My ‘Montgomery J. Burns Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence’ has finally arrived (Update: Donations urgently required)

From time to time I get emails like this:

Dear Brian M,

We are pleased to announce that Marquis Who’s Who has selected you for our official 2018 Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award. You have been selected to receive this prestigious award as a result of your hard work and dedication to your profession.


The 2018 Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award Winners are featured on the Marquis Lifetime Achievement website at no cost. Award recipients are entitled to a professionally written personal narrative announcing this honor as well as your accomplishments. The narrative comes with online distribution to all the major search engines for higher visibility and each winner is given an expanded biography and exclusive access to Marquis Biographies Online (MBO), our database of more than 1.5 million of the most distinguished professionals from around the globe. Lastly, all narratives are also offered in a lovely custom framed display piece for the home or office.

Please take the next step in distributing your official award announcement and reaping the benefits of this distinguished award.

We look forward to hearing from you.


Selection Committee
Marquis Who’s Who

Sounds great, doesn’t it? After all these years, I am finally recognized.

It is surely an honour to be spoken of in the same breath as such figures as Albert Nelson. After all, we all remember Albert Nelson. The famous Albert Nelson.

In fact, we remember all the Albert Nelsons:

Source: Wikipedia

However, there is a downside.

When I click the link provided at the bottom of the email, I get directed to a page describing all the benefits of agreeing to receive the award: a professionally written biographical note; an expanded biography in the Marquis database; a feature article on the Marquis website; and — of course — a “stunning” commemorative wall plaque, “suitable for display in your home or office”.

To defray costs of these, I am required to pay a processing fee.

And here it is:


Wowzers! 895 dollars is a lot of dollars. Seems that being a Lifetime Achiever isn’t cheap.

Over the past twenty-five years, I have seen “listed in Marquis Who’s Who” in several professional CVs, including those of some very senior professorial colleagues.

Remarkably, the Marquis Who’s Who directory is still seen as reputable in many places. But I think it is clear that the whole system looks, swims, and quacks like a tacky money-grabbing direct marketing scam.

Put simply, these awards are not worth the paper — or commemorative plaques — they are printed on.

Poor old Albert Nelson must be turning in his grave.

I went to the Natural History Museum in Dublin, and took some pictures

And here they are…

It’s a super-quaint nineteenth-century cabinet museum, where almost everything is catalogued and exhibited in glass cases. There is no VR here, no animatronic T-Rexes, no interactive installations or contrived ‘Did You Know?’ infographics in Comic Sans.

I’m convinced that some of the furniture is of similar — or greater — cultural and historical significance than the artefacts on display. Certainly, the interior of the museum — its design, proportions, echoes, lighting, and layout — reflects an important piece of human heritage in its own right.

It feels like this is a quirkily happy side-effect of decades-long chronic underfunding. The museum, never having been modernized, stands largely untouched and unchanged for more than a century, as if preserved in amber.

The museum itself belongs in some kind of museum.

Of course, Dublin being Dublin, there was ‘fun’ to be had in the nearby souvenir stalls. Down the street, our species’ evolutionary history was depicted in t-shirt form:

Ha, ha, ha — you see? It’s hilarious.

Oh well, the actual museum is a definite treasure trove, if not a treasure in its own right. Go there. Now.

Before they ‘modernize’ it…

Argument over toilet breaks down on (civil war) political lines

How can you ensure the success of a toilet? Maybe…call it a ‘Superloo‘?

Well maybe not.

In the news today is one such ‘super’ toilet which cost my hometown over half a million euro to install — plus €250,000 in subsequent maintenance fees — but which, according to official figures, made just €300 per year in revenue for the local council.

You might expect true quality-control excellence for this kind of expenditure. However, according to local newspapers, the lavatory had something of a ‘chequered past‘:

In its early years, the door swung open on a woman who was spending a penny inside.

Even worse,

…one occasion, [it destroyed] a woman’s clothes when its cleaning jets went off at the wrong time.

All told, the superloo even failed at being an actual toilet, becoming better known to locals as a convenient place for after-hours sex

…despite the fact that there was supposed to be a sensor in place to prevent two people entering at the one time.

