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November 6, 2004

Update bits
Posted by Teresa at 06:37 PM * 58 comments

1. The Movable Type upgrade has been accomplished. Comment spam search-and-destroy capability is much enhanced, and MT Blacklist is now built into the system. MT Blacklist has retained my favorite feature: the button you click on to demolish comment spam is still labeled “Go forth and do my bidding.”

2. The post about Death Masks just grew to about twice its former length. The reason I listed and linked to so many masks the first time around is that the site’s thumbnails aren’t labeled and its site index doesn’t work, which makes it unduly difficult to browse the images. Even with the addition I just posted, my own list is still less than half the total images.

If anyone’s curious, I left out the Shakespeare image because it’s disputed; Julius Caesar because I can’t find anything on its provenance; and Martin Luther because it looks slightly too awful for easy belief in its validity.

3. If any of you remember Collecting bug, my long post about animal hoarding, Scott Lynch has spotted yet another story in that vein. This one’s bad:
450 cats cleared from home
3 likely to face charges; most animals were diseased or dead

ST. CROIX FALLS, Wis. — Shielded by hazardous materials suits against the toxic combination of feces, ammonia from urine and decaying flesh, crews removed about 450 cats Friday from a home along the St. Croix River.

A gut-wrenching stench, something akin to raw sewage combined with rotting meat, carried by a westerly breeze, attracted a bald eagle and turkey vulture for closer looks.

Inside the two-story white clapboard home, the crews equipped with oxygen tanks and air filters made their way through a catacomb of debris, including garbage bags and barrels filled with dead cats, all of which were covered by several inches of cat feces.

St. Croix Falls Fire Capt. Jeff Gutzmer called his trips into the home “like going into hell.” Like most on the scene, he had been to a number of homes and farms where from a few animals to maybe a couple dozen were found dead or dying.

“The numbers. I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s beyond words, beyond description,” Gutzmer said of the dead and dying cats, and the waste they produced. “It’s almost impossible to believe anyone could live. It’s toxic.”

The home’s resident—an 86-year-old retired county health care nurse, her 47-year-old daughter and 52-year-old son-in-law—are expected to face felony charges, including animal abuse. The Polk County district attorney, working with investigators, could file charges as early as Monday. Meantime, the residents were staying at a local motel.

Authorities could not explain why the three were living with so many cats or for how long. Cats living on the main floor of the house on South River Street appeared to be more domesticated than the ones on the second floor. Many of the hundreds of cats were believed to be diseased.

After three firefighters were bitten trying to round up some of the cats, the crew decided the safest, healthiest and most humane option would be to asphyxiate the remaining animals by pumping carbon monoxide into the house.

“The cats on the second floor were wild, feral cats, and we decided it was too risky,” said Police Chief Paul Lindholm.

Firefighters attached large hoses from the exhaust of the fire trucks to pump the carbon monoxide into the house — one of only six on the street. Any cats found still alive were euthanized by injection. After the last of three truckloads of cats was taken to a Clear Lake crematory by Friday evening, the house was completely sealed and cordoned off with yellow police tape.

Clearing out the cats took two days of work by the Polk County sheriff’s and health departments, and St. Croix police and fire departments, along with several neighboring fire and ambulance crews, who were called in to assist. Work began Thursday morning and was completed Friday.
The house has been condemned, which is par for the course in cases like this.

If the St. Croix story seems incomprehensibly horrible, read the animal hoarding post. Note: all the links in it to Tufts University’s animal hoarding research site are broken. The Tufts site can now be found here. Many of my links were to the Tufts photo gallery, which is here. The site is admirably clear and well-informed throughout: a worthwhile if distressing read.

Addendum: I sometimes wonder whether the animal hoarding thing is a dysfunctional variant of the pleasure we take in the company our fellow critters. I don’t mean spiritual pleasure; I mean the measurable neurochemical hit we get off having someone pay attention to us. You can always have friends, minions, or sycophants (depending on your tastes), as long as you aren’t picky about what you get. Being able to command resources gets you a better class of minion; but not everyone has that option.

Animal hoarding has a strong overlap with general hoarding behavior. It’s been observed that in many cases, the difference between a mentally ill hoarder and an acceptably sane collector is the quality of collected objects and the amount of house space and hired help they can afford.

This connects with one of the weirder aspects of high-end fashionable dress. There’s a long history of wealthy people who’re heavily into fashion developing acquisitive behavior that can’t be called anything but compulsive. Imelda Marcos’ shoe collection wasn’t a singular aberration.

