Did confirmation bias influence us?

As Alie and I drove to the Gerald Ford Presidential Museum, we remarked that Jerry Ford was an amazing person unlike any other politician who reach the highest levels of government.

Except for of a few years in New Jersey, we were in Washington, D.C. from 1964 until 1995.  We never had prominent or significant positions, but our jobs kept us unusually aware of both policy issues and political personalities, and we “rubbed shoulders” with more than a few prominent people.

Alie began working as a secretary in a Congressional office while I was in Vietnam.  She remembers Ford taking the time to greet her when he popped into the office.  She remembers picking up the phone to hear, “This is Jerry.  Is John available?”

Ford was never elected Vice President or President.  He was appointed Vice President by President Nixon when Spiro Agnew resigned.  Ford then became President when Nixon resigned.  When he became President, he reminded the people he “was a Ford, not a Lincoln” referring to the automobile designed for the masses, not the luxury car.

We were upset when the press described him as bumbling and awkward and photographers caught him in the sort of awkward stumble we all experience at times.  We knew he was an outstanding athlete who had been offered the opportunity to play football for both the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions.

We were upset when the press praised his 1976 opponent Jimmy Carter for character and honesty while lambasting Ford for policies that were the direct result a personal integrity that prevented him from taking the easy way out.

Urban liberal politicians and most of the press interpret “traditional American values” to be code words for bigotry.

The traditional American values Ford believed in were hard work, integrity, service to others, and mental and physical courage.

Gerald Ford through his actions showed that the derogatory view of the phrase is wrong.

“Confirmation bias” is the tendency we all have to prefer to read and hear things that confirm beliefs we already hold.  Obviously a museum dedicated to a former President is going to stress the best parts of that person’s personality and achievements.  The Ford museum does that.  It stresses his humble beginnings, his hard work, his respect for the truth, his willingness to consider the opinions of others, and above all his refusal to compromise what he believed to be right even when it harmed him politically.

But we knew that.

Date of our visit: 20 Oct 21

Click on photos to enlarge.

Gerald Ford maintained a lifelong friendship with Willis Ward, an African American football player who became a judge.  Ford stood up for Ward when Michigan played Georgia Tech in 1934.  In another game, Ward said that when an opposing player made a disparaging remark about him, Ford gave the guy a block “that took him out of the game.”  As President, Ford imposed sanctions on the apartheid regime in South Africa.

Ford was lambasted when he signed the Helsinki Accords with the Soviet Union.  Historians now recognize it for bringing human rights to the forefront of discussions and helping to end the domination of the Soviet Union in Eastern Europe.

“Few will dispute that the cold war could not have been won had not Gerald R. Ford emerged at a tragic period to restore equilibrium to America and confidence in its triumphs.”  Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger

Many historians believe Ford’s pardon of Nixon cost him the 1976 election.

When Senator Ted Kennedy presented Ford Ford with the John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage award he said of his [Kennedy’s] opposition to the Nixon pardon “I was wrong.”

“At the time of Watergate, [God] gave us Gerald R. Ford – the right man at the right time who was able to put our nation back together.”  Former Speaker of the House, Democrat Thomas [Tip] O’Neill.

“The truth has begun to dawn on the American people that Gerald Ford was the kind of President Americans always wanted – and didn’t know they had.”  David Broder, Journalist in the Washington Post.

“You couldn’t really dislike Gerry Ford.  Straight arrow. Lack of pretension. Down to earth Midwestern values.”  Former Democratic Congressman Lee Hamilton, Chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee and co-Chair of the 9-11 Commission.

“[Father] and mother had three rules: tell the truth, work hard, and come to dinner on time – and woe to any of us who violated those rules.”  Gerald R. Ford

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It’s a doozy: Auburn, Indiana.

Restored 1930 Auburn Automotive Company showroom.

When we mentioned to our 91-year-old brother-in-law Don that we planned to visit the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Museum in Auburn, Indiana, he said “it’s a Duesy.”  “So that’s where the phrase comes from,” I replied.

When I was a young boy in the 1950s and 60s, it’s a doozy meant something really special, either good or bad. The Duesenberg automobile once was the ultimate luxury car.  But contrary to Don’s statement, the phrase was a much earlier colloquial American statement and may have originally been “that’s a daisy.”

