Ghost Busting Is Alive And Well In France

August 22, 2017 in Daily Bulletin

Who you gonna call? You have a menu of options if you’re in France wrote The Economist:

  • The Catholic Church has 100 licensed exorcist priests in France but most are inactive.
  • Independent contractors have sprung up to fill the supply gap. One general exorcist charges $180 an hour to rid properties of demons.
  • Others are specialists. One that focuses on exorcising farms charges about $600 per exorcism.
  • The business can be lucrative. One practitioner reports working 15 hours a day and earning $14,000 a month.
  • Demand tends to rise after terrorist attacks.
  • American TV shows such as Fox’s The Exorcist also drive inquiries.

Read more on The Economist.

There Is A Mistress Busting Industry In China

August 21, 2017 in Daily Bulletin

Jiayang Fan wrote about mistress dispellers in China:

  • Mistress dispellers are hired by wives to help their errant husbands forget about their affairs.
  • The dispeller may pay off the mistress. Or they could tell the mistress rumors about their lover – say about potential STDs.
  • In a more community oriented culture the dispeller could simply threaten to tell the mistress’s family about what was going on.
  • Well-connected ones might work with the mistress’s boss to get her moved to another city.
  • Adventurous ones may cut out the middle man, as it were, and seduce the mistress.
  • The dispellers typically charge $15,000 for an initial consultation and $45,000 for a dispelling. If the husband has a child with the mistress the service can cost as much as $75,000.
  • One company in the industry has 300 employees, has been operating for 16 years, and is housed in a skyscraper.

Read more about the business, its history, and the stories of some of its clients on The New Yorker. You can find past Centives coverage on mistresses in China here and here.

There Is A World Championship For Excel, PowerPoint, And Word

August 18, 2017 in Daily Bulletin

The New York Post and the Verge wrote about the world championship for Microsoft Office:

  • People who take Microsoft Office certification tests and score highly in their region are automatically offered a chance to participate in the national championship. Winners go on to the international stage.
  • 2017 was the first year that an American won the competition for Excel. Typically, it’s participants from more math focused countries that take the spreadsheet cup.
  • The competition is limited to those between 13 and 22.
  • First place gets you $7,000 and a free Xbox. Second and third place get you $3,500, and $1,500.

Read more on The Verge and the New York Post.

Hello Stoner Valley

August 16, 2017 in Daily Bulletin

Silicon Valley owes its fortunes to the Technology industry. For Detroit it was the automobile industry. There may soon be a town focused on the marijuana industry:

  • American Green, a company, just paid $5 million in cash for a small gold rush town in California.
  • The company intends to turn the town into a haven for pot enthusiasts.
  • The aim is for it to be a hub for marijuana focused businesses where talent and supply networks can be concentrated.
  • There will also be activities for tourists. One idea is to have bus tours that take guests to try different weed infused food.

Read more on Vice.

The Markets Will Be Stable Before The Nuclear Apocalypse

August 15, 2017 in Daily Bulletin

Nuclear war with North Korea may be imminent. But the stock market seems relatively stable. Alex Tabarrok had some thoughts on why:

  • If investors think IBM’s stock will fall they can sell, and then buy one of the multitude of other more promising stocks.
  • In a nuclear war though all stocks will crash, so there’s not much point in buying shares in other companies. Or even in holding onto cash.
  • Rational investors may still choose to sell out of the market and blow their cash on drugs and sex workers if they think the end of the world is near.
  • But perhaps that’s just a bad caricature of humanity. Many would prefer to go for a walk in the woods or spend more time with their family.
  • And anyway, marginal benefit falls. The first line of Armageddon fueled coke may be pleasurable. The second a little less so. After a while there’s only so much fun people can have with their money.
  • All this means that the markets are probably poor predictors of nuclear war.

Read the entire fascinating argument on Marginal Revolution here.