During the Regency, the Prince of Wales (later George IV) accumulated insane amounts of top-quality bespoke clothing in gradually increasing sizes, and in his later years gradually wore less and less of it. Pathological obesity didn’t keep him from ordering military uniforms and riding habits. He was perpetually broke, but after his death, hundreds of pocketbooks were found amongst his possessions, each with forgotten money in it.

One of the characteristic behaviors you see in people who’ve caught a case of the fashion thing is indiscriminate acquisition. Empress Eugenie of France had to have her servants maintain an elaborate filing system just to keep track of her wardrobe, and held annual public sales to clear it out so she’d have room for more. This acquisitiveness often takes the form of compulsively buying one of everything. If Jacqueline Kennedy (sometimes Onassis) liked a particular item, she’d buy one of it in every available color. The Duchess of Windsor would buy one of every item offered that season by her favorite designer, even in her bedridden final years.

Every so often, I see newspaper or magazine stories about this-or-that public figure who owns hundreds of bespoke suits kept hanging on a motorized system that parades them past him when he wants to dress. Or there’ll be some woman explaining that it’s simply impossible to dress herself adequately on less than improbably many tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. That’s not sane. It’s just rich. And there’s nothing easier than spending money.

Does this mean I think these people are sad and lonely and looking for whatever happiness they can find? Not particularly. I do think they like the hit, though.

I think maybe the poor and the dowdy would like the hit too, but the things they can afford themselves are far more limited. We all know aging women tend to have pets, but they also buy a lot of greeting cards, and collectible tchotchkes, and other quick hits. It’s consoling clutter. A little old lady with a clean, uncluttered house is a little old lady who has some other absorbing interest to keep her happy.

But for people who stray off the straight and narrow of sane behavior, there are few consolations more potent and more convenient than companion animals. They’re always there. You’ve always got the drop on them. They can’t transfer their attention to some stranger they’ve met at work. And there are always more of them than the market requires. They’re every bit as unwanted as their owners, but they’re even more powerless.

Comments on Update bits:
#1 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2004, 07:50 PM:

While I aspire to be a crazy cat lady [er - person?], I was thinking 4 or 5, not 450. Yow.

#2 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2004, 08:17 PM:

Ugh. Further reading is certainly ... interesting. I think I'll take back any desire to be a crazy cat lady. Eccentric at the end of the street, perhaps - animal abuser? No.

We had a man living at the end of my street that might have been considered a hoarder - although all of his cats were well fed while he was alive, they did breed at an astounding rate. Unfortunately the gentleman expired - and since the food he had for the cats was all in cans, they exploited their only remaining food source. The story surfaces now and again in online lists of implausible news.

#3 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2004, 08:32 PM:

If he loved cats that much, he might have found it an unobjectionable end.

#4 ::: Vassilissa ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2004, 08:44 PM:

It's just so SAD.

I can imagine how one person could get that sick if left alone and allowed to. The bit I have trouble imagining is three people, of mixed ages and generations, getting locked together in it.

It's... the suffering for all the humans and animals involved, and for the people cleaning up.

#5 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2004, 10:45 PM:

I was fascinated by Mary, Queen of Scots - she looks like Tragic Wouldbe Usurper Barbie in that mask, and it's sorta creepy the way it stops halfway down the neck.

#6 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2004, 10:58 PM:

Confessions of a messy:

Having lived in some truly filthy dorm rooms, I've noticed that my sense of "clean" adjusts to fit my current surroundings in an alarmingly elastic manner. Rooms that would make my skin crawl if they belonged to someone else fail to register as dirty. It's only when someone comes to visit that I go ZOICKS!! Must clean!!! The mental auto-focus snaps to the twenty-three Snickers wrappers on my desk, the empty toilet paper rolls on the toilet, and the mounds of books all over everything.

All this is by way of saying that I can understand how an old person left to himself (or with a couple of roommates, which—trust me—I know are useless) could come to such a state, especially when you add in a collecting mania and the "I can't toss that when it's still useful" instinct.

#7 ::: Justine ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2004, 10:59 PM:


You really have to write a book about garbage houses. Your posts about them are just extraordinary. Please, please, please, write a whole book.


#8 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2004, 05:39 AM:

I can see wanting attention from pets, but that doesn't explain having a second floor full of feral cats--they aren't paying attention to you.

Just guessing, but I suspect that one of the hooks driving animal collecting is the knowledge that there aren't nearly enough homes for existing animals--if you give up the excessive numbers of creatures you've got and/or fail to take in animals off the street, a lot of them will be killed.

#9 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2004, 06:37 AM:

Aaaagh! I just went back and read the archived entry on hoarding, animal collecting, and OCD. I don't know whether to wilt in relief that I'm not that bad yet, or cower under the desk at what is likely to come.

