The nature of the beasts

This week: caring for children, robots, CEOs, and other creatures.

Adventures in babysitting

$13.44 an hour: that's the going rate for babysitting in the the US, according to a survey of parents by And it's up nearly $3 an hour in just 5 years. Based on the so-called “Economics 101” lectures offered by the anti-minimum wage crowd, increasing the cost of childcare at that rate ought to reduce the supply of children. And yet population growth continues.

Meanwhile, people who work as “au pairs" — basically live-in babysitters, traditionally with European accents — are suing because they’re paid just $4.35 an hour for participating in the “cultural exchange” of caring for someone else’s children. There’s got to be a better system of childcare than having low-wage workers pay a lot of money for other low-wage workers to watch their kids.

On a scale of 0 to 1, that guy’s a 0

Tens of thousands of Seattle workers are about to see their first wage increase under the city’s landmark $15/hour minimum wage law, with many looking at raises of $1.50/hour effective April 1st. That’s good news for workers & for the local economy — and it’s also good news for stock photo agencies that specialize in pics of humanoid robots.

That’s because there are a lot of articles to write, but threatening that robots will steal jobs is about the only talking point anti-minimum-wage doomsdayers have left. Productivity certainly matters, and automation does affect the kinds of work we do, but the idea that robots are going to steal fast food jobs in the next couple weeks is more than a little ridiculous. On the other hand: a right-wing radio host continuing to insist against reality that Seattle restaurants are closing may seem uniquely, crazily, human — until you check out this bot-generated YouTube report where the synthesized voice at least sounds like he’s thought about what he’s saying.

Let’s talk about Sbux, baby, let's talk about you & me

Starbucks employees are back to writing names on cups instead of hashtags, as their much-criticized#racetogether initiative came to an apparently abrupt end, prompting their VP of communications to turn his twitter account back on.

Emotional labor has long been part of the job in the service industry, and baristas rank up there with bartenders in terms of the comfort they’re expected to provide. But one of the special things about Starbucks is just how much of the emotional work is performed in direct service to the feelings of Howard Schultz himself

Not just any Port in a storm

African Giant Pouched Rats have been trained for a dangerous job detecting landmines and tuberculosis, a combination that sounds like it was stolen from a gag RFP issued by the Gates Foundation for April Fool’s Day.

The Pope ordered a pizza while visiting Naples, and had it delivered directly to the Popemobile. It was from a local Neapolitian place instead of Domino's, so the franchise industry lawyers are likely already circling, ready to pursue an inquisition.

And a massive swarm of sharks lurks off the Louisiana coast, apparently attracted to an oil rig. And that’s not the only thing they have in common with the Port of Seattle.