Carl Wernicke

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  Over the summer I was lucky enough to volunteer with University of West Florida archeologists to assist with the ongoing effort to uncover the settlement of Don Tristan de Luna.

Luna attempted to establish a permanent Spanish colony in Pensacola in 1559, which if it had succeeded would have been the first permanent European settlement in what is now known as North America. The effort failed by 1561, mainly from the bad luck of being hit by a hurricane before the ships in the expedition had been fully unloaded.

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  Some years ago it became clear to me that many people do not realize that the moon, just like the sun, rises and sets. For many of you this might sound questionable, but I can assure you that it is true.

The first time I encountered someone who professed to not realize that the moon rose and set, I thought I had found an outlier, someone who for some reason had missed this easily observable natural phenomenon.

But over several years I was surprised to meet a number of people who said that not only had they never watched a moonrise, they hadn’t realized that it did.

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  Early one morning this week, coffee cup in hand, I walked down to Santa Rosa Sound from our home on Pensacola Beach and noticed something. For the first time since spring the morning breeze carried a chill, a hint of the coming fall rather than the warm breath of what has been a hot summer.

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  Years ago I was at a snacks counter in a local mall to get some cashews. They were priced by the quarter pound, but I only wanted a taste. Seeing the electronic digital scale on the counter, I asked the clerk for a tenth of a pound.

The 20-something clerk looked blankly at me, then said, I don’t know what that is. Swallowing my shock, I pointed to the scale, said set it to point one, and enter the price per pound. She did, I got my nuts, and wandered off worrying about the fate of the Republic.

I’m starting to worry again.

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  So far as I can tell, younger generations that grew up with the Internet seem to accept ubiquitous marketing as part of life. Tell them that the real point of all those free apps on their phone is about tracking their habits and selling the information to marketers, and they look at you with an expression that says, OK, and …?

It’s just how their world is put together.

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We were on the back deck of our house on Pensacola Beach last week when the Blue Angels brought Marine Capt. Jeff Kuss home for his last sunset pass over Santa Rosa Island, Perdido Key and downtown Pensacola.

It was a striking scene, a lone F/A-18 in the vivid colors of the Blue Angels, tight on the wing of Fat Albert, the C-130 support aircraft that is itself an iconic symbol of the team.

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Over many years as a newspaper reporter and editor, I developed a pretty good eye for evaluating what was or was not reasonable. To mix metaphors here, you could say I got good at giving things the sniff test.

This proved really valuable during the years when I edited letters to the editor at the Pensacola News Journal. I quickly learned that facts mean different things to different people. Or, as Mark Twain put it, “It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.”

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On Jan. 14, 1989, I was awakened at my Pensacola Beach home by a call from my city editor at the Pensacola News Journal. The Bay Bridge had been rammed by a tug boat, an event forever to be known as the day the ship hit the span.

Fortunately for the News Journal, I was on the other side of the bridge from the PNJ, and he wanted me to take a look from there.

So I drove into Gulf Breeze and found that, yep, the bridge was definitely closed.

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Having lived almost all of my life in Northwest Florida, I can’t really speak to how it is to live in other places. But the variety of lifescapes offered by this area must be hard to beat.

That is underscored by our recent move from rural Garcon Point to urbanized Pensacola Beach. The culture shock could hardly be overstated.

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After almost 15 years of living in the wilds of Garcon Point, my wife and I decided it was time to move. We still feel young, but there was no denying that the work required to maintain 12 acres of fast-growing forest was becoming too much.

And after having watched both my mother and my wife’s mother struggle to visit our home because of the steep stairs, we accepted that we, too, would face similar challenges as we aged.

So, like many other babyboomers, we decided to it was time to downsize.

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One thing about being retired is that it lets you step back and evaluate the work world with an unbiased view. Or, without skin in the game, maybe it’s an unreal view.

Anyway, one advantage I see in retirement is being able to step off the fast lane that technology has put working people on. Right now it’s a young person’s game, and will remain so until technology is so advanced that even old folks can quickly and easily learn to use it.

Back when I was writing a regular newspaper column, one of the real challenges was simply to come up with something to write about week after week. Many a would-be columnist started out strong, only to realize that perseverance counted as much as inspiration. It might rank only behind the need to develop a skin thick enough to protect you from your critics.

A recent report by the Studer Institute in the News Journal, and a subsequent viewpoint by former News Journal executive editor Randy Hammer, again spotlighted the serious poverty issue that persists in Escambia County.

I talked recently about wondering, as a younger man, about my parents’ regular habit of reading the obituary page in the newspaper. As I came to learn, that was where they found more and more of their friends, as well as the well-known names from the business, political and society circles that shaped the Pensacola of their generation.

But in reading the page recently, it reminded me that no matter whether you know the names or not, the obits, as we called them in the newspaper business, provide a unique reflection of ourselves.

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Those of you living in manicured neighborhoods, especially among the emerald green bio-deserts we call lawns, might not have noticed. But the fall wildflower season is upon us.

Out in the country, unkempt roadsides and fallow fields are bursting with a mad profusion of color.

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