Then again, I'm planning a transcontinental move in the coming months, so I have a time frame for Getting Rid Of The Junk (while keeping, of course, the books, and the fabric, and the rocks, and the houseplants, and at least *some* of the food and the clothes and.... er... never mind, I'll just get back to the mound of stuff that I got out from under the bed this week.)

#10 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2004, 06:51 AM:

Y'know, if Logitech made a keyboard with an I am Shiva, created the Destroyer, the Shatterer of Worlds: what is this message I see before me? key, I'll bet they'd sell a pile of them. ThinkGeek alone would move loads. Even if they weren't wireless.

The world is a better place for me not having gone into marketing.

#11 ::: Lis Carey ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2004, 10:44 AM:

I really depend on the attention I get from my cats, but I've found that two is good, three is good, four is too many because we can't comfortably give each other enough attention. I worry when I see more than four animals per person in a household, unless at least one of the persons involved is a real breeder. And by "real breeder," I mean showing the animals regularly at shows organized by the appropriate organizations, so that the animals are seen by people outside the household to be healthy and well cared for.

There was a story in the local paper a couple of months back, though, about a woman in NH who quite accidentally found herself responsible for way more cats than she could really handle. She started out by feeding a very hungry stray, and things snowballed from there.

However, she didn't take them all inside, and when she realized she had exceeded her own cat-caring capacity, she called for help. Of course, the key difference between her and true animal hoarders is that she realized she had a capacity limit, that she had passed it, and that she needed to call for help.

#12 ::: ElizabethVomMarlowe ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2004, 10:56 AM:


You'd think so about saving the cats, but that's sanity talking.

I know of several animal hoarders who considered themselves rescues. (In their own minds.) I knew a legitmate rescue person who got involved with one of them (the hoarder fell ill and was hospitalized). Do you suppose she was happy when the legit rescuer brought news that she'd found homes for some of the pets? Nope. Homicidal rage is more like it.

No one can save the hoarded animals the way the hoarder can. NO ONE. Says the insanity.

These animals aren't really being saved; many of them are being rendered unsaveable through poor nutrition/starvation, lack of socialization, habituation to peeing in the house or fighting for food, or eating their dead fellows, etc. In the dog community, one of the main kinds of hoarders you'll hear about via the grapevine is of toy dog breeds. There's never a lack of homes for these types, even the repeat biters who have no bladder control. But hoarders find them or buy them and tell themselves they're saving them and then pile up the numbers til the animals die. Thereby damning the poor maltese or min pin or yorkie to hell on earth, when the heaven of a apartment dweller in need of a good dog under 20 pounds is only a couple blocks away.

It's depressing.

I'm not saying that real rescue people don't ever subject animals to less than ideal situations for a chance at life; the feral cat spay patrols are a good example of very practical rescue people. Just that hoarders are basically animal abusers; they don't have the animals' interests at heart.

#13 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2004, 11:06 AM:

Lis muses:

I worry when I see more than four animals per person in a household, unless at least one of the persons involved is a real breeder.

My household currently has seven cats between three people, and they're all in good health, see the vet regularly, and are fed, watered and loved. It's a lot of cats though - and we'd have been badly out of our league if they hadn't arrived over a number of years.

Our worst-case scenario involved 10 cats and two people. At the time, we had three cats, but the household was in the process of splitting, so we'd taken in an abandoned cat that a friend had found in his parking garage.

What we didn't know at the time was that she wasn't just hiding in corners and eating a lot because she'd had to survive on her own, and didn't really trust people or the availability of food... 6 healthy kittens followed - and we were fortunately able to find homes for all of them, but I can understand how that sort of situation could get massively out of hand in a hurry.

Most of the areas that I've lived in have had low-cost or free spay/neuter clinics - although sometimes they're rather hard to find. The vet bill can certainly induce sticker shock otherwise (although I don't begrudge the vet expenses and a living) - and it's easy to see why the insurance companies see a market in pet health insurance (linking back to the health care discusion).

I'd have to go digging - and I'm still trying to pour enough caffeine into my system to type coherently - but I've seen a number of articles about the trend towards treating pets as proto-children, including day care, guilt, shoes, clothes and more. It's an interesting, if somewhat disturbing trend (and reminds me of my college landlords, Ken and Barbie - and their unfortunate golden retriever).

#14 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2004, 11:37 AM:

At least SF fans are hoarding books, which don't have the same problems in excess as cats or other animals.

But watch out for the fireman who wants to get rid of them.

#15 ::: Mary Aileen Buss ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2004, 11:54 AM:

Speaking of "liking the hit," I just looked around at all the teddy bears, beanie babies, and the like gradually taking over my apartment and cringed a little in recognition.

