During the annual throw-everything-in-a-suitcase-and-for- Scully's-sake-don't-forget-the-ferschluggen-blender panic of Fest packing, I came across the following in a corner of the Elder's suite (along with 87 earring backs, four miss-matched socks and a dusty, untouched, as-yet-to-be-adequately- explained crate of Crystal Pepsi.). --Lensie

It's difficult to believe it's over, isn't it? With the end of The X-Files just weeks away, I thought it might be interesting to discuss the science behind that other Enormous Disappearing Thing (no, no not the Mytharc), the Bermuda Triangle. I was going to write about it, that is. The problem is, when I got right down into the research (which was about 22 hours before the newsletter deadline), there isn't much to say about it.

According to legend, the Bermuda Triangle is an area of the Atlantic ocean stretching from Miami to Puerto Rico to the Bahamas and back to the East Florida Coast. The triangle was named in 1964 by William H. Gaddis, writing for Argosy magazine, about an increased number of disappearances in this stretch of water. The mystery of the triangle caught the public imagination, and many more articles, books and television specials fed the popular interest. Several books suggested that the disappearances were due to aliens, living in space or under the sea. Seriously. But remember, it was the 60s.

The US Coast Guard, not about to go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public, states very, very, firmly that there is no such thing as the Bermuda Triangle.  They argue that increased incidences of disappearances in the triangle are due to multiple factors; high boat traffic in the area, the turbulence of the Gulf Stream, the unpredictability of the weather, and the presence of a large colony of hostile 'grays' in the near vicinity. No, no, I'm kidding about that.  Actually, most of the problem with the triangle lies in the fact that in the Bermuda Triangle, compasses point to true, rather than magnetic north. With the advent of GPS (global positioning satellites), the problems of true north versus magnetic north have been much reduced. 

Even I couldn't stretch that to fill a column. Although I did try.   But while surfing, I mean, researching, the triangle, I discovered that GPS technology is fascinating. And didn't Scully locate Mulder using GPS in Triangle, and again in the movie? So, despite the above, this final column is actually about GPS.

GPS stands for Global Positioning System, and it's basically just about the coolest technology ever. If you have a GPS in your car, boat, or even in your purse, you can never be lost.  Imagine that. Never lost again.  You could look at your GPS and determine that you are a) On 75th and Second Avenue b) in Gristedes c) in the dairy department d) standing next to the non-fat yogurt, and you could determine all of this in .723 seconds.  How nifty is that? (Answer to rhetorical question: pretty damn nifty).

So how does it work? That's even cooler. The GPS system was developed by the US department of defense as a way to improve the accuracy of it's navigation and, I'm sure not completely co-incidentally, to blow 12 billion dollars before the end of the budget period. Before the development of GPS, the previously-commonly used methods of navigation were quite inadequate. The most common, landmark navigation, is, by necessity, local, and if you are avoiding a sandbar by steering towards the lighthouse that burnt down last week, you are, in nautical terms, screwed. Dead reckoning is extremely complicated and error prone. Celestial navigation is limited except in good weather, and if you bump a Loran, by, say, stumbling into it as you are fetching another Miller Lite for the skipper, it goes completely out of whack. Not that I, personally, have ever stumbled into a Loran while fetching a beer, of course. It was a bourbon old-fashioned. But anyway, given the Miller Lite/Loran example alone, we can see that the DoD had to find a better system of navigation.

So the DOD put 24 GPS satellites into space, circling the globe. Using triangulation, these satellites can establish a location anywhere on the planet, within centimeters.   Triangulation, for those of us whose last advanced mathematics class was sophomore geometry, works like this: One satellite establishes that you are, say 11000 miles from it (it establishes it using measurements of sound traveling over distance x time. It's very complicated, and I am pretty much the last person who can explain it, as I graduated from college with a degree in foreign languages instead of something useful. So let's just go with "One satellite establishes that you are 11000 miles from it) - so in the entire universe, your location is somewhere along the edge of a sphere with a radius of 11000 miles. That's good, but we're nowhere near the low-fat yogurt yet. So another satellite, in a different location, picks you up and establishes that you are 140000 miles from it. Now imagine two intersecting spheres. Your location is narrowed down to the area where both edges of the spheres intersect.  Three satellites will establish your location as being in one of two points in space (the two spots where the three spheres intersect). Four satellites will establish exactly in which point in space you are located, which is, as we mentioned above, practically inside the dairy case. Cool, huh?

(EDITOR'S NOTE: This graphic was created with love by Autumn & Jessica)

At every point on the globe, you can, with a telescope, see a minimum of 5 GPS satellites at any given time. This is pretty high on my neato-keen technology meter, and it also scores pretty highly on the paranoia-meter. I mean, I can't imagine that the CIA is all that interested in following me around from work to the dry cleaners to the pub to the atm to the grocery store and back, but that fact is, with GPS they could if they wanted to. Other, more useful and less sinister uses for GPS technology are navigation, mapping and synchronization, and I'm sure, a million other functions that we can come up with that have no practical use, just like the 50 useless options on my digital camera. So there you have it. Next time you are using your On-Star System, you'll know how it works. Sort of.

