Monsanto, as this farmer in Canada can testify. Of course, some countries wouldn't want to allow this sort of thing, but it's useful for Monsanto when the US mandates GM crops as part of an aid package. GM crops or starvation? It's not a tough choice, but once GM is there it's there for good.

The pro-GM groups usually trot-out the line that GM crops will save poor countries. Let's assume that an African farmer decides to make use of GM - what should he grow? He'd probably want to grow crops suited to the climate, such as yams. However, he's unlikely to find that the GM companies are willing to help him here. The biotech companies are like the drugs companies in that they invest in the areas most likely to make them money, hence lots of research into cancer (which hits the rich, western world) and little into malaria (which doesn't). So we end-up with plenty of GM wheat that will make lots of money from western farmers, but little that will grow in Africa and actually help the poor.

The power of GM food producers and the rest of the biotech food industry is immense. For instance, a bill currently being considered in the US prohibits organic milk producers from being able to label their product as free from Bovine Growth Hormone, but it fails to force any milk produced from hormone-treated cows from being labelled as such. This bill is being pushed-through by Monsanto and other GM lobbyists and is almost certain to succeed, and it shows immense contempt for the consumer. Whether consumers want GM food or not, they should be given the choice.

In the end, it is wrong that a corporation can 'own' any species, whether they created it or not. Now that the possibility of doing so is legal, where will it end. As scientists develop more complex 'artificial' animals, as will happen with the human-hybrid work recently in the news, what is the point at which a life should no longer be owned? How can a corporation decide what forms of life can breed, and which must die without doing so? Isn't a fundamental purpose of any living thing to reproduce?

If you have time, be sure to watch The World According To Monsanto", which was shown on French TV. It's excellent and contains many important facts to help you make up your own mind on the issue.
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It has been an exciting old weekend. On Saturday Ally celebrated her 30th birthday. It was an excellent party, and photos will be appearing on Facebook very soon, I'm sure. I'm ashamed to say that I was the only person there not in fancy dress. I have an excuse though - before the party I went to see the always funny Stewart Lee doing his show '41st Best Stand Up Ever' at the Ustiniv. Support came from the also brilliant Kevin Eldon in the form of some amusing poetry. Stewart Lee's set was great as always - perhaps a little less confrontational than previous ones, but very entertaining none the less. Hopefully he will be at Glastonbury again this year... not that I'm sure that the naked man and Jesus with crucifix 'heckles' could ever be beaten. They were proper Glasto moments indeed.

Ah yes, Glastonbury! I was up for 9am on Sunday morning, ready for the annual madness that is clicking on refresh and redialing the phone for three hours until I get through. Sure enough, with three of us doing that constantly I finally got through and bought tickets at about half eleven. It's always a joyous moment, and I didn't even have to get the inconvenient coach tickets this time (although I'll still go by bus, of course). As the day went on though the tickets still didn't sell out, and they were still there by the end of the day. It was most bizarre, and obviously in hindsight I wouldn't have got up early and gone through the pain of watching timeout messages for hours. Tickets are, in fact, still there now. It's funny - last year I was hoping that the rain would put off some of the fair-weather fans (see what I did there?) this year, and it turns out that may have happened. However awful Jay-Z is, there are always so many artists for every taste that the lineup really doesn't make much difference, so I don't buy that line of reasoning. I really don't think that the weather and mud could be any worse, and even if it is, it will still all be brilliant. Can't wait.
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Of course it has been 2008 for some time... in fact, we're now in 'Q2' as sales types like to say in an effort to sound important. It has been a while since my last entry, and for that I apologise. Life has been busy, etc etc. However, I will fill you in on what has been going on as best I can.

My last entry was about mince pies if I recall correctly. You may be pleased to know that they were very nice. I have decided that the single most dull part of pie making is pastry, and lack of pastry is something that cakes have over the whole pie world. Actually, not just cakes - any sort of non-pastry topped dessert or sweet. Is a crumble a pie that just has a crust made of something other than pastry though? Hmm... I'll have to think about that.

So anyway, after the pies, Christmas and so on I went to France for a spot of skiing. There was a big group of us and we headed down in three cars to the alps for a week of snowy fun. French roads eh? Driving on them loses its novelty value after about ten hours, but we get there without incident. The chalet itself was very nice, and only a mile or so from the lift. We were also blessed with excellent weather for the time of year and fresh snow for most of the time. It was my first time skiing and although I showed all the aptitude of a blind bull on crack, I really enjoyed it. The downside was breaking a couple of ribs just over halfway through the holiday, which put me in too much pain to actually move much. Sport eh? Dangerous business if you ask me.

I've started a philosophy course with the OU. It has been very interesting so far, and despite going straight into my usual last-minute essay writing mode I seem to be doing ok at it. The tutorials are probably the most interesting ones of any course I've done for some time, and the reading is the sort of thing I like reading anyway. I may feel differently come exam time, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

A few weeks ago I went to Minehead and found it to be much nicer than I remembered it to be. I suppose that being off-season adds a lot to it, but I was most pleasantly surprised. I'm not sure why tourism usually does horrible things to towns, but Minehead has a good selection of independent shops and a bustling high street, as well as decently priced housing, and the sea of course. It was one of those places I could see myself living in... just not quite yet. Good place to bring-up a family though.