I also have more fabric than any sane individual could possibly use in a lifetime, but that's *necessary*. ;)

#16 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2004, 12:35 PM:

Mary Aileen Buss winces:

I also have more fabric than any sane individual could possibly use in a lifetime, but that's *necessary*. ;)

I've gone through a couple of major purges of my fabric stash recently - there's nothing like moving a few times to encourage you to clean up your collection. Happily I know enough fellow addicts that I was able to send everything off to good homes.

#17 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2004, 02:06 PM:

Every single room in our house has books in it. We have so many books we haven't read yet we no longer have a to be read pile, more like several bookcases of to be read. We're in Portland for Orycon, where we've bought nearly a dozen books, and we're planning a trip to Powells before we leave for home later today.


MKK--who also owns more shoes and clothes than she has room for

#18 ::: Barbara Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2004, 02:27 PM:

On the hoarding of odd Transitional Comfort Objects (which is child-psych language for plush toys, blankies, etc.); if you would like a hit of wierdness, go to and search for the word "reborn" in the Dolls listings.
It is deeply strange. There are people refurbishing dolls so that they ... oh, go and look. I can't do it justice.
I'd post an url, but I don't know how to do it properly - a fairly typical sample is item #5533557616, which has 6 days to go.

#19 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2004, 03:33 PM:

While "reborn" is a little icky, I know a couple of women who "repaint" dolls. Often the owners want them restored to their original condition; sometimes the owners want a new look.

#20 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2004, 03:35 PM:

The reason I have only three cats now is because I can't afford to feed/buy litter/pay the vet for more. The condo could certainly hold six, and since I'm home almost all the time, there would be plenty of face time.

#21 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2004, 03:58 PM:

I had five cats for nine years. That was too many. Three seems to be about right. The old one can join in the chases when he feels like it and drop out again when he gets tired.

#22 ::: mary ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2004, 03:59 PM:

When I got my cat Hodge (now sadly deceased) my mom freaked out thinking I was going to go the way of our family friend Kaytee Horsman who at one time had 25 cats (though they were hard to count as shy and fled when visitors came) She got a stray cat which bread with some lowlife several times and kept all the kittens. But they were wonderfully looked after. The run of a large victorian house with mature garden, cardboard boxes lined with cashmere cardies bought from charity shops. She would go several times a week to vet with one cat or an other so it was a full time job looking after them. Sadly they all died out in about a year leaving her catless except for one last stray to keep her company in her last days.

#23 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2004, 04:04 PM:

We have one dog. The data (sorry, no URL) is that homeowners are more likely to have dogs, and apartment renters more likely to have cats. We used to have pet chickens, but the raccoons and coyotes took care of that. Raccoons were good at opening latches. We often house-sit a 2nd dog, who has the loudest bark I know. I gratefully gave said 2nd dog back to her mistress, a few minutes ago, and hope to catch up on sleep tonight.

I've had friends who referred to their home as a "cat farm" or "cat house." Since I'm extremely allergic to cat dander, there are places that I can't be for more than a few minutes. Not that I dislike cats. But I have been hospitalized with pneumothorax and collapsing lung from longer exposure. I'm watching the genetically engineered hypoallergenic cat story with detached interest. I predict lawsuits.

#24 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2004, 05:49 PM:

I've felt significantly better in several ways since clearing out a third of my books, and would like to get it down to about half what it was two years ago. Still got many books I've never read, and I don't let myself buy a new one until I've read two existing ones, or admitted that I won't read them and sold or given them away. It helps clear that nasty consistent spectre of things undone, and I need fewer reasons to feel like a failure by my own standards, even in trivial matters. The combination of feeling driven to spend money on it and not actually getting any enjoyment out of a lot of those expenditures (apart from the purely abstract one of just plain owning a book, as though I couldn't get it if I wanted it on short notice from library or bookstore) was a bad one for me, and I like having money to reduce my debt and spend on things I do with friends.

Teresa's writings on the subject weren't decisive for me, but were very helpful in framing the general issue of when collecting may be going awry. For me, book-buying had gone awry.

#25 ::: Tracey Callison ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2004, 06:30 PM:

I've recently had two experiences that tie into this whole thing, in my mind.

The first was running out of money (long-term workman's comp injury, insurance company refusing to pay for same) and being forced to sell my home and move in with friends temporarily. A fannish, four-bedroom home I'd been in for six years, reduced to one 8x7x5 storage cube and what I could carry up 3 flights of stairs (and fit into a 2-bedroom apt. already full of stuff). Although it was heart-wrenching at the time to clear out over 2000 of my books (I kept a third of the collection), I have realized that with a few exceptions, I have yet to actually wish for things that were no longer there. Most of the things I long for are things that are currently in storage (and will continue to be, until I find more stable living conditions). While I loved collecting them, and housing them (I'd tipped the balance of books to space and it smelled like a library/bookshop in my house, yay), and reading them... they were not as essential to my happiness as I would have thought. Nor were most of the things I was forced to dispose of.

