Washington DC:  the down-side of meritocracy;  a blind date with BEHEMOTH 

November 12, 2022.  (what follows was written some 10 days ago — running late with postings)

My 3 weeks stay in the US is coming to an end.  I am writing this at Dullas airport where I will soon board a plane to Paris. My connection to Rabat is not until 9pm on Sunday so I plan to spend the day there and visit my sister.  

As planned, three weekends ago I met Marina at LAX for the start of a tour of state universities.  We stayed a few days in Santa Monica, where I lived from 1994 to 1999, then Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, and finally San Francisco.  I didn’t do these tours with my son Juan David, but I think they are worth it.  Other than spending quality time with Marina, it was an opportunity for her to be exposed, even if momentarily, to life in a university campus and the cultures of the different universities.  We visited the University of San Diego, Irving, Riverside, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and Berkley. It was an intense program, particularly given that my days started around 4am for work reasons and that I didn’t get any help driving (Marina hasn’t applied for her permit yet so she took care of the navigation and music).  

The UC system is quite heterogenous. We knew that from the statistics and rankings of the many universities, but you could also see it and feel it during the visits.   The reality is that, very early on, our children are sorted into very different paths towards the labor market. Those able to enroll in the best universities will also be competing for the higher-paying jobs, which are few. And children of parents who attended those universities are more likely it to make it.  Not because of cheating or influence – though that also exists –, but simply because they are more likely to have excellent grades, more impressive extra-curricular activities, and better essays and applications.  They still have to work hard though, so those who are accepted in the best universities feel proud, justly so, and entitled to the income premium they will likely get when they graduate.  Yet, to a large extent, the premium doesn´t reflect special talents; there are many talented and hardworking children who would do as well in Ivy League universities had they been accepted. Luck plays a role; having been lucky enough to be born to parents who graduated from those universities.  There is the illusion of a meritocracy.  In practice, the education system breads inequality and of the worst kind, because those at the top of the income distribution in the population of new graduates think they have the right to be there.  I wish Marina the best in her applications and hope she is accepted at the university of her choice.  Wherever she goes, I´ll make sure she knows that luck played a role. I also hope her choices are not being driven by expected income alone.

On more cheerful topics, I am now the proud new owner of BEHEMOTH, a Slocum 43.  Behemoth, as the tall and fat, immortal, cat in Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita. The current name of the Slocum 43 is SURET VI.  Some of you had suggested I rename her ANTARES II, but it didn’t seem appropriate. ANTARES was unique and there is no point in trying to replicate her. In a way, I am a widower trying to fall in love again.  My trip will continue, but with a different partner, a partner I still haven’t met in person (we have been dating virtually).

Buying BEHEMOTH was a long process and not always smooth. If I’m not mistaken, the first time I wrote about her in this journal was in late May. It has taken almost half a year to conclude the deal. I have never seen her live, but after all the exchanges with the broker, owner, and the surveyor it feels as if I had.  

All relationships are different and we shouldn’t compare. But we all do, deep inside, it´s human nature.   I might as well write about it.  For my needs, BEHEMOTH is likely to be a better boat than ANTARES. More spacious and comfortable to live aboard for long periods of time and have children visit (with at some point grand children?); more stable and comfortable at sea; as a cutter she has a wider set of sails configurations (she also has an asymmetric spinnaker and three reefs on the main); the wind vane has an independent rudder and the autopilot is hydraulic and below decks; she is better equipped in terms of electronics and has more electric power and holding capacity for diesel and water. I am looking forward to meeting her. 

I still have two weeks ahead of me before I go back to Bangkok to pick up Woland to fly back to the US and from there to Quito and Cartagena.  My first date with BEHEMOTH might take place on December 10th. I’m sure there will be more to write about before then. 

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