This year will feature several 30th birthdays for friends, plus a couple of weddings. Big events, and as we all know, big events involve lots of tomfoolery and tipsy shenanigans. I'm sure there will be a few amusing photos posted to various Facebook profiles as a result. I'm looking forward to it all.

The Glastonbury Festival will feature none other than Leonard Cohen this year! I can't wait. Well, I may not get a ticket of course - I've been lucky so far. I've pre-registered for the usual rush (which will happen on the 8th), so fingers crossed. The lineup is excellent (not sure about JayZ or whoever he is.. one for the kids I suppose), and the weather can't actually be any worse, right? I'm also off to the Two Thousand Trees festival (featuring the brilliant Flipron), plus a few others I'm sure. Oh, and Billy Bragg later this month. In fact he's just released a new album (Mr Love and Justice) which you should obviously go and buy.

Life is generally pretty much the same as it was 2007 in most ways though. Kate Winslet still hasn't come to her senses and married me, and to be honest she'd better get her skates on before I tire of her coyness. 2007 did seem to feature some big swings from high to low with that sort of thing actually - hopefully this year will be more stable. Generally the last few months have been pretty cool but they sort of fade into a blur when trying to remember them in bed at gone midnight, as I am now. I will try to keep the blog postings a bit more regular from now on... there's a lot to spout off about generally, and it sort of loses its appeal after months have passed. One of the reasons I have forgotten stuff is because I haven't blogged it - you know you're old when you keep a blog as a memory aid.
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Christmas is rapidly approaching and mince pies take a minimum of a week to make properly, so yesterday I made this year's mincemeat. Some people seem to think that this is harder than it is, so I thought I'd stick the recipe down here to prove that it's probably as easy as buying the stuff in jars.

You will need the following things:

Now quantities are always vague, but I work on a ratio system. I think that a lot of recipes care a bit too much about exactly how much to use, and I usually go on this sort of vague 'one of these for two of those' system. It seems to work! Anyway, going through the photo from top left we have:

  • 2 x good quality minced beef.

  • Small pot of mixed glace peel.. about 'half' in our ratios

  • 1 x (by weight) rum, brandy or a mixture of both

  • Ginger in syrup, about the same weight as the peel

  • 1 x beef suet. Your local butcher will have this

  • 4 x single eating apple

  • 1.5 x ground almonds

  • 1 x single grated nutmeg

  • Mixed spice, about twice as much as the grated nutmeg

  • 2 x dried fruit. I've used half currants and half raisins here.

  • 1 x single lemon

  • 1 x single orange

  • 1 x soft brown sugar

Making the mincemeat is easy - just chop everything that needs chopping into small pieces and mix together! You'll probably want to peel and core the apples, and the skin of the lemon and orange needs to be grated into the mixture and the remaining fruit squeezed.

You should end-up with something like this:

Whack it into some old jars and keep it for at least a week. It will then be ready to fill some pies. Yum!

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So December is upon us... so soon! Winter is a challenging time to stay green, and I'm finding it increasingly difficult to make it through all of 2007 while remaining carbon neutral. With this in mind I've started thinking about Christmas, and how I can green it up a bit.

Firstly, trees. A few years back I read a vaguely convincing article about how the greenest choice of tree is an artificial one. This is based an several assumptions, the most important being that the tree is reused for several years and recycled at the end of its life. If this is done then the benefits supposedly outweigh the fact that is is made of petrochemicals in China. However, is this true? Having looking into it a bit it seems that artificial trees are very hard to recycle since they are mostly made of steel and PVC. PVC can't easily be burned due to the emissions given off, while it's difficult to remove the steel without doing this since most trees are made by twisting the steel and PVC strands very tightly. One must also be realistic about how long trees are kept. My parents are probably reasonably unusual in that we had the same (aluminium) tree for about twenty years and it never seemed to get more scrappy, but how many people loose bits, need to buy a different size, or whatever? The sheer amount of artificial trees sold before Christmas at DIY centres suggests that people don't keep them forever.

So what about real trees? Some of the bad press they have received about their green credentials has been based on historical figures of imports. There was a time when the majority of trees were imported, but most are now British-grown, thus reducing the fuel used in transport. However, fuel is still used - there are the carbon costs of preparing the fields, planting the trees, the pesticides/herbicides used for growing, then transporting the trees afterwards. If the trees are grown in place of an older wood then there's also the impact of destroying the existing trees, which as a worst case could be an ancient oak forest. Plantations of Christmas trees do not lend themselves well to biodiversity, although of course they provide more cover for animals than bare ground.

So the best choice for a new tree is still not clear. I think that in the worst case for the real tree, such as one that is imported, grown on cleared deciduous woodland, heavily sprayed, and so on, an artificial tree may still be the best option. This is even more true if you can find a PVC-free, easy to recycle tree that is made locally. That is if these exist.