The second thing that happened was that my grandmother's house was condemned for, among other things, the huge piles of garbage more than 3 feet deep throughout. (The neighbors complained when the roach factory started infesting the entire neighborhood, and the city finally listened when the papers got involved.) She'd had some hoarding behaviors over the years (basement and garage had been packed with stuff for my entire life), but they'd always been at least *clean*. Then, in the past few years, my grandmother's husband and sister died, and the resulting depression and apathy was exacerbated by my aunt's manipulation (possibly chemical) of her and her own habits, and, well, things got out of control. Last I'd heard, they weren't quite sure how to deal with the house; if they demolished it, it would unleash a roach tsunami upon the neighborhood, but repeated extermination efforts were having little to no effect, as every time they'd clear out another layer they'd have to start all over again.

Oh, and there were animals removed and sent to shelters - my aunt never bothered to get her cats spayed or neutered, so there were 3 or 4 of those (most litters were just dumped downtown in boxes for someone else to deal with) in addition to the dog kept in the backyard.

I think that I, personally, will have a difficult time ever collecting much of anything again, out of paranoia as much as desire for space that's as dust-free as possible.

#26 ::: Berni ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2004, 06:49 PM:

I'm very glad that vets are now spaying and neutering cats at a much younger age than they were 20 years ago. (The cats are younger, I mean, not the vets.)

Our little guy has a notched ear because he was a feral the Humane Society picked up and neutered and intended to release back into the wild. (Hence the notched ear, showing he'd already been fixed.) He was instead taken by a local adoption/rescue organization who adopted him out to us.

If someone wants to purge their fabric stash, there may be groups in your area who make quilts for kids who are poor or in the hospital who will gladly take your fabric. That's what I did with my stash when I decided to get rid of most of it.

#27 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2004, 07:48 PM:

Tracey: Interesting. (The other trigger for me was a fire destroying the upper floor of the two-story apartment building where I had a ground-floor apartment. Thinking about what would be involved with replacing things made me think a lot about what mattered to me for preservation, too.)

#28 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2004, 08:25 PM:

Right now, about 60 or 70% of my stuff is in a storage unit in New Jersey, while I'm living in a rather small 1 bedroom apartment in Northern CA. This semi-unplanned arrangement has helped me realize what I need at hand, and what I don't.

It's also enforced a lot of discipline on what I buy, because it's easy to say, "I don't need X, because I've got one in New Jersey." I miss my books, but over several trips back east, I've managed to retrieve most of the ones I actually need, as opposed to the ones I'd like to have at hand. Oddly, the thing I miss most regularly is my Zojirushi Neuro-Fuzzy rice cooker, which is buried too deep in the unit to easily retrieve and ship, but is too expensive to justify duplicating.

I've always had a pack-rat streak, especially with regard to keeping shopping bags. In the past, I had bags of bags. Now, I only let myself keep a couple of bags of any given size and immediately consign any new arrivals to the recycling bin before I consider their relative merits in terms of design and durability. (Doing that would cause me to keep them.)

Other things I miss are my big TV. Oddly enough, I rescued an old Sony Trinitron from the street (it had an "I work!" sign on it), which serves my needs. I won't go as far as to say that I've joined the simple living movement, but I do feel a greater sense of freedom with less stuff around.

#29 ::: Ambar ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2004, 08:27 PM:

An eBay house, with photos:

#30 ::: Nadai ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2004, 09:17 PM:

My maternal grandmother was a cat-hoarder - she had over 50 indoor cats, lost them all in an outbreak of distemper, and went on to acquire another 50+ within a couple of years. My mother had 12 cats at her peak (now down to 6 and falling rapidly) and I had 4 at mine (now down to 1). She and I joke that the trait dilutes in each generation, but it's a nervous sort of joke. We both feel that we're not quite right.

#31 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2004, 09:29 PM:

the thing I miss most regularly is my Zojirushi Neuro-Fuzzy rice cooker

What is a Zojirushi Neuro-Fuzzy rice cooker? It can't just cook rice. Does it have Bluetooth? Can it talk to you?

#32 ::: Nancy Hanger ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2004, 09:45 PM:

A little old lady with a clean, uncluttered house is a little old lady who has some other absorbing interest to keep her happy.

