Carl Wernicke

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Last weekend I visited the clean energy festival downtown. I met the owner of a Tesla, the innovative electric car. He giddily described a phone app that opens his garage, starts the car and backs it out into the driveway.

But just wait, he said. Soon the car will be able to drive him to work, then head out on its own to work for Uber all day before returning to ferry him home.

That points to the economic challenge facing our new president.

We are facing a rapid acceleration of a current trend: the replacement of human workers with machines.

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In selling our house this year, my wife and I went through what has become a cottage industry for baby boomers: downsizing.

We moved from a 2,300-square-foot home to our current rental, with 1,300 square feet. Getting from one to the other required getting rid of a lot of stuff, despite the help of two storage units.

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Like many Pensacolians who visit Europe, or a big city like New York, we were struck on a recent vacation in Spain by the vibrancy of the downtown scene, throughout the day and into the night. In Granada and, especially, Barcelona, the energy of the nightly street life seems extraordinary.

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