Of course the greenest options are not to get a new tree at all. Use a living tree, or just buy a second-hand artificial tree (an easy way to recycle them!). You could also consider one of the cute 'grow your own' kits. These are all zero-carbon options, and you end-up with a tree that's just as fine. It's also a little reduction on the mad consumerism of the season of course, which is something we should all take some time to think about.

Now as for when to put the tree up... well, that's another kettle of fish!

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On Thursday evening I was in Bristol for a public debate on The Future of Genomics at Expore@Bristol. It was a special event to mark the opening of the new 'Inside DNA' exhibition they have there, and since I've always been interested in genetics I thought I'd go along.

Sir John Sulston kicked-off with a half hour or so talk about the state of play in genetics research, then the floor was opened. The lovely Alice Roberts (yes, her from off the telly) handled the session. The audience was filled with several experts on genetics and the ethics behind it, and some of the questions were quite good considering that it was a public event. Given current events there was some interest in biometrics and ID cards (which are all pointless as well as scary) and databases, plus genuinely interesting tidbits.

Interesting tidbit example - they think they now know why we're seeing a rise in peanut allergies, something that concerns me as I have one. It's possibly because creams containing peanut oil were used to treat eczema in the 70's and 80's, and the proteins being absorbed through the broken skin provoked the intolerance. This explains a lot - I had eczema as a child, so it all fits. They discovered this through the 'child of the 90's' study which is taking place in Bristol. It's the most detailed study of its kind in the world and has provided a lot of information so far, so yay for Bristol.

The exhibition is well worth checking out, as it all of @Bristol, of course. It's a shame that they closed the iMax though - hopefully it will reopen one day.
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This is quite geeky. I recommend that you stop reading now if you don't know or care about databases.

I'm currently having to get 'into' SQL server at work. I come from an Oracle background, but hey, how different can they be, right? Well... you'd be surprised.

One of the nice things about Oracle is PL/SQL. In my last job I wrote a lot of PL/SQL... it's easy, quick to do, well documented, and allows good software engineering. SQL Server uses something called 't-SQL' and compared to PL/SQL, it's appalling. The best way of demonstrating this is with an example. In stored procedures I can do this in PL/SQL:

    errorCode        OUT NUMBER,
    errorText        OUT VARCHAR2,
    someItemID    IN     ITEM.ITEMID%TYPE,
    someNumber    IN     ITEM.ITEMNUMBER%TYPE,
    somethingElse IN OUT NUMBER,
    result           OUT RESULTTABLE.RESULT%TYPE) IS

This can be part of a package defined as two files - a spec and a body. All good software engineering.

With MS SQL Server I simply can't so this. As far as I know, there are no packages with specs and bodies, for one thing. There are weird, implicit returns for selects, variables defined within the procedure, and other strange and wacky stuff that really works against every good software engineering principle. Also, a roughly equivalent header might look like this:

CREATE PROCEDURE [dbo].[MyProcedure]
    @errorCode     INT OUT,
    @errorText     VARCHAR(1024) OUT,
    @someItemID    INT,
    @someNumber    INT,
    @somethingElse INT OUT,
    @result        INT OUT AS

The biggest problem is that you can't get the type from the columns of a table, so if the table changed you have to change all of your code. This is insane! Large applications may have thousands of stored procedures, all of which would have to be changed. The lack of packages (although as I say, I might be wrong there) mean that you can't logically group procedures either, and you lose some context that you get in Oracle just from the package name.

As I mentioned, the way stored procedures seem to work in SQL Server is by implicit returns. For example, say we have this line:

  declare @intReturnCode int

We can then add a 'return @intReturnCode' later and return a value not even defined in the header. Worse, you can do something like this:

  set @someValue = (select fieldValue from someTable where name = 'this')

So looking at the parameters you'd have no idea that you were going to get 'someValue' back, or what type it is. Madness, absolute madness.

I must admit I was wary of SQL Server, but the more I look at it the more I'm amazed that anyone actually uses it. I mean, they only added exception handling in 2005! It's like some sort of toy database, but with a fairly hefty price tag.

Anyway, feel free to correct me. In the meantime I will continue to think poorly of it..

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I was in London over the weekend for a birthday party. A friend was 30 and hired a Routemaster bus to take us (along with a large amount of champagne) to watch the fireworks at Blackheath, then back to Victoria again for a slap-up feed at a Mexican restaurant. Much fun was had, and I don't think I've had quite so much champagne for some time!

Thankfully champagne doesn't seem to give me much of a hangover, so I didn't feel too bad on Sunday. I took the opportunity to catch-up with some friends while at the same time check out Shibboleth by Doris Salcedo at the Tate Modern. I must say that we were slightly underwhelmed - I expected something a bit wider and deeper I suppose, and while it was certainly long and looked strange in such a large space, it was less impressive than I thought it might be. Still, it was pretty busy so lots of people were obviously interested. In fact the whole place was probably about the busiest I've seen it.

After looking around at a few other things that were new since I was last there we headed off for lunch at Tas at The Cut. It's the second time that we've tried to get in to The Anchor And Hope (which is meant to be one of the best gastropubs in London) but had to go to Tas instead, but hopefully I'll get to try it one day...
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