I disagree. There are forms of obsessive-compulsive disorder where the form of "hoarding" is manifested in throwing everything out. Everything. My stepmother suffers from this -- or is sufferable, rather. Barely. She buys, obsessively, then throws things out to "make room" for the new things; there is no logic, however. A magazine is bought; a television is thrown out. A new television, mind you. And it is thrown out so no one else could ever use it, because that would somehow upset the delicate balance of the hoarding process that she is sure exists worldwide, because everyone is like that, right?

People who have nothing on their shelves worry me. I learned to look for a good balance of clutter when entering the homes of the elderly when I worked for hospice. Too little is as big a danger sign as too much.

#33 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2004, 09:47 PM:

Andy wonders:

What is a Zojirushi Neuro-Fuzzy rice cooker? It can't just cook rice. Does it have Bluetooth? Can it talk to you?

Presumably one of these.

I still remember being challenged to produce rice without my rice cooker - and profoundly frustrating the challenger by producing perfectly reasonable rice with a pot and water. Posting this has doubtless jinxed me though!

#34 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2004, 10:19 PM:

I got a little glimpse of animal hoarding when we moved down here to Puerto Rico and realized you can actually just pick hermit crabs up at the beach and take them home.

We stopped at nine, though. And tearfully resisted picking up the two humongous granddaddies-of-all-hermit-crabs we saw on Isla Caja de Muertos. Man, those were impressive. But we must still be sane, because we realized that they were impressive because they were still there....

#35 ::: Ariella ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2004, 10:29 PM:

...I don't let myself buy a new one until I've read two existing ones, or admitted that I won't read them and sold or given them away. It helps clear that nasty consistent spectre of things undone, and I need fewer reasons to feel like a failure by my own standards, even in trivial matters.

*Eyeing my teetering to-read pile,* Bruce, I think you're on to something here.

#36 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2004, 10:49 PM:

Glad to help, Ariella. What it means, of course, is that I've got a long list of books I'd like to buy but haven't. :) I'm also fortunate - and I do regard this as a matter of neurological happenstance - to enjoy both audiobooks and e-books on my sundry handheld devices, so that much of my new reading only consumes bits rather than shelf space. That doesn't work for everyone, of course, and I wouldn't want to sound hectoring or superior about it; I confine myself to "check it out as a possibility".

#37 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2004, 10:51 PM:

xeger - That's it all right! It isn't so much that I miss it for white rice, which I can churn out in the microwave pretty easily. It's the porridge and brown rice functions that I miss. My stovetop brown rice always comes out fine on top and pasty on the bottom, and it just doesn't seem right to leave the microwave running for 50 minutes, even if it is on 30% power. Oh, the burdens I must bear!

#38 ::: Jeremy Osner ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2004, 02:20 PM:

Are there hoarders of experience? I have reacted to past troubles by flirting with an obsessive impulse to acquire new experiences, venturing on occasion quite close to going off the deep end. When I read about hoarding it is these times that come to mind -- I wonder how similar this impulse is to the obsessive collection of physical objects or of pets.

#39 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2004, 03:14 PM:

Larry bemoans:

That's it all right! It isn't so much that I miss it for white rice, which I can churn out in the microwave pretty easily. It's the porridge and brown rice functions that I miss. My stovetop brown rice always comes out fine on top and pasty on the bottom, and it just doesn't seem right to leave the microwave running for 50 minutes, even if it is on 30% power. Oh, the burdens I must bear!

Have you tried letting the rice soak for 20-30 minutes before cooking it on the stovetop? That sometimes makes the difference. Something else that also helps is making sure that you're simmering, rather than aggressively boiling - but nothing any less than simmering.

#40 ::: Dru ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2004, 04:17 PM:

The problem with feline hoarding appears to be a fairly common variant in the hoarding process.

Working with an cat rescue group here in the SFBay area, we tend to see at least three to four "area attention" articles related to triple digit hoarding. The ratio of rescuer mentality/vanilla hoarder seems to be at a fairly steady 1:1.

Unfortunately, a decent number of rescue group members exhibit these habits. Currently I know of four officers in local groups who have 50+ in their homes. We generally deal with two or three cases of former members or members who pass on and leave a hidden legacy of dozens of cats.

Trouble is, in all cases, calling animal control nets rescuers a bad name, as it shows in the police/community logs. With the economy doing poorly (at least regionally) we've gone from adoption rates of tens per week to 1/5th that in the past three years. More cats, less homes, less money from donations, a nasty cycle.

Since the hoarders cannot physically divide attention to the cats as deserved, they tend to end up more feral than ones rescued from the outside world. Most end up being destroyed or released to the overcrowded feral cat colonies.