So now the city fathers want to pass this whole mess onto another town. Maybe the people there will have more regard for what a Superloo has to offer.

“You’re welcome to it . . . take it . . . we don’t want it . . . it’s all yours,” said Cllr Killilea.

Yes, this is the type of issue that, in Ireland, local politicians want to have their say on. The council debate even broke down on political party lines.

Councillors from Fianna Fáil — the republican nationalist party founded after the Irish civil war — wanted to move the toilet. Meanwhile, those from Fine Gael — the liberal-conservative Christian democratic party founded to represent the post-civil war pro-Treaty opposition — wanted to not even talk about it.

Gives a whole new perspective on ‘fumbling in a greasy till‘.

Brian thinks chicken pox is normal, Harper is confused

Speaking as a Brian, I can confirm that this is true…


In my 1970s childhood, everyone got chicken pox sooner or later. Whenever I felt unwell, I would eagerly look for the red blotches that would confirm my destiny. The ‘pocks’, as I thought they were, each individual mark representing a single ‘pock’.

For reasons that appear now strange in hindsight, I don’t recall ever contemplating what chickens had to do with it. For all I knew, the bird might have been named after the disease, rather than the other way around, so normal was the pox.

I didn’t know how you got it, but I knew you could only get it once. This lent chicken pox a certain right-of-passage cachet. Until my own skin was scabbed over with itchy blisters, I felt I was missing out.

Eventually I was struck down. After a week or so it was over. I was quite proud of myself. I had had my pox.

Exciting times. Pity the Jaxons and Harpers with their coddled modern pox-free lives…

Microsoft pushes boundaries of keyboard design, at expense of user sanity

Have a look at the keyboard on the new Microsoft Surface Pro:


See where the Power Off button is located?

Yep. Right there, right next to the ‘Delete’ key.

So when you need to delete the last letter you’ve typed, heck, with your eyes closed you just might power the whole thing off.

To be fair, actually powering off a Surface Pro requires you to hold that button down for a few seconds. So you are unlikely to actually switch off your computer when trying to delete a single character.

But what if you — like me — are the type of typist who holds down the ‘Del’ key for seconds at a time in order to delete several characters? Well then you are well and truly in Russian roulette territory.

On the plus side, at least the designers have added a luxury carpet to the thing, and made it available in maroon. So there’s that.

Hmmmm. Better check those auto-save settings…


Are you an exorcist? If so, call this number

Wanted. More exorcists.

A Dublin priest has told the Irish Catholic newspaper (yes) that he has noticed a sharp increase in demonic activity.

…Fr. Pat Collins said he has been overwhelmed with the number of requests for exorcisms from the faithful in Ireland. In an open letter, he has urged the Irish bishops to train more priests to deal with the demand.

To be fair, the problem is not restricted to Ireland.

Collins’ comments are on par with those of other exorcists throughout the world, including the International Association of Exorcists (IAE), a group of 400 Catholic leaders and priests, which has reported a dramatic increase in demonic activity in recent years.

Interestingly, according to the way the Catholic church runs its operations, at least one priest per diocese will be trained to distinguish ‘true’ demonic possession from mental illness. The implication here is that such a priest will be trained in psychiatric diagnostics to the level of a fully qualified psychiatrist or clinical psychologist. As a psychologist myself, I find this absolutely astonishing.

Basically, the claim being made is that the relevant appointed priest will be able to specifically diagnose, say, drug-induced hallucinogenic disorder or chronic undifferentiated schizophrenia. Otherwise, the risk of a false-positive declaration of demonic possession must be pretty high (if not astronomical).

I wonder will these individuals be up to speed on all the many recent revisions to ICD-10-CM? These are a headache for the profession worldwide. Where do these priests get trained?

Ultimately, if exorcists have indeed perfected the ability to perform fine-grained differential diagnostics relating to hallucinogenesis, then I am sure the clinical psychology and psychiatry professions would really appreciate the opportunity to learn their methods.

Sometimes you wonder who in fact is doing the hallucinating here.