The Economics Of Fashion Forecasters

August 14, 2017 in Daily Bulletin

Fashion designers rely on fashion forecasters to guide their thinking:

  • In the 1960s agencies in Paris began releasing “trend books” with fabric and design ideas summarizing where fashion seemed to be headed.
  • Today this is an entire business. Fashion forecasters observe fashion shows and clubs and then combine that with economic, political, and other data.
  • Hemlines, for example, are expected to rise with stock prices, and lipstick becomes more popular during recessions.
  • Forecasters claim accuracy rates as high as 80%, although this is a self-fulfilling effect – the entire industry reads their books, guiding their thinking, and leading to fashions in line with forecasted predictions.
  • Fashion designers, for their part, appreciate the books as a form of insurance. As long as their ideas incorporate forecasts, their designs won’t be too different from the rest of the industry.
  • Threats are on the horizon. Some challengers use computer analytics and big data to provide instantaneous short-term predictions.
  • So far accuracy rates are just 50%. But that will improve. Google already makes its own predictions based on search data. In 2016 it predicted that mom jeans were in while boyfriend jeans were out.

Read more on The Economist.

Restaurant Jobs Are The New Factory Jobs

August 11, 2017 in Daily Bulletin

Derek Thompson looked at the remarkable rise of the restaurant workforce:

  • In 2017 jobs in restaurants have grown faster than those in healthcare, construction or manufacturing.
  • This growth has been distributed across the nation, and is accelerating.
  • Americans used to spend 25% of their food budget on restaurants in the 1950s. Today they spend 50%.
  • Manufacturers used to employ three times as many people as restaurants in 1990. On current trends this will reverse by 2020.
  • The charge is led by fine dining establishments that typically have a high number of staff at hand.
  • Bars on the other hand serve a lot of people but employ relatively few.
  • It’s not clear how great this is for the economy. The average private job pays $22.50 an hour, but for restaurants the corresponding figure is just $12.50.
  • And the restaurant market may already be too saturated. Several chains are struggling to compete against all the competition.

Read more on The Atlantic.

The Dark Side Of Solar Eclipses

August 10, 2017 in Daily Bulletin

On August 21st there will be a total solar eclipse visible over a 100km pathway across twelve American states. Millions will travel to that narrow strip of land and officials are gearing up for all the problems this will cause wrote Meredith Rutland Bauer:

  • South Carolina has 4.9 million people. It is expected to get up to another 2 million in eclipse watchers.
  • This will jam traffic and block emergency vehicles.
  • Grocery stores, gas stations, and hospitals are expecting supply chain delays and are stocking up in advance.
  • People will be enthralled by what’s happening in the sky – which will cause car accidents and injuries from people walking into things.
  • Eclipse viewers will also crowd onto elevated platforms like parking garages to get a better view – too many people though could cause structures to collapse.
  • Visitors better print out a map – the mobile network is expected to be entirely overwhelmed.
  • City officials will also have to deal with their own residents. Some won’t know about the eclipse, will panic when it happens, and will alert 911 about the end of the world.

Read the rest of Bauer’s fascinating article on City Lab.

High Paying Low Effort Jobs

August 9, 2017 in Daily Bulletin

Cracked wrote about high paying jobs which require minimal effort:

  • There are talent agencies that homeowners can use to advertise their residence as movie sets. In addition to cash they may get free renovations like a paint job – and may not even have to leave the house during filming.
  • Professional cosplayers – those who show up to conventions in costumes – can make up to $100,000 a year.
  • Celebrity impersonators make hundreds of thousands of dollars helped in part by the Screen Actors Guild – which requires a minimum weekly payment of $3,000 for its members.
  • A YouTube megastar makes $10,000 a day playing with toys and streaming it on the video platform. He is 9.

Read more on Cracked.

Milennials Want To Buy Their First House For Their Dogs Not Their Babies

August 8, 2017 in Daily Bulletin

Liz Donovan wrote about millennial home purchase habits:

  • A survey found that 33% of millennials were motivated to buy their first home to give their dog more living space.
  • This beat out both marriage (25%) and even becoming a parent (19%) as motivators.
  • 36% buy one to build equity in their home – not bad for a generation typically dismissed as financially illiterate.
  • The biggest motivator to buy a new home? 66% say it’s to have more living space for themselves.

Read about the survey here.