Etymology aside, if you love automobiles or even just are interested in business, manufacturing or design, the museum is worth visiting.

The early 1900s saw the blossoming of hundreds of automobile manufacturers most of who soon faded away and many of whom never made it to the production line.  There were ten different automobile manufacturers before World War I in Auburn alone.  In addition to being a museum for these three car brands, it traces that early automotive history as it was in Indiana.  It also traces the history of the company that produced these cars and its leader, Erret Lobban Cord.  Cord might have been said to be the Elon Musk of his day.  However, an SEC conviction for stock manipulation led to his downfall.

The building itself is wonderfully restored to its Art Deco brilliance and is worth seeing in its own right. Seven galleries in the 1930 headquarters building have over 120 automobiles. One of those focuses on more modern “classics” and one can have a photo taken in a Dodge [but don’t touch the Duesy] or a Indy race car.

Click on photos to enlarge.

Date of our visit: 17 October 21

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The award for the best National Park signs goes to …

Wind and water created this bowl away from the shore with a different ecosystem.

The award definitely is not to the Indiana Dunes National Park.  But to be fair, it only became a National Park in 2019.  Previously, and to some extent now, the signs were for the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.  Illinois Senator Paul Douglas fought so hard to create the National Lakeshore and protect 15 miles of Indiana’s meager 45 miles of shoreline from development, he was called the “third Senator from Indiana.”

Our Garmin GPS took to us to the “West Beach” where there was no official presence and almost everything was closed for the winter except for restrooms by the parking lot.  Nonetheless, we enjoyed our walk out to the beach and became acquainted with Douglas’ efforts.

While there, we saw a map of the Lakeshore which showed a visitors’ center at the other end of the park.  About half way there, we saw a sign that said we should take route 49 south.  We did, saw no further signs and were leaving the park, so we turned around.

When we finally arrived where the West Beach map said to go, the visitors’ center was no longer there.  At a campground further up the road, a map showed a new visitors’ center on route 49 beyond where we turned around.  Nonetheless, when we continued further south on 49, there was no sign for a visitors’ center, and it was simply because we guessed a building in the distance was the right one that we made it at all.

Click on photos to enlarge.

Once there, Park Service staff, were wonderful as always.  They gave us a map and made some great suggestions on how to get the best out of our brief stay.  In particular, we were glad they told us about Lakeshore Drive that includes houses from the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair “Century of Progress.”  Five houses built for the fair to demonstrate the latest developments in architecture were shipped by barge to the Dunes by real estate developer Robert Bartlett.  When they became part of the Dunes Park, they were sub-leased to private individuals with the agreement that those individuals would restore them to their 1933 condition.

It was not the staff’s fault the road to the houses was not well marked. 😁 

Click on photos to enlarge.

Date of our visit: 18 Oct 21

P.S.  Alie took a job as a secretary in a Congressional Office when I went to Vietnam.  She has often told this story to illustrate how much different things were back in the 1960s.  There were no home computers or internet campaigns.  Constituent service was much more personal.  A person who may have had some mental problems sent his socks to his Senator to be washed because the Senator was the only one he could trust.  Staff took turns washing the socks, and they were mailed back to the constituent.  You guessed it, the Senator was Paul Douglas. The more I read about Douglas after our visit to the Dunes, the more impressed I became. 

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Johnny Appleseed lies here.

“Oh my name is Johnny, Appleseed John
It’s a big wide wonderful world we’re in
Sweet red, green, and golden apples
Grow wherever I’ve been” Appleseed John by Randy Sparks & Art Podell, New Christy Minstrels 1964

Alie has long been a fan of American folk-style music, and I have heard her sing Appleseed John as long as I have known her.

I vaguely knew that Johnny Appleseed was not just a legend, but I didn’t learn much more until we visited Fort Wayne, Indiana.  A visit to his grave prompted me to do a little research.

A 1948 Disney cartoon portrayed him as a fey young man wandering about the wilderness bare foot wearing a metal pot on his head scattering apple seeds as he went, a portrayal with just a touch of accuracy.

John Chapman was his real name.  Born in 1774, he was an odd combination of an astute nurseryman and religious aesthete. 

