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This month's T-SQL Tuesday is hosted by Aaron Bertrand, who gave us a choice: write about something we're passionate about outside of SQL, or write about one of the SQL bad habits/best practices he's posted about in the past.

I knew exactly what to write about for the first option - but I felt like it would be a bit of a cop-out given I only have one previous technical post up. So I've written two posts! You can find part 1 - my technical post - here.

Without a doubt, the hobby that takes up the biggest chunk of my free time is Ingress. It's the GPS game that Niantic made before they made Pokemon Go (PoGo). To get the inevitable question out of the way, is it much like PoGo? Not really. They're both GPS games, PoGo shares most of the Ingress map, and you get items from some of the same locations... but I that's the start and end of the similarities.

Ingress is a global team strategy game - either you're blue, or green. Either you're part of the Resistance (noble protectors of humanity), or you're alien-loving Enlightened scum. ahem. Either way, you try to control "portals" (real life landmarks that have been marked on in-game map), and also join portals together to make links and fields. A link is two portals joined together, and a field is three portals joined together to form a triangle. You can layer the triangles - so a (fairly big) set of fields looks a bit like this:

Ingress map with a big set of fields

I started playing as something to do between the train station and the office, but at some point I recruited my partner (Ollie), and it turned into a shared pastime. There was just something weirdly thrilling about driving around the Yorkshire countryside together trying to make imaginary sky-triangles. And I suddenly was finding all kinds of amazing places I didn't know existed. This building is about 10 miles from my house, but I had no idea until I played Ingress:

Almshouses in Aberford

Another one of the portals turned out to be the church where two of my great-great-grandparents are buried. Thanks to driving around little villages in Yorkshire playing Ingress, I've gained a huge amount of knowledge about the part of the country that my maternal line has lived in since at least the 1700s.

St Oswald's Church

For a long time I was prone to avoiding travel. I have coeliac disease, and finding decent, safe food away from the house isn't always easy. Most of my friends were in Leeds or nearby, I was helping run music events in Leeds, and I'd reached a childhood goal: I had geckos. Meet Bluey.

Bluey the Barking Gecko

Bluey is a Barking Gecko, although he steadfastly refuses bark. He has hissed, twice.

It had gotten really easy to stay in one place. In fact, I'd downright gotten used to not really going anywhere else, to the point that doing so stressed me out, which seems a little silly in retrospect - I grew up between two countries (England and the US), I'd flown plenty of times, and as a kid a lot of my dreams were of going to see natural landmarks like the Painted Desert, or experience other habitats - tropical rainforest was a lasting obsession of mine. But Leeds has a lot going for it, and my home was full of geckos - it was easy to stay put.

But suddenly this game was making me travel around. First it was just exploring Leeds, and then West Yorkshire, and then other bits of Yorkshire. And when Ollie and I started attending local community events, everyone talked about going to official Ingress events, or huge missions run by teammates - at first I couldn't imagine going, but then there was one in Copenhagen, and I've always wanted to visit...

Since then, Ingress has taken me all over the place. After Copenhagen I've been to competitive events in Rotterdam, Birmingham, Canterbury, Vilnius, Cardiff, Nantes, Stockholm, and Belfast. Plus there was a rather bonkers event that saw me live overnight outside in Manchester in February with a rotating group of teammates, punting an imaginary thing from Manchester city centre over the Pennines, across the east of England, and into the middle of Berlin at 5 in the morning. Several us followed the imaginary "ball" across the UK, the whole time being chased by members of the opposite team who were trying to stop us, and steal it. That looked like this:

Link from Friskney to Berlin

To accomplish that, many Dutch and German people got up in the middle of the night to clear a path so we could make an imaginary link from the east coast of England into the centre of Berlin. A path over 800km long, with people all along it, working together. It was the most amazing bit of teamwork, and I now know what it feels like to win the sportsball world cup. Plus explaining to my boss why I needed a few days off was good fun.

What I've found along the way is that travelling isn't so stressful - it's getting easier and easier to find gluten free food, and I'm starting to think the geckos don't even miss me. Luckily they're a pet that combine well with travelling and being away from home - they don't demand attention and are OK alone for a few days. This is Hyperbole, a Giant Madagascan Day Gecko; she neither hisses nor barks.

Hyperbole the Giant Madagascan Day Gecko

It's no coincidence that in the midst of this I went to SQLBits in Liverpool, which was my first conference. And then I was hooked on that, too - in a lot of ways going to industry events and meeting up with people in the SQL community isn't so different from what I do in Ingress.