As I finish this last article, the quieting halls of the abbey are beginning to resemble a college dorm after finals week. The pool area is empty, only a lone deflated floatie lies discarded by the tiki bar. Beer's cellar storage area is crammed with Mandy's now-entirely-out-of-hand Indigo Girls altar, but the seemingly endless crates of agave and mountainous wheels of Reblochon have gradually disappeared. The kitchen crew are huddled in the pantry, telling lies about past missions and swaying to Gloria Gaynor, while the rest of the Abbey is gathered in the Festive wing, mixing margaritas and planning to get together for the next movie, but maybe not in a 120 degree heat wave this time. The Elder's suite has been stripped of every last piece of computer equipment, save for Brother Colin's workstation, er, I mean, Commodore 64 shrine. 

While I'm awfully sad at the coming end of our little group, I do take comfort in the knowledge that energy is never lost, only reconfigured. To everything there is a season.  And this long season of the OBSSE has brightened my life, immeasurably.   Thank you all so very much.


(Author's note:  When I was researching GPS, I took information from a number of excellent sources.  If you are interested in learning more, Trimble has an excellent overview of GPS technology at http://www.trimble.com/gps/index.html.  I highly recommend it.)

by Rosemary (aka Sister Badger)

It all began last year, at Not!Fest 2002 in Las Vegas. 

Everyone had gathered in someone's room. (Editors Note: Actually it was a bar - wrap your mind around that one...) Someone decided that a call should be made to Sister Beer, who couldn't make it for some reason (important cheese shipment coming in, perhaps?). Much taunting ensued. Gen led us all in a cheer -- Gimme an R! Gimme an A! -- well, you know the rest . . . we learned that Gen can't spell, and Beer was told to start organizing for Not!Fest 2003.

Fast forward to Not!Fest Montreal. Again, everyone has gathered in someone's room. Again, someone (Jean claims credit, but who knows? We had been drinking for a while!) decided that a call should be made to Sister Beer, who couldn't make it for some reason. This time, however, we added a twist: we would pretend we were on our way to Raleigh.

Thanks to a local sister, (hi, Lynn!), whose husband knew his way around Mapquest, we were able to determine a few of the highways and towns near Raleigh, including the now-infamous Fuquay-Varina. Armed with this information, Autumn made the call. And Beer was afraid, very afraid . . . especially when Jessica yelled, "We just passed Fuquay-Varina!" And mispronouncing "Fuquay" (not in a good way!). However, probably due to the incredible amount of laughter, Beer soon figured out that a vanload of drunken OBSSE nuns (and one preternaturally calm baby) was not on its way to Beer's house.

But there's always next year. Beer, hide the dogs.


Not!Fest Musings

Jean:  No internet? Try the lamp.

Twee:  No we will not show you our nipples. We're all lesbians.

Anonymous: Has the baby eaten your face yet?

Gen: I love Valium.

Nanchita: Autumn is sitting in the story chair ... CRYING!

Tina: I've got the bit, so how do I earn my -ch?

Jessica: You're not standing between me and the chocolate, are you?




Said I, as a way of introducing myself to poor Paula, who got called and yelled at (for fun, of course...) in 6 (six) languages.  Everyone used different words, but all hearts were united in the same message, as Tina flew all the way from Fiji and were the hell was Paula?

So as a proud representative of the Montreal chapter of the OBSSE, where I'm known as Sister Eve (even though I was re-baptized by Autumn as Sister Zwing,after a memorable addition to the collective interpretation of So Long, Farewell... from our beloved Sound of Music musical), I was allowed to yell to Paula in slang Quebec French. 

So Paula, you don't know me yet, like you would have if you'd been here for this year Not!Fest. I wouldn't want to repeat myself, no, but let me ask you this: where the Fuquayvarina where you? You don't understand, do you? WELL YOU WOULD IF YOU'D BEEN HERE!! Seriously, we had a great time, and my jaw still hurts from all the laughing.

Thanks to our non-organizer Gen, and see you all next year in Fuqayvarina Tampa!!

Sister Eve, aka Sister Zwing

The X-Files is owned by FOX and as this group has absolutely NOTHING TO DO WITH THE FREAKING X-FILES ANYMORE, no copyright infringement is intended. The OBSSE and News for the OBSSEsed are intended for entertainment purposes only. In other words, it's a joke folks. Thanks to all who contributed this month. All articles and columns appearing in News for the OBSSEsed are copyrighted to the authors.