During Hurricane Ian millions of gallons of pig feces whooshed across North Carolina. Pig poop gets my attention. I raised my kids on a hog farm and the water was too contaminated to drink due to decades of farming with gestation crates: a birthing invention of factory farms that is a stacked storage system to get the most pigs per acre.

In past years Hurricane Florence and Hurricane Matthew sent feces flying so we know which problems ensue: human sickness, contaminated drinking water, rivers, plants and fish. There’s a race issue as well. The farm owners are white and their pig shit lands on property Black people own.

We don’t see many politicians taking up this cause. The pork lobby owns North Carolina. The only other state with significant hog operations is Iowa, and you can’t win a presidential primary if you trash talk pigs.

But California sidestepped the fact that pork producers don’t live in their state and 68% of voters said California should not permit the sale of pork from gestation crate farms. Many attempts to control the pork producers have failed, so whiners dismissed this one as The Bacon Apocalypse, but attorneys shepherded the law through two appeals, and this week the Supreme Court will hear the case.

The state of California will argue that gestation crates are the worst example of animal confinement. The crates don’t allow any movement for pregnant pigs; they can stand or sit but cannot turn around for most of their life. I hope California also adds something about how pigs have an intense social-emotional life and a higher IQ than dogs.

But like all legal matters, conversation will probably stick to money. The pork industry will invoke interstate commerce laws to say replacing gestation crates with moderately larger pens is too big a burden on businesses outside of California. The Court will use the Pike Test to determine if the consumer’s moral cost of eating ill-begotten pork outweighs the producer’s financial cost of reconfiguring crates to be larger.

The cost argument only works because the meatpacking industry controls farmers, and only the few financially independent hog farmers could study the cost of switching from gestation crates. But also, universities capable of producing this research are funded by gestation crate manufacturers.

My son discovered this problem first-hand. Our farm switched from gestation crates to free-range farrowing while he was growing up. The farmer had a degree in hog genetics and we collected data for nine years using a (mostly) scientific method which at the time was annoying, but created a data set like no other in the US.

The switchover was financially successful. There were fewer sows per acre, but each sow had a larger number of healthy piglets and the herd no longer required an antibiotic regimen. There were also huge cost savings for labor, because gestation crates have to be cleaned constantly and it’s disgusting work.

More dramatically, unlike their dull, inert created counterparts, free-range piglets at two-months could run around the pen in little groups like puppies. They were fun and curious and could always make their way back to their mom when she called.

In high school my son wanted to work with a professor to see if he might like being a scientist. So he gathered qualitative and quantitative data from 100 sows and more than 1000 piglets and presented it to agriculture departments at universities. Even though there is no data set that comes close to this in quantity or quality, there were no takers.

One professor said that for a study on this topic he would need comparable data for hogs in a state-of-the art gestation crate system and hogs out of crates with equivalent conditions. The key: state-of-the-art. All hog research from academia must be funded by the manufacturers of gestation crate systems.

My son didn’t get to work with a professor, but he did have a good answer for the college essay prompt: Write about a time you failed. And today he’s studying psychology, because he realized the question of why gestation crates have not been outlawed is clear. But the question of how farmers cope with daily abuse when they’re so close to their animals is a much harder question to answer.

Z’s hearing is still deteriorating from the car crash. I think he might be ready to call it quits on cello.

I have a hard time knowing what to say because it’s all so sad. I have to stop myself from becoming  Julie Andrews, tossing out desperate suggestions.
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We have mice. We have had mice for a really long time and I tell myself things like every apartment in every big city has mice, but I’m not really sure if that’s true.

And also I think maybe I’m too old to live with mice. I mean, I’m definitely too old to be writing about having mice and maybe I’m even too old to even be having a blog except that only old people have blogs now which ends up being sort of comforting. I mean, at least I’m not too old to have a blog.

The last straw with the mice was not that my older son said he wouldn’t come home from college for Thanksgiving because the mice were too gross. I didn’t really believe he would have come home even without the mice. He’s too sick of us.

The last straw with the mice was when I had an in-person meeting for my startup and I was so excited because I am way higher functioning when I have a startup because I don’t know how to have friends unless I am working with them. And a mouse ran over one of the women’s feet and she screamed and we just stood there. We are so used to the mice we couldn’t even pretend to be shocked. I said, “Oh, yeah. We have mice.” Both women looked horrified, and then my younger son looked horrified, and I wanted to look like a good mom so I said, “We are really upset about the mice so we’re moving out soon.”

My son looked so relieved that I started actually looking for apartments.

