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An explosion of on-demand apps gives a modern twist to some old traditions and even delivers us some new ones we didn’t know we needed.

October 29 was a typical workday for thousands of people in the US, except for one thing: a fuzzy kitten showed up on their desks.

They had 15 minutes to cuddle and snuggle with the purring furballs, thanks to a service offered by ride-sharing company Uber on National Cat Day.

“It’s been a little over a week after #UberKITTENS and we are still recovering from the cuteness overload,” Uber wrote in a blog post earlier this month after getting 30,000 requests for the kitten visits this year, the second time it offered the delivery service. “Everyone went catnip crazy and together we almost broke the Internet.”

Welcome to the world of on-demand services, where everything from haircuts to snowplows to ice cream on a hot day and even beer and marijuana are a just a smartphone away. On-demand mobile apps are even reviving some traditions, like physicians’ house calls, which faded into obscurity in the 1960s. Some companies offer services that defy categorization, like same-day weddings, skywriting and mariachi fiestas.

This delivery app boom marks the beginning of a shift in how busy people navigate today’s modern world and feed into what Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has called the “give me what I want and give it to me now” attitude. Read more

Harvard

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CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — NEARLY a century ago, Harvard had a big problem: Too many Jews. By 1922, Jews accounted for 21.5 percent of freshmen, up from 7 percent in 1900 and vastly more than at Yale or Princeton. In the Ivy League, only Columbia and the University of Pennsylvania had a greater proportion of Jews.

Harvard’s president, A. Lawrence Lowell, warned that the “Jewish invasion” would “ruin the college.” He wanted a cap: 15 percent. When faculty members balked, he stacked the admissions process to achieve the same result. Bolstered by the nativism of the time, which led to sharp immigration restrictions, Harvard’s admissions committee began using the euphemistic criteria of “character and fitness” to limit Jewish enrollment. As the sociologist Jerome Karabel hasdocumented, these practices worked for the next three decades to suppress the number of Jewish students.

A similar injustice is at work today, against Asian-Americans. To get into the top schools, they need SAT scores that are about 140 points higher than those of their white peers. In 2008, over half of all applicants to Harvard with exceptionally high SAT scores were Asian, yet they made up only 17 percent of the entering class (now 20 percent). Asians are the fastest-growing racial group in America, but their proportion of Harvard undergraduates has been flat for two decades. Read more

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Technology has been accused of making many a job disappear, like the production line or the accounting office. And it is not done yet.

A company often resembles its communication and technology system. In the era of cloud computing that the tech industry is moving into, that seems to suggest that companies will have smaller departments, quickly analyzing data and endlessly experimenting.

That means change is on the way at the many companies that will adopt cloud computing over the next few years. Middle managers: This is not good news for you.

“Technology shapes styles of work,” said Ed Lazowska, who holds a chair in computer science and engineering at the University of Washington. “One critical advantage of the cloud is that sharing becomes dramatically easier.” He foresees more collaboration and outsourcing of work, and more specialization into whatever a worker, team or company does well. Read more

health insurance

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WASHINGTON — As Americans shop in the health insurance marketplace for a second year, President Obama is depending more than ever on the insurance companies that five years ago he accused of padding profits and canceling coverage for the sick.

Those same insurers have long viewed government as an unreliable business partner that imposed taxes, fees and countless regulations and had the power to cut payment rates and cap profit margins.

But since the Affordable Care Act was enacted in 2010, the relationship between the Obama administration and insurers has evolved into a powerful, mutually beneficial partnership that has been a boon to the nation’s largest private health plans and led to a profitable surge in their Medicaidenrollment. Read more

Google

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MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — Two groups of scientists, working independently, have created artificial intelligence software capable of recognizing and describing the content of photographs and videos with far greater accuracy than ever before, sometimes even mimicking human levels of understanding.

Until now, so-called computer vision has largely been limited to recognizing individual objects. The new software, described on Monday by researchers at Google and atStanford University, teaches itself to identify entire scenes: a group of young men playing Frisbee, for example, or a herd of elephants marching on a grassy plain.

