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 Institute for Human and Machine Cognition on May 7, 2012 as Senior Writer and Communications Manager.

His hobbies include reading, gardening, hiking, enjoying the outdoors and wildlife around his home on Garcon Point and watching sports, especially the Florida Gators and New York Yankees. His wife, Patti, is 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.

IHMC

   

  With the arrival of real winter this week I suddenly realized that this year seems to be zooming by at breakneck speed. That was underscored by what is quickly becoming a traditional sign of the arrival of Thanksgiving – the outbreak of Christmas decorations.

     In my day, we didn’t start decorating for Christmas until after Thanksgiving, but these days the passage of time seems more fluid and irrelevant than ever.

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There’s a reason why archeologists dig to recover the past. Nature piles the new on top of the old, and so do we. But covering something up doesn’t make it go away.  Just ask Richard Nixon! Or, as William Faulkner famously put it, “The past is never dead. It's not even past.”

In Pensacola, our Superfund sites tell us all we need to know about how the past stays with us. A happier example is the archaeological work done by the University of West Florida, uncovering so much of our past.

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   Apparently every community in America takes pride in having the worst drivers, and certainly Northwest Florida can make its case.  But the advent of the cell phone is taking things to a new and scary level.

   Leaving the University of West Florida recently, I was at the light at Nine Mile Road and University Parkway. Now, we’re all used to aggressive drivers who cheat the light and push through the intersection after it turns red. They do this trusting that the drivers on the other side will take a moment after the light turns green to hit the accelerator. 

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Saturday morning I was driving down Mary Kitchens Road on Garcon Point when I began to ask myself, when did all those wildflowers pop up on the shoulders? Sure, I had been seeing the fall flowers coming on, but how did they go from coming on to a cornucopia overnight?

Well, they didn’t. It just seemed that way.

Before I say why, let me backtrack a bit.

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I have always loved newspapers. They’ve been called the first draft of history, an elegant phrase. And what I have found is that the smaller the paper, the more intimate the news. So as a traveler I have long made it a practice to buy the weekly and other small publications wherever I go, to try to get a sense of that community.

When Hurricane Ivan waded ashore about 2 a.m. on Sept. 16, 2004, I was holed up inside the Pensacola News Journal offices in downtown Pensacola. Water was up to the tops of the parking meters on Jefferson Street, and seeping into the building at various spots; we had used rope to tie the door by the photo lab shut, and it seemed unlikely that the big metal bay doors on the loading dock were going to hold much longer given the agonizing noises they were giving off.

The most unsettling thing about the fast pace of advancing technology for people of my generation may simply be the vertigo that comes from having the sand beneath your feet shifting so often.

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Working as a newspaper writer for 35 years imbued me with a healthy dose of cynicism. Why? It’s not just all the bad news. Reporters and editors are exposed to far worse stuff than ever gets into the news pages, and unfortunately we learn a lot about the dark side of human nature.

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“If you could choose a time to live, would you rather go back 100 years, or forward 100 years?”

That’s the question a co-worker asked me recently. My initial response was, go back (although I’d choose the 1920s or ‘30s).

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The occurrence earlier this month of a so-called super moon, which occurs when a full moon coincides with a close orbital approach to earth, prompted my wife and I to find a good spot to observe moonrise.

We set up our folding chairs on the shore of Blackwater Bay by 8 p.m., anticipating moonrise at 8:03. However, storm clouds suggested less than optimal conditions for observing a celestial event.

But even with the obscured horizon, we weren’t disappointed.

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