Things that help:

Funds to feral cat colonies
Funds at local vets for spay/neuters
Educating people about expected life expectencies indoors/mixed in-out/outside (2-4, 4-6, 14-18)
Educating people to the real costs of pets (they are not 5$ a month habit
Educating people that spaying/neutering does not make them "less of a cat"
Educating people that spay/neuter can occur at as little as 2-2.5 lbs.
Educating people that if they have a specific type of cat, there is one waiting for them with a rescue group.

Most importantly:
Acting as a foster for hard to place (older cats)
Acting as a bottle-baby home during the kitten season

sorry, bit of a soapbox moment there. Things are really tough right now in the rescue world.

#41 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2004, 05:33 PM:

The vet that helped us with the feral colony in the woods around the condos is going to be recertified and will help us again. I'm pleased for the help, but also that she's coming back to the world. Her parents both died within a couple months of each other -- her father expected, her mother not -- and she became a millionaire. She let her certification lapse while she was very depressed but didn't need money.

(Dru, I think you have the life expectancies backwards from the order of where they live.)

#42 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2004, 05:47 PM:

Does this version of Moveable Type come with xml-rpc built in? If so, I must have it.

#43 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2004, 07:33 PM:

Dru wrote:

Educating people about expected life expectencies indoors/mixed in-out/outside (2-4, 4-6, 14-18)

Er - there seems to be something a bit off with your numbers...

Beyond that, I agree wholeheartedly. I'd be tempted to add the standard "don't buy cute fuzzy things for special occasions" caveat as well.

#44 ::: sara ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2004, 12:18 AM:

Was it possible to hoard people?

Ancient Roman aristocrats (at the highest level, such as senators) owned households of hundreds or even thousands of slaves. The occupations of the slaves are specified in legal sources and in funerary inscriptions and can be very specific. Footman, doorman, butler, etc. doesn't begin to describe it; a great lady might have a maid ad margarita, in charge of her mistress's pearl jewelry.

The specialized slave households make zero sense from an economic standpoint, and rather little sense even from the viewpoint of status display (cf. Thorstein Veblen's Theory of the Leisure Class for modern times), but are perfectly explainable as instances of hoarding -- in this case, hoarding people.

The Roman elite may have collected slaves with hyper-specific occupations as a modern kitchen gear fetishist might collect different kinds of implements. The olive-pitter is distinct from the cherry-pitter, which must not be confused with the strawberry-huller.

#45 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2004, 01:05 AM:


And did Hitler, Stalin, and Mao hoard dead people? I'm reminded of Gogol's "Dead Souls."

#46 ::: liz ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2004, 03:42 AM:

The true animal hoarder does seem to be a variant of obsessive-compulsive disorder. There seems to be a real element of denial or magical thinking necessary--the ill animals are regarded as healthy,

Animal Protection on Pet Hoarding (note: I DO NOT endorse this legislation--it is a stealth means of putting the state in control of animal ownership--but the site is well done.)

Here is an article from the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical AssociationANIMAL HOARDING:
A public health problem veterinarians can take a lead role in solving
. They have tips to help vets recognize hoarders:

This article from the Bend, Oregon paper, Local horse abuse case points to little-known issue (Dec. 2002), estimates that there are about 700 cases of animal hoarding per year. An Old Woman Has Too Many Horses (later in the post--the guy's not a hoarder, just an opportunistic scumbag).

I don't endorse Animal Advocacy but they have a roster of animal hoarding articles, including photos and links.

Oh, and to change the subject? Brian O'Connor points out that one real problem is the overabundance of rats in most cities...what is the humane way to control their numbers?

It is a bit of a send-up of PeTa's point of view.

#47 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2004, 03:49 PM:


Educating people about expected life expectencies indoors/mixed in-out/outside (2-4, 4-6, 14-18)

Maybe I'm confused by your notation here, but that sounds backwards to me as compared to everything else I've heard. Isn't it indoor cats that can expect a much longer lifetime?

#48 ::: Dru ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2004, 01:33 AM:

*sheepish look*

Yes, the numbers are in fact reversed. Thank you for the catch everyone.


Part of the Late November until New Years spiel on adoptions include confirming early on that the pet is not a holiday present in any way shape or form.

Unfortunately, we will still get a decent percentage over normal numbers back during January when the cuteness wears out. We have a "you can always return to us" policy, you see.

Happily though, we also do out best in terms of donations and difficult-to-place adoptions during the same period, so there is a definite silver lining!

#49 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2004, 12:42 PM:

Teresa--Justine is right. You should do a book on garbage houses. I'm thinking a coffee-table-type book, with lots of color photos. It could be a big hit.

