Carl Wernicke

Carl Wernicke is a native of Pensacola. He graduated from the University of Florida in 1975 with a degree in journalism. After 33 years as a reporter and editor, he retired from the Pensacola News Journal in April 2012; he spent the last 15 years at the PNJ as editor of the editorial page. He joined the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition in 2012 as Senior Writer and Communications Manager, and retired from IHMC in 2015.

His hobbies include reading, traveling, gardening, hiking, enjoying nature around his home on Pensacola Beach and watching sports, especially the Florida Gators and New York Yankees. His wife, Patti, retired as a senior vice president at Gulf Winds Federal Credit Union.

Carl is a regular contributor to WUWF. His commentaries focus on life in and around the Pensacola area and range in subject matter from birding to downtown redevelopment and from preserving our natural heritage to life in local neighborhoods.

No matter where you live, there are scenes that paint the picture of what makes your home what it is. Northwest Florida certainly has its share of scene-setters that put our own stamp on the world.

My wife and I saw one recently behind a house on the north shore of Santa Rosa Island.

A good day is when you learn something new. Or, as you get older, learn something over again. Sort of like rereading a good book, which is doubly rewarding when you can’t remember what happened from reading it the first time.

Anyway, last week I relearned two things: the value of a library card, and the reassuring fact that there are good people out there.

It’s happened to you. It’s probably happening more and more these days. Your cell phone rings. It’s a number you don’t recognize.  

Yes, you learned long ago to not answer calls from any number you didn’t recognize with an out of town area code. But now, it’s often an 8-5-0 area code, even the same first three numbers as your number, one of the newest tricks.

You think it might be the pharmacy, or the plumber you called. So, you answer.

All too often today, these calls turn out to be marketers or scammers. The FCC lists robocalls as its top consumer complaint.

Although the news these days tends to be depressing, there is good news if you know where to look. And one of those items is the resurgence of the book, both the electronic version and the old-fashioned kind printed on paper.

Two related articles got me to thinking recently, something that these days can be hazardous to your mental health. But, generally, I think that thinking is a good thing, so I decided to follow my neural pathways and see where it led.

Today I’m returning to a topic I have talked about before.  Based on further experience, it’s important enough to remain a constant topic of discussion.

And that is the use of cell phones while driving.

Since moving to East Hill, riding my bike has become a primary form of transportation. During our year on Pensacola Beach I rode bikes a lot, but mainly for exercise. I did ride to stores and restaurants, but the trips were usually short, given the layout of the beach. And, an important point, the beach bike path minimized riding on major roads.

IHMC

In the 1960s, a little known group of local fishermen, worried about severe pollution affecting the waters they fished in, formed a group called the Bream Fishermen Association. Formally chartered in 1970, over the last 40-plus years BFA volunteers have doggedly and tirelessly measured water quality across Northwest Florida and South Alabama. Adhering to strict scientific standards, the group has built a documented record accepted by the state of Florida for inclusion in its own database.

IHMC

Over many years during my career at the Pensacola News Journal my picture ran with my weekly column. So a lot of readers I did not know knew what I looked like.

IHMC

For years I carped in writing and on the air about the failure of Santa Rosa County to value the wildflowers that sprang up every spring along its country roads, especially on Garcon Point.

IHMC

If local officials need any more indication of just how much people crave a pedestrian-friendly downtown, the recent Ciclovia provided it.
Ciclovia shut down five miles of downtown to automobiles, opening the streets to bike riders and pedestrians. I rode my bike down from East Hill to check it out.
I found thousands of people frolicking on asphalt usually devoted to automobiles. There’s something about a downtown street that has been closed to cars and opened to people that draws a crowd.

IHMC

I was at an outdoor music party at a house way up in the woods of Santa Rosa County recently when I ran into an old friend. We sat down in the backyard with a couple of cigars and caught up. He said something that resonated with me, especially since over the last few years I have come to accept the inevitable: I’m getting older.

IHMC

It’s hard not turn into an old grump as you age, nostalgic for the past, convinced that the new generation is going to pot. Which, by the way, was one of my parents’ main complaints about my generation.
Anyway, it’s not a new thing for older folks to turn grumpy. Socrates reportedly complained that children “have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households.”
Sounds kind of modern, doesn’t he?

IHMC

One of my favorite aspects of living at Pensacola Beach over the last year was how easy it was to get around on foot or bicycle. Restaurants, shops, bars and recreation are all within easy reach, and the bike path makes walking and biking safe and easy.

My wife and I recently moved into East Hill, and were pleased to discover the same.

There’s no separate bike path in East Hill, and we have found a surprising  number of blocks with limited, or even no, sidewalk. But for a densely populated neighborhood it is remarkably easy, and safe, to navigate without a car.

IHMC

Recently the New Yorker reported on all the super-rich people stocking up on survival supplies in case of massive societal collapse. While for you and me that might mean stockpiling cans of Spam and boxes of Hamburger Helper, the rich, as usual, do it differently.

IHMC

As pleasant as it is to walk the beach in shorts and barefoot in January, I’m one who really likes winter. It brings, or at least used to bring, relief from the smothering humidity that blankets Northwest Florida’s summers. Not to mention the insects.

'Outdoors' most of the year means the beach or our creeks and rivers; hiking the woods and wet prairies is best left to the crisp, dry days of fall and winter, which this year have been few and far between. I’ve heard many complaints from hunters sweating in their blinds, not the outdoor experience they sought.

IHMC

Time seems to be a big thing these days. Perhaps because for so many baby boomers, there’s a palpable sense that it’s running out.

I like the concept that there is no tomorrow and no yesterday. The only thing you have is right now. No, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t schedule that dentist appointment for tomorrow. But it will be today when it actually occurs, if you see what I’m saying.

IHMC

The more I think about the impact of how the online world is changing us and how we live, the fewer answers I have. The one thing I seem to have finally learned is that no one can stay ahead of the curve, because no one can figure out where it is going.

IHMC

The increasing complexity of the world has all of us groping for ways to cope.

Some people dive in and absorb, or are absorbed by, the new reality. On a recent visit by my wife’s 18-year-old grandson, I noticed that he stayed up most nights almost to dawn, earphones attached to his laptop, playing collaborative computer games with friends from around the world. They chatted like the closest of acquaintances, yet have never met, and in fact when I asked he said he has never even seen a photo of them.

IHMC

People across Northwest Florida breathed a sigh of relief last week when the first rains in recent memory swept in to ease what had become a serious drought. This week’s rains brought more comfort.

They also reminded us that no matter how powerful and sophisticated we think of ourselves as a society, we share something with past civilizations: we remain at the mercy of the weather, which of course is a function of the climate.

And there are no shortages of reminders these days, both here and elsewhere, of just how powerfully nature dictates to us.

IHMC

As an old editorial writer, I’m accustomed to offering criticism. But the necessary flip side of criticism is to offer praise when you think something is done properly. Anyway, some time ago I offered the opinion that planners working on fixing decades-old traffic problems on Pensacola Beach were stuck in the mud. They avoided addressing the fundamental problems by tinkering ineffectively around the edges.

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