Then I had this idea that everyone works remote now so I’m never going to get people to work in person unless it’s really fun to be in person. I had this idea that the future of work is that the workplace is a destination. Well, first I found a townhouse that was so so beautiful and then I had this idea. Like people could pay to stay with us for workshops or host offsites. I came up with a million ideas to find one that would justify living there and having the company pay.

But mostly I just fell in love with the townhouse. It hadn’t been lived in for fifty years. The owner bought it when the area was the Combat Zone. Uninhabitable. He only refurbished it recently, after the area has gentrified. We would be the first to live there again. Most of it is original from the turn of the century. And it’s furnished. Here are pictures.

I told the agent my company was leasing. He said the landlord has turned down a lot of tenants. I ignored that. I pleaded. I actually raised another $50K so we could put it in escrow to hold the place. The agent told me he checked my credit and he said nothing came up. “Do you have another name?” he asked.

I told him, “Yeah, remember, I gave you my other name.”

“No, I mean another besides your other name?”

“Just Adrienne and Penelope. That’s it. But I don’t have any credit so I guess I don’t have a credit report.”

Everyone writes about how startup founders are different because they’re relentless. I told myself to just be relentless.

So then we tried the company as a cosigner. Then an investor as a cosigner. A cofounder as a cosigner. We did everything. We did so much paperwork that it took three weeks. At the end of three weeks they said it was all set, and the landlord said okay. The agent took their fee, and I started packing.

I packed quickly. It was just down the street so I figured we could move the fragile stuff ourselves. I didn’t want to pay for packing materials so I used all our clothes to wrap the dishes. My younger son asked me where all his shirts went. I bought him two new shirts at Target and had them delivered by Shipt and told him he doesn’t need anymore shirts right now because we’re moving.

That was four weeks ago. Our stuff has been packed for a month. I am so sick of looking at those two shirts.

Then we got the lease and it said there is no heating system. My brother told me about the Governor of Illinois buying a mansion and pulling out the toilets so it’s uninhabitable and then he doesn’t have to pay property taxes. “Maybe that’s what your townhouse guy is doing,” my brother said.

Maybe. But then why is it still for rent? And what about the agent? The agent must know that they are showing people an apartment with no heating system. Is that fraud? I don’t even know. I mean, obviously I know nothing about renting anywhere because here I am, back with the mice. The mice are suddenly looking great.

I breathed such a sigh of relief when I signed the papers to launch the new company. I like being tied to other people. I like that people have to help me if I am in business with them. I can’t seem to do it in my personal life so I need to do it in my work life. It feels so lonely otherwise.

The thing that makes me relentless is that I can live without clothes or plates or books or other things. That’s easy for me. But it’s hard for me to live without a startup.

Anyone who comes up with ideas for businesses has more than one they can use. So if you want to start a business and you don’t have an idea, just steal one. Here’s an idea I’m not doing anything with.

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I have been blown away by the comments on my last post. I am so appreciative of the kindness and support and all the ideas so many of you have shared.

I asked myself: why am I so reluctant to do Patreon? Melissa has been telling me to do it for years. And now so many commenters are telling me to do it, too. Read more

What I’ve learned from selling stuff on this blog is that I don’t like to do it. It’s hard to tell you I’m hating myself and then tell you, “Buy my course about happiness!”

So, I’ve decided to change my business model. Except that I don’t actually have a new business model yet. And while I’m looking for one I’m making missing monthly payments on a new cello. Read more

Last week my older son took the SAT subject test for biology. He was supposed to take the AP test for biology but I didn’t realize that you have to start registering a homeschooler for AP tests around the time a NYC parent would start registering their child for preschool: in the womb. Read more

Yesterday Daily Beast released extremely disturbing recordings made by Neha Rastogi, a quality assurance manager, of her husband, Abhishek Gattani, who is CEO of the startup Cuberon. She made the recordings in the couple’s Santa Clara home. Gattani has been abusive throughout the ten-year marriage and finally Rastogi started recording it.

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You can easily trick yourself into believing that entrepreneurship is all the rage among young people. Hacker meet-ups, entrepreneurship clubs on college campuses, and the sudden growth of incubators and accelerator programs can present fodder for this case. But these are really just ways to talk about starting a company. Read more

This course includes three days of video sessions and email-based course materials and a 20-minute one-on-one coaching session with Penelope. You can purchase this course for anytime, on-demand access.

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The first job I got at a startup blew my mind. I was learning so incredibly fast, and there was no limit to what my job could include. Anything I could teach myself how to do, I could add to my job. Read more