He became a follower of “The New Church” based on the writings of Swedish scientist turned mystic Emmanuel Swedenborg who set out to reform the Christian church into one unity based on love.  Like Swedenborg, Chapman never married expecting to find his true partner in heaven.  But unlike the Swede, Chapman rejected personal material goods and was reported at the time to wander about the wilderness actually wearing the pot he pot he prepared his food in as a hat.

On the other hand, he did not scatter seeds recklessly across the wilderness.  Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana were on the frontier when he lived.  As he moved westward, he bought cheap land and planted seeds in fenced nurseries under the care of his neighbors giving them a share of the sales.  He sold the young trees to those moving west for about six cents apiece.

His religious beliefs kept him from improving God’s work, so he did not believe in grafting stock, and his apples were probably not “sweet red, green and golden” or certainly not sweet.  However, they did provide his customers a cash crop which could be turned into the easily stored and transported cider and alcoholic applejack.

Accounts written while he was alive say his love of nature would cause him to put out his fire when it attracted and burned insects.  He was even said to have built a fire in a hollow log for warmth in the winter only to put it out and leave rather than disturb a bear and her cubs [but, of course, this may have been self-preservation].  He became a vegetarian later in life.

He admired Native Americans, those I prefer to call First Americans, preached to them, and was able to convert some to his religion.  The First Americans regarded him as “touched by the Great Spirit” and even hostile tribes left him alone.

Some of his land had to be sold in the financial panic of 1837, but when he died in 1845, he left his sister an estate of 1200 acres and many thousands of trees, 15,000 in one Indiana township alone.

Fort Wayne has a nice Johnny Appleseed Park with multiple entrances.  The first one I tried on the St. Joseph River had a beautiful campground and a large dog park.  The second led to a sports facility.  Finally on my third try, I followed a narrow road to the top of a hill where I found the grave.  The exact location has been questioned, but there is ample evidence it is where there was a neighbor’s family graveyard in which he was buried. It is a pretty location despite the nearby Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, an exposition and convention center.

Date of my visit: 17 Oct 21

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Random photos from our recent wanderings.

This would have been a great house to decorate for Halloween.

Some people are so creative.

We did not plan a trip to look at fall colors, but they were great.

Click on photos to enlarge.

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One last ride on a ferry; another visit to Bainbridge Island

We returned to Seattle in order to catch our planes the next day.  But there was still an afternoon free, so we decided to drive down to the ferry terminal to see if we might be able to hop on another ferry.  We arrived just as the ferry to Winslow on Bainbridge Island was about to depart.  It was meant to be.

Click on photos to enlarge and to see captions.

Date of our visit: 27 Aug 21

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Mount Rainier 22 years later

Marmot near the Paradise Visitors Center

There are many beautiful photographs of Mt. Rainier.  On our early May 1999 trip, however, snowy Mt. Rainier was invisible in the white clouds.

I never had a “bucket list” because I am greedy and want to see and do everything. The list would be too long.  But I suppose Rainier could have been on such a list for this 2021 trip.

We visited on two days.  The first was beautiful, and the mountain view was clear. We enjoyed ourselves even though the park was crowded. Admission was free on the anniversary of the National Park Service.  We could not believe the miles of cars parked beside the road or the line of people waiting to get into the Paradise Visitors Center.  We could not imagine what inside was attracting people when they could have just enjoyed the breath-taking natural beauty all around.  Most probably never saw the marmot we observed as we passed their cars.

Alie stayed back at our hotel to rest on the second day while Michelle and I went into the park again and took a lovely easy hike above the Sunrise Visitors Center.  Mt. Rainier on that day, however, soon became hidden in a cloud.

Click on photos to enlarge and to read the captions.

Dates of our visit: 25, 26 Aug 21

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Memories of other capitols, other governors, other times.

During her brief career, Alie worked for three different governors representing three different states all while we were living in Washington, D.C.  We don’t know of anyone else who did that.  Therefore, the fact that we stopped to see the Capitol Building in Olympia, Washington might make some sense.  We had a private tour until another fellow joined us.  We weren’t special; it was just that no one else was interested.

Washington became a territory in 1853 and the 42nd State in 1889.  In 1893, they selected an architect to build a building to replace the wooden one they were using, but lack of funding kept the lot vacant for nearly 30 years.  Finally, the new building was completed in 1928.

