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Rami's Readings #33
The latest on Morocco, Libya, Harvard, Capitalism, Delta SkyMiles 🔥🗑️, "What Are Dreams For", Browser Vulnerabilities, Stability AI, and more.
Welcome to Rami’s Readings #33 - a weekly digest of interesting articles, videos, Twitter threads from my various sources across the Internet. Expect a list of reads covering technology, business, culture, fashion, travel and more. Learn about what I do at ramisayar.com/about.
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Don’t miss “What Are Dreams For?” from The New Yorker. ⬇️
Please Consider Donating to Help in Morocco and Libya
Double tragedy this week. Heavy, torrential rain in Libya led to two dams breaking, killing at least 5,000 people in the coastal city of Serna. My heart goes out to all the families affected by this disaster. It is so hard to imagine your whole life being swept away.
Just a reminder, Morocco was also recently devastated by an earthquake. If you need help understanding the challenges faced by search and rescue, read this article from the Turkey earthquake I previously shared.
💼 Business Reads
Apple announcements galore. I will be upgrading to the latest iPhone 15 Pro Max after holding off for three generations.
Notes: From Prof. Strebulaev of Stanford. Paper was published last July.
Notes: These consulting fees are wild.
Notes: Poland, the United States, the Czech Republic, Japan, Argentina, South Korea, and Sweden are the only countries with predominantly positive attitudes toward capitalism out of the 34 countries surveyed.
“The Tyranny of the Marginal User” hits a little too close to home.
✈️ Travel Reads
This week is a reminder that corporations will continuously optimize for their bottom line no matter how you feel and how loyal you are. Delta announced significant changes to their SkyMiles program and lounge access. The changes caused fury across social media. They were due to two issues: SkyClub (Delta’s lounges) overcrowding and inconsistencies in the SkyMiles qualification status requirements. This week, all frequent travelers are reminded that if everyone is special, then no one is. Delta’s changes force that into perspective.
Delta limited entry to SkyClubs, especially for access with credit cards. Credit card holders no longer have unlimited access to SkyClubs. Access is now capped based on your credit card of choice (10 visits at best). There is no lounge access for Basic Economy fares anymore. There is a new minimum credit card spend to get unlimited access to the SkyClubs without purchasing a membership.
Delta eliminated miles and segment qualifications for SkyMiles status in favor of dollars spent on the airline(MQD). Delta increased the minimum dollar spending required to get their lowest tier status to $6,000. Previously, the dollar qualification was waived if you spent a minimum of $25,000 on a Delta co-branded credit card. This waiver has been removed, and all spending on co-branded credit cards is added to MQDs. However, the Delta credit card spending ratio to MQDs is now $10 spent to $1 MQD.
The only beneficiary is Delta. These changes are meant to benefit the Delta One & First Class (FC) fare purchasers. However, the changes do little for even this class. Delta One & FC fares are already prioritized entry into the SkyClubs (no wait lines), so there is less crowding in the lounge for those passengers. The SkyMiles status qualifications also do not matter for this fare class since they already get the best seats, benefits, etc., with their fare. Delta is banking on its superior experience and on-time arrival history to push people to pay outright for expensive tickets, benefiting its bottom line.
Conrad Close, a Chicago-based content marketing manager. Close says he has been loyal to Delta since status was “attainable,” even though the airline isn’t as convenient for him. “I could fly direct on United for much cheaper but I’ve always flown Delta; that’ll change now.”
Why should you care?
Almost all traveler groups other than Delta One & FC purchasers are hurt by these changes.
If you are a corporate frequent flyer, you will often have a corporate credit card you must use for all your travel spending. These cards are more often not co-branded Delta cards. You will also usually be a victim of the cheapest fares (Basic Economy) through your company’s travel tool. Concur is widely spread across US companies. Effectively, even if you hold a personal credit card with SkyClub access, you will not be able to use the lounges as before due to your fare class. If you can purchase Main cabin fares, your minimum spend to qualify for status is significantly higher (entries are still capped).
If you are a status-hacker, it is now harder to attain Delta status without directly purchasing expensive fares, and your lounge access is curtailed.
If you are a middle-class frequent flyer, Delta One & FC tickets are too expensive for frequent domestic or international flights. You will now struggle to attain or maintain your SkyMiles status, limiting how often you get free upgrades to better seats. The lack of upgrades and reduced SkyClub access through credit cards (which you do not get with entry SkyMiles status) will disincentivize loyalty to Delta.
My airline loyalties have been with Delta for the last three years, and the changes in 2024 will significantly hurt me. Unfortunately, I fall into all three of these categories. I rarely fly for work, and I have to use an Amex corporate card when I do. Gratefully, Microsoft has a deal with Delta, and we always get Main fares (not Basic Economy). Travel dollars spent on hotels & taxis will not count towards the new higher MQD requirements, which 100% means I will not qualify for the MQD requirements through business travel. I will also have to ration my SkyClub access through my credit card for long layovers when I genuinely need them to be able to continue working throughout the day. For my frequent flights to the East Coast, I often do not buy business class, so it will be tough to maintain my status and benefit from seat upgrades starting in 2025. The only reason I will choose to fly Delta in 2025 will be price, flight schedule, and flight quality. I will no longer go out of my way to fly Delta.
P.S. I normally avoid the passive voice, but I feel it is warranted in this segment.
🤖 AI Reads
Notes: This Nvidia paper brings me back to my undergraduate engineering days.
Notes: Nice collection of data sources across multiple domains.
🔀 Other Reads
Notes: This is a fascinating article about dreams and rem sleep. Must read!
The brain uses rem sleep to “learn” the body.
Notes: Broken trust is hard to regain.
Notes: A WebP rendering vulnerability means any image is a potential hack attempt. Update your browser!
That is all for this week. Signing off from Redmond.