The Occasional Joke

Nurse: Patient's name?

Centurion: Marcus Licinius Crassus

Nurse: And his date of birth?

Centurion: 115 BC.

Nurse: All right. And what is he here for?

Centurion: Cataphract surgery.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Coming up next on Lexicographical Mockery

Previously Undescribed: The Journal of Abstracted Breaking Research

In the previous post, I used the term "CONOPS", and a number of readers have asked for a further explanation of that term. In the jargon of the military and of other government organizations, the notion of a brief statement concerning the ways in which a proposed entity would be deployed and used is known as a Concept of Operations. This has been shortened to CONOPS under the requirements of the federal Acronymic or Mnemonic Notational/Operational Theme (which, itself, came into being after an engineering executive characterized his Director of Business Development as a Fuzz-Brained Fumble-Mouthed Imbecile (FBFMI), and the head of BD replied, "AMNOT!"). But I digress.

The CONOPS (which, it should be remembered, doesn't address requirements, design, or production in great detail, but rather talks about how the thing in question will be used, once it's escaped been deployed) has been in use for a long time, but only recently have we come to know exactly how long. In 2010, excavations at a Paleolithic site in Eastern Europe, dated to around 47,000 years BCE, turned up a mastodon scapula (Mammuthus meridionalis), covered with scratches (Figure 1).

Subjected to a lengthy computerized analysis, it has now been deciphered and tentatively identified as the world's oldest known CONOPS. (The authors of the article describing it, which was published last month in the open-access Journal of Hopeful Science, believe it is part of a longer document, proposing a firm-fixed-price program to the Talking Chief of the tribe of The Hirsute One (Figure 2), known from other early epigraphical finds as the center of a notorious procurement scandal, "The Sloth Stew for Sex" affair.)

The proposed (and still somewhat conjectural) translation is as follows:

Yearly Augmentation of Anti-Animal Weaponry Program (YAAAWP) for the Year-When-the-Auditors-Sleep, respectfully submitted to his unshaven muscularity, the Great Talking Chief. Greeting.

This program entails (might actually read "entrails". Ed.) selection of a number of the currently deployed Tribal Forces and re-equipping them with a new Meat Procurement Device (MPD), based on the Flame-Involved Reconfiguration Experiment (FIRE) concept, proven in earlier programs. The new equipment which is proposed here will be called the Sharply-Pointed-Element Augmentation of Reach (SPEAR). It will require three separate phases and, as noted below, one additional sub-program.

Phase one will call for identifying the individual tribe members who are to receive the SPEAR equipment, and for storing their current weaponry (the BluntInst mark 2 club and/or the BigRox throwing projectiles). Simultaneously, contractors will gather a number of linearly-consistent tree parts (straight-STIX) equal to the number of program participants. Note that successful completion of this phase will depend on the outcome of an algorithm development sub-program, Beyond The Thumb, which will provide a computational capability for handling numbers greater than three.

Phase two will involve training the participants in techniques for weaponry readiness and maintenance, relying on FIRE technology to render the distal ends of the straight-STIX pointier and more robust. Each SPEAR-equipped meat acquisition specialist will be issued a maintenance and user's guide covering topics such as "Starting a fire", "Finding a flat rock", "Rubbing things on rocks versus hammering things with rocks", and "Reading".

Phase three will provide final training in the use of the SPEAR technology. This will require construction of a simulator, including a large circular enclosure made of very big rocks, in which SPEAR-equipped trainees and one or more volunteer mammoths will be introduced. (This may be seen as "final" training in more than one sense of the logogram.)

Phase four is considered out of scope of this document, since the Beyond The Thumb sub-program has not yet been ...

At this point, the writer of the CONOPS ran out of room on the scapula he (or she) was using, and no additional pages have been identified. An almost-unmarked femur of Ursus spelaeus (Figure 3) was found in association with the scapula, but all it said was "This bone intentionally left blank."