The software then writes a caption in English describing the picture. Compared with human observations, the researchers found, the computer-written descriptions are surprisingly accurate. Read more

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WHAT IS COLOGUARD?

Cologuard is an easy to use, noninvasive colon cancer screening test based on the latest advances in stool DNA science. It can be used by men and women 50 years of age and older who are at average risk for colon cancer.

Cologuard finds both cancer and precancer. The earlier colon cancer is detected, the easier it is to treat. In a large clinical study, Cologuard found more cancers and precancers than a leading fecal blood test (OC FIT-CHEK, Polymedco, Inc.).

The Cologuard Collection Kit is easy to use, and it’s shipped directly to your home. Getting screened with Cologuard involves:

  • Collecting a stool sample (in the privacy of your own home)
  • Sending the sample to Exact Sciences Laboratories in a prepaid, preaddressed package via UPS drop-off or pick-up
  • Talking with your doctor about the result

 

Additionally, if you have any questions or concerns, our Customer Support Specialists are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can call us toll-free at 1-844-870-8870. Read more

World-F

When your server is a screen, you spend more money.
 Have you ever been to a Chili’s? Have you ever placed an order for the World-Famous Baby Back Ribs? Have you ever decided to, what the heck, make it a Full Rack, with some Homestyle Fries and Cinnamon Apples on the side? Have you ever felt that, for making these decisions, your server was sort of judging you?

Chili’s, like pretty much any restaurant that sells something called Skillet Queso, does not want you to experience this feeling. It wants you, instead, to enjoy the dining experience in a way that is as chewy and gooey and inhibition-free as possible. It wants your relationship with its menu to be unmediated—for you to peruse its offerings and then search your soul and then do, in the end, what is in your heart. Chili’s, above all, wants to remove any friction that might separate you from your whims—in the hope that those whims will include an order ofLoaded Potato Skins for the table. Read more

Chili's

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Chili’s, the casual-dining chain, will begin to offer customers access to tabletop computer screens at more than 800 locations in the U.S., starting Tuesday rolling out through early 2014. The Wall Street Journal reports customers will be able to use the tablets to order food and drinks, pay the bill, and play games.

The tabletop screens may end up being a smart move for the chain’s bottom line: In tests, Chili’s found diners who ate at tables equipped with the tablets spent more per check, particularly on “up-sell” items like dessert and coffee. Krista Gibson, SVPpresident of brand strategy for Chili’s, told the Journal she saw dessert sales increase nearly 20% in tests. Chili’s is considering similarly strategic promotions for alcoholic beverages, which are typically among a restaurant’s highest-margin items. Read more

Nextbook 8 Windows tablet

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Or, if you don’t want to wait, you can buy this new model now for $149. Is it worth it?

Think all the best tablet deals are for Android tablets? Think again.

E Fun announced today that its new Nextbook 8 Windows tablet will sell for just $99 in Walmart stores on Black Friday (November 28). This was among the deals listed in the store’s Black Friday ad circular, which was released yesterday. However, the Nextbook actually goes on sale at 8 p.m. local time Thursday, and is available “while supplies last,” so it may not make it as far as Friday. Read more

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ATLANTA — This city would seem a peculiar place for sober conversation about the conduct of William T. Sherman.

To any number of Southerners, the Civil War general remains a ransacking brute and bully whose March to the Sea, which began here 150 years ago on Saturday, was a heinous act of terror. Despite the passage of time, Sherman remains to many a symbol of the North’s excesses during the Civil War, which continues to rankle some people here.

Yet this week, Atlanta became the site of a historical marker annotating Sherman folklore to reflect an expanding body of more forgiving scholarship about the general’s behavior. One of the marker’s sentences specifically targets some of the harsher imagery about him as “popular myth.”

“ ‘Gone with the Wind’ has certainly been a part of it,” W. Todd Groce, the president of the Georgia Historical Society, which sponsored the marker, said of regional perceptions of Sherman and the Union Army. “In general, we just have this image that comes from a movie.” Read more