Shalampaxians are often thought to be at odds with science. This is mostly, but not entirely true. Pencilonear is the exception. He loves all things scientific and often performs original research. Lately, he has become particularly interested in the science of longevity and, in particular, the longevity of Shalampaxians.
For a people who are largely sedentary and largely large in girth, Shalampaxians tend to live to surprisingly ripe old ages. You can tell this because elderly Shalampaxians smell especially ripe. We generally keep our distance from them. Thirty-five feet is considered to be the minimum safe separation. Farther is better.
Beyond the pervasive odor of our octogenarians, nonagenarians, centenarians, and whatever the hell you call people who make it past 109, there are statistics to back up claims of our superior longevity. The average life expectancy of Shalampaxians is 89.7 years. (Male and female Shalampaxians were grouped together for this study, as you can rarely tell the two apart when clothed and you don’t want to see them naked, particularly when they’ve reached that age.) Furthermore, out of a total population of only 4,242 people, 323 Shalampaxians are over 90.
Never let it be said that the Government of Shalampax doesn’t do much to foster innovation. It doesn’t, but it’s considered to be a social faux pas to mention it.
The government is considering doing something to change that, which is to say that it might change its indifference toward innovation, not change the reticence to discuss its failings. Pencilonear, Shalampax’s self-proclaimed scientist, has applied to the government for a grant that he intends to use to prove his theory that it is possible to repair tears in the space-time fabric by using an ordinary kitchen spatula to apply a precisely formulated mixture of Dijon mustard and cornstarch to the tear.
For competitive reasons, Pencilonear refuses to divulge the exact ratio of Dijon mustard to cornstarch in his formula. Likewise, he will not reveal whether he will use a metal spatula or a plastic one, or if it makes any difference. For similar reasons, he will also not disclose how he proposes to find or create rifts in the space-time fabric on which he can test his theory.
The government is said to be strongly in favor of granting Pencilonear the necessary funds on the condition that he will buy five times as much Dijon mustard as he requires and that he will then divide the extra up among the Members of Parliament.
Time machines have long been devices of science fiction. Sometimes, they are at the very core of the story. At other times, the author uses them to get the protagonist magically out of a jam when the author can’t think of any other way to do the trick. However, few people believe that time machines are possible in real life, at least not with our existing technologies and current understanding of the space/time continuum, and possibly never.
Pencilonear, Shalampax’s self-proclaimed scientist, recently laid claim to proving that the doubters are wrong. Earlier this week he demonstrated a time machine that he built. And, even more amazing, he built it from common materials that might be found in any home.
Needless to say, there was considerable excitement about his invention. However, that excitement waned quickly when close inspection of the time machine showed that it was a very ordinary grandfather clock without any special features, and certainly not capable of skipping back and forth through time and space.
I don’t know if you’ve been reading Stoneupnose’s reports on Openfly’s recent adventures wherein Openfly, by an amazing coincident, stumbled on Marie, the woman who, more than anyone else, is responsible for Shalampax being the great nation it is today. But if you haven’t been reading his columns, you should. They’ve been spellbinding. Or maybe they just put me to sleep. I often find it difficult to tell the difference between spellbinding and sleep-inducing.
If Marie’s importance eludes you then you obviously haven’t done any reading on Shalampax’s history. And if not, why not? How the hell do you think you’ll ever be able to figure us out if you’re not willing to spend a few minutes reading about us at Shalampax’s national Web site?
Sorry, I got off on an tangent there. I mentioned Stoneupnose’s reports because they reminded me of something. Before Marie washed up on our shores we had no technology and no language. Marie didn’t give us technology, but she did teach us English.
The weather in Shalampax is legendary. At least, it’s legendary in Shalampax. Few, if any, people beyond our borders know anything about our weather, or about Shalampax for that matter.
All Shalampaxians are painfully aware of the hideousness of our climate. However, what many of our citizens don’t know is that often, even when a Category 5 hurricane is ravaging our island, if you head 50 miles in any direction you’ll find clear skies and calm winds. And, the hurricane typically never moves off our island before it dissipates.
To say the least, this is a remarkable phenomenon, but few scientists outside of Shalampax have bothered to study it because it never affects them or anyone they know or care about.
Scientists here would have studied it long ago, except for the fact that there aren’t any Shalampaxian scientists to speak of. That is to say, we do have a couple of scientists, but good taste prevents us from speaking of them. And, if you know anything about Shalampaxians, if good taste prevents us from talking about them, these must be truly hideous characters. They are.
Last week, on one of those exceptionally rare, but exceedingly glorious instances when Shalampax’s otherwise notoriously brutal weather yields to a day during which it is not altogether too dangerous to venture out into the elements, Walnutshell took a walk in Shalampax’s palm patch.
Walnutshell has long had an interest in birds. As a result, on his infrequent walks he always keeps a sharp lookout for his fine feathered friends, his fine feathered enemies, and pretty much anything with feathers apart, of course, from his wife, whose feathers aren’t becoming in the least. He takes a particular thrill in spotting a rare species that has been blown off-course and into Shalampax’s territory by the frequent “breezes,” which in other contexts would be referred to as gales. Walnutshell was not disappointed last week; not in the least.
Walnutshell observed the most unusual bird he had ever seen or heard of hunting insects at the base of a Palm tree. To avoid any confusion, allow me to point out that it was the bird, not Walnutshell, that was hunting insects at the base of the tree. Walnutshell was a tad peckish at the time and he would have relished a succulent insect had one crossed his path, but he wasn’t in the mood to go hunting for one.
The top of the bird’s body was covered with feathers of a brilliant turquoise color. It’s underbelly was a bright, almost fluorescent lime-green. But most extraordinary was its long, sharp beak, which was rainbow-hued.