Split Happens

Spoiler alert: The state of the union is divided. We're divided politically, we're divided geographically, we're even divided on the internet. But one divide is probably the biggest drivers of all the others. We're divided economically. Eduardo Porter in the NYT: Tech Is Splitting the U.S. Work Force in Two. "Automation is splitting the American labor force into two worlds. There is a small island of highly educated professionals making good wages at corporations like Intel or Boeing, which reap hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit per employee. That island sits in the middle of a sea of less educated workers who are stuck at businesses like hotels, restaurants and nursing homes that generate much smaller profits per employee and stay viable primarily by keeping wages low."

+ The split is global. The split is national. The split is local. "We could be paying mortgages on entire houses in Denver or Austin. But we are here. Our friends (what's left of them) and family are here; my job network is here. Two fully employed middle-class women in their 30s splitting bills on Venmo and figuring out how to most diplomatically accuse the other of eating more of the peanut butter. This is normal in the Bay Area. Only programmers live alone. Only rich programmers own houses." Diana Helmuth in Curbed: If San Francisco is so great, why is everyone I love leaving?

+ WaPo's Matt Viser on the profound shift in public mood when it comes to taxes.


Executive Timeout

"The officials, who include analysts who prepare Trump's briefs and the briefers themselves, describe futile attempts to keep his attention by using visual aids, confining some briefing points to two or three sentences, and repeating his name and title as frequently as possible." Time: Inside President Trump's Troubled Intelligence Briefings.

+ Insiders call it "willful ignorance." But the president might also be a little distracted. I bet he doesn't need visual aids to keep up with the moves being made by federal prosecutors. The latest from WaPo: Federal prosecutors issue sweeping subpoena for documents from Trump inaugural committee, a sign of a deepening criminal probe.

+ This story reminds me of a headline I saw in The Onion last week: Mueller Investigation Nearly Done With First Day Of Trump Campaign.



"The revelations raise fresh questions about whether the US has lost control over a key ally presiding over one of the most horrific wars of the past decade, and whether Saudi Arabia is responsible enough to be allowed to continue buying the sophisticated arms and fighting hardware." A special report from CNN: Sold to an ally, lost to an enemy: The US shipped weapons and secrets to the Saudis and Emiratis. Now, some are in the hands of fighters linked to al Qaeda and Iran.


K Pop

"His first—and only—ketamine infusion made him feel dreamlike, goofy, and euphoric. He almost immediately started feeling more hopeful about life. He was more receptive to therapy. Less than a year later, he married. Today he says his dark moods are remote and manageable. Suicidal thoughts are largely gone. 'If they had told me how much it would affect me, I wouldn't have believed it ... It is unconscionable that it is not already approved for suicidal patients.'" Bloomberg: Ketamine Could Be the Key to Reversing America's Rising Suicide Rate. (That's a pretty bold headline. But one wonders why our hangups about so-called party drugs are so powerful that they delay our efforts to potentially provide people with relief.)


I Alone Can Unify

This headline from AP provides just about all the preview you need when it comes to the State of the Union address. Trump squabbles with Democrats before speech on unity. (Can we just finally accept that the only thing that unifies us is the way we felt about Maroon 5's halftime show?)

+ OK, if you want a little more preview, here's more from Politico.

+ FiveThirtyEight: 3 Reasons That State Of The Union Speeches Don't Matter.


Where’d Everybody Go?

"After painstakingly breaking down the numbers for themselves, the pair arrived at a drastically different prediction for the future of the human species. 'In roughly three decades, the global population will begin to decline,' they write. 'Once that decline begins, it will never end.'" Wired: The World Might Actually Run Out Of People. (My guess is that the people will run out of world first...)


Tired of the All the Grinning

"For years, using veneers to perfect already-good teeth was mostly confined to the professionally attractive and fabulously wealthy. They started to gain wide favor among traditional celebrities in the late 1990s and might have stayed confined to those rarefied circles were it not for Instagram." The Atlantic: Why Does Everyone Suddenly Have Fancy Fake Teeth? (Or, why I exclusively work in text...)


Tongue Twisters

"My instructor, Carla Marina Marchese, tells me that when we taste honey, we don't do the ceremonial swirl — the wine expert's ritual — before we sniff. Honey sommeliers smear. 'Smear it on the sides of the glass like this,' she says, using a tiny plastic spoon. Once the honey is smeared, I can stick my nose in the glass to properly evaluate the aroma, then spoon a dollop onto my tongue." WaPo Magazine: Mustard. Honey. Hot sauce. Welcome to the era of surprisingly specific expertise. The Sommeliers of Everything.


Cabin Fever

"Unless Drake or Kendrick Lamar is living in humbler means than we imagined, it's a safe bet that Brandi Carlile is the only musician nominated for six or more Grammys this year who calls a log cabin home." Variety: Brandi Carlile Steps Out of the Shadows and Into the Grammys Spotlight. And her nominated album By the Way, I Forgive You should step out of the shadows and into your listening queue.


Bottom of the News

"It's an endless party, especially on the yachts that are 200 feet and up, the so-called 'superyachts.' Conditions are cramped, everyone's out of their mind on some substance, and the bathrooms are being used for who knows what. There's a kitchen and a big dining area, but good luck getting food out of there when you really want it. You're not on here to eat a sit-down meal, even though they usually have nice dining rooms. The bars on each level are the focal points of these things." Mel: The Lonely Life Of A Yacht Influencer.

+ That thing where you get into a fight with a mountain lion, and win.

+ NYT: "A retired actor found what he thought was an ideal place to live in Greenwich Village in 1955, for $90 a month. He never left." The Perfect Rent-Controlled Apartment.