Speaking as someone who has some issues with clutter in my own life, I think I understand how hoarding, including animal hoarding, works. (I don't have any pets--I love cats, but I'm mildly allergic to them--not so I can't be around them and pet them, but I've learned from experience that if I have them in the Space Age Bachelor Hovel, I'll feel it in my nose, eyes, and lungs.) Basically, there is a disconnect between the act of acquisition and the act of actually storing and owning. It's similar to wanting to eat something while actually being full and/or knowing that the desired food is not good for you. See object--WANT IT--and only later consider the implications of owning it. If one uses common sense, one can work around this. For example, if I am in a thrift shop, I will often grab whatever strikes my fancy--but before I make my purchases, I will carefully go over whatever I've grabbed, and reject a bunch of stuff for various reasons. I think that people who take in animals think the same way--MUST RESCUE--and then only later, if ever, consider the reality of their situation.

#50 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2004, 04:38 PM:

one real problem is the overabundance of rats in most cities...what is the humane way to control their numbers?

Feeding them to the overabundance of cats? Oh, maybe that's not humane. Although I'd think it would happen naturally.

#51 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2004, 05:19 PM:

The first step in reducing rat population is to cut down on their food source. By cleaning up trash and cleaning up after your dog, the rats begin to cannibalize each other. The alphas will eat the betas, reducing the demand for resources.

I know. You said "humane." But that has to be the first step.

After that... Actually, I can't think of any humane ways to deal with them. I hate rats.

#52 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2004, 05:37 PM:

one real problem is the overabundance of rats in most cities...what is the humane way to control their numbers?

What's for afters?
Rat cake, rat sorbet, rat pudding, or strawberry tart.
Strawberry tart?
Well, it's got some rat in it.
How much?
Three. Rather a lot, really.
Well, I'll have a slice without so much rat in it.

Sorry - I just broke my rule about quoting MPFC, but I just couldn't resist.

#53 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2004, 06:51 PM:

I had to put chili powder in my bird feeders so nobody would see the cute rat baby that was eating from them. The cats really enjoyed watching the rat baby. But the chili powder keeps the squirrels away, too, and I'm happy to feed them.

#54 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2004, 08:27 PM:

I know. You said "humane." But that has to be the first step.

Nobody is telling the rats to eat other rats. Providing economic incentives thereunto, yes, but we're not running ads suggesting that the athletic rat just up the way is far lower in carbs than the discarded Happy Meal. And the rats are probably too smart to go for a forced-saving proposal. At least, the elitist urban rats.

#55 ::: BK ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2004, 06:27 PM:

Hello, all. I've just started lurking here. I live in northern California (Solano County). Have to say I enjoy the level of discussion on this site.

The article on animal hoarding is very disturbing and interesting. I own three dogs, and I cannot imagine the need for more!

However, I am a bit of a book hoarder. Unfortunately, my predilection is for (expensive) architecture and design hardcover volumes. Some of them could even be classified as "tomes" (the new Phaidon Atlas of World Architecture is gigantic!).

Throw in a pottery and glass collection, and my own architecture photographs, and I refer to my condo as "The Museum." And, I know that I spend far, far beyond what I should on these things.

But, I'm a bit of a loner, there's a snob appeal element, and I have very, very poor impulse control.

Plus, an Acoma Pueblo polychrome olla is just a beautiful piece of pottery that's too often hard to resist.

#56 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2004, 03:54 AM:

BK, owning too much Acoma pottery is a problem I'd dearly love to have.

#57 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2004, 10:32 AM:

I don't remember which thread had the discussion of Bob Dylan, and why he should win a Nobel Prize, but there's this today:

Dylan track is named greatest song

"Rolling Stone has named Bob Dylan's 'Like a Rolling Stone' the Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Song of All Time in a new special edition of the magazine."

"'No other pop song has so thoroughly challenged and transformed the commercial laws and artistic conventions of its time, for all time,' said Rolling Stone senior editor David Fricke in article accompanying the list of the 500 greatest songs."

"The Rolling Stones took second place for '(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction', with John Lennon ('Imagine'), Marvin Gaye ('What's Going On') and Aretha Franklin ('Respect') completing the top five...."

In other news, Making Light named 'Making Light' by Eminem and the Rock Bottom Remainders [2006] the greatest blogging song of all time.

#58 ::: cristina ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 10:06 AM:

I may be rather late, having only just found this...after initially being sickened and horrified.
I have to ask...did the firefighters who "attached large hoses from the exhaust of the fire trucks to pump the carbon monoxide into the house" or those who 'euthanized by injection'any poor cats who survived both the original ordeal and being half suffocated...also be charged with animal abuse or causing unnecessary suffering?

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