The building, like many other capitol buildings around the country, was built in a neoclassical style with lots of marble, gold, velvet draperies and decoration.  We were told the dome, at 287 feet, is the tallest masonry dome in North America with emphasis on masonry.  But a quick check with Google didn’t show many domes that were taller.

As I write, two things stand out.  First, they decided in 1911 to create a “capitol group” and hired architects to plan a group of buildings that would appear from Puget Sound to be a single building.  The group came to include the legislative building [1928] which we toured, the Temple of Justice [1912], the Insurance Building [1921] the Cherberg Building [1937] and the O’Brien Building [1940].  The result is that it is hard to get a good view of any of the buildings.

The second thing that stands out in my memory is the flag with 42 stars.  For those reading from other countries, the thirteen stripes on the U.S. flag stand for the original thirteen colonies which became states.  All the other states are represented by stars.  When Congress granted statehood to a territory, the new flag with the new star was flown over the Capitol Building in D.C. on July 4 of that year.  But another state was admitted to the Union before they could fly Washington’s star, so on July 4 a 43-star flag flew.  The flag we saw in Olympia, may be the only one on display now.

Click on photos to enlarge.

Date of our visit: 24 Aug 21Paragraph

P.S.  While Alie was working for Illinois, she was invited to join a small group to have lunch with Dixie Lee Ray, Washington’s first female governor [1977-1981], in the Executive Mansion.  Alie said the governor’s husband baked the pie they had for dessert.

I liked this sign painted about the door to a downtown Olympia restaurant.
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Olympic National Park: Part 3

An old print: Walking in the Quinault Rain Forest 3 May 99

Alie and I fondly remember a quick trip we took around the Olympic Peninsula in 1999.  We particularly remember driving and walking through the temperate rainforest there because it was early May, we were alone in the rain, and we saw a juvenile panther cross the gravel road.

So this year, we wanted to show it to her sister Michelle, but of course, some experiences can’t be replicated.

It was August, there were crowds, we had to wait in line just to get into the Hoh Rainforest Visitors Center parking lot, and the weather was beautiful.  Finally, worst of all, we forgot exactly where we had been and drove to a different portion of the Quinault Rainforest than we visited in 1999.

It is not surprising.  The Olympic National Park is huge and varied.  Their website lists 922,651 acres, 876,669 acres (95% of the park) are Congressionally-designated wilderness, 73 miles of wilderness coast, over 3,000 miles of rivers and streams and 60 named glaciers. They get over three million visitors a year.

We are glad we visited again, however, but would just recommend you see the higher elevations in June or September [whenever the roads are open but the crowds are smaller] and visit the coast and rainforest in off-season.

Click on photos to enlarge.

Dates of our visit: 22-23 Aug 21

Santa vacationed in the Olympic National Park this year. And yes, he is a professional Santa.
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Lincoln turns down a job and perhaps changes history.

We spent a couple nights in Lincoln City, Oregon and might have stayed longer, but we didn’t like our motel.

Alie wanted a rest day, and Michelle had a bad cold, so they let me wander on my own.

I first stopped by Lincoln City Glass where parents could give their children a chance to experience glass blowing.

Teaching a young boy: Lincoln City Glass Center, 19 Aug 21

Then I visited Alder House Glass, where Kyle, a man with forty years’ experience, chatted with me as he made a stemless goblet.  I think I’ll someday turn one of my images of Kyle into a painting.

After visiting a bakery in “downtown” Lincoln City, I came upon a statue of Abraham Lincoln reading a book on a horse.  A plaque proclaimed that Lincoln, who traveled on horseback as a lawyer to various Illinois courts, called the experience his “saddlebag college.”  Created in 1965 by Anna Hyatt Huntington, a sign said she gave it to the city on the condition that the city never change its name.  If they did so, the Oregon Governor could take the statue back.

Far more interesting to me was the comment on both a plaque and a nearby sign that said that after Lincoln lost reelection to the U.S. House in 1849, he was offered the governorship of the Oregon Territory but declined at the thought of going to the “untamed west,” probably what most Europeans would have regarded Illinois at the time.

Imagine if Lincoln had chosen to move to the Oregon Territory in 1849.  He might never have become president.

Click on photos to enlarge.

Date of my visit: 19 Aug 21

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