This Blog

I am in the process of redesigning this blog to better serve as an archive for my family, career and whatever else seems right at the time. Posts frequency will reflect that ;-)

p.s. With everything going on, this redesign might take a while to become top priority.

What’s the Link between TurboTax and Terrorism?

Surprisingly, reading through the fine print agreement between me and TurboTax, hereforth referred to “me” and “TurboTax”, provided me some mild entertainment.

AND I QUOTE:

“You acknowledge that this website, “the Services”, and the”…bla bla bla…”U.S. technical data”…bla bla bla…”United States government”…bla bla bla…” You agree that you will comply”…bla bla bla…”and will not export”…bla bla bla…”in violation of these laws”…bla bla bla…”directly or indirectly”…bla bla bla…”You also agree not to provide access to”…bla bla bla…”anyone who”…bla bla bla…”may use the Services in the development of nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons.

Wait…What? I missed what part of amortization and mileage deductions may be used in the development of WMD.

On another note, I heard that the head of the IRS doesn’t even do his own taxes. Maybe that’s a good sign we should simplify things.

An Open Letter to the One who is Seriously Annoying Me

Dear Jerk,

You may believe that your little high jinks has gone unnoticed, but I would like to bring to light what you already suspect. Slowly stealing the piece that keeps the gas engaged at every gas pump in Florida not only shows your sophomoric since of humor, but also the pathetically inadequate capacity to exercise minimal brain function.

I hope you soon realize that this tomfoolery is not an accomplishment for you, but a monument to your irritating and contemptible life.

Sincerely,

Michael Shipe

Mountain Bike Adventure Gone Wrong…Photo Review

Yesterday, Millie and I took a drive through the Wildlife Management Area where I had my mountain bike adventure. I wanted her to see what I went through and I wanted to get some pictures so you could see what I went through.

Bull Creek EntranceDSCN3266This is their bad mapWhat is a Wildlife Management Area anyway?

To begin, ride through a drainage ditch

To begin, ride through a drainage ditch

Florida TrailMore of the trail

If only the water I drank was as clean as this...

If only the water I drank was as clean as this...

This is right before the trail gets CRAZY!

This is right before the trail gets CRAZY!

The largest Grass Hopper I have ever seen.

The largest Grass Hopper I have ever seen.

Hiking trail thru the swamp...I wasn't kidding in my post.

Hiking trail thru the swamp...I wasn't kidding in my post.

Florida's rugged beauty

Florida's rugged beauty

What can you say to that?

What can you say to that?

I felt more anxious in my car

I felt more anxious in my car

I was impressed with my little car...Especially after waves were splashing over my hood.

I was impressed with my little car...Especially after waves were splashing over my hood.

This was where I made the fateful decision to take the trail instead of the road.

This was where I made the fateful decision to take the trail instead of the road.

Mountain Bike Adventure Gone Wrong…Conclusion

I don’t know how long I was riding on the smooth, dirt road before it curved West and I had to jump back over to the peevish side of the border. However, true to its nature, once I started the journey again from the wildlife management side, the trail went into DEEP water. Like all the rest of the water, this water was red when shallow, and black when more than a few inches deep. It was stagnant and only refreshingly cool 10 inches below the surface. The top 10 inches were like a hot tub. The water was almost to my waist…so “good for me the water is cool” but “bad for me, I’m pushing my bike through a small pond.”

It crossed my mind more than once that these kinds of floods must give gators fun avenues to explore parts of Florida they’ve never seen. Anyway, I wasn’t too upset about the deluge as the path was beginning to veer East which meant I was more than two thirds of the way there according to the lying map.

The last leg of the trip was by far the hardest. I was about an hour from making the decision to take the path over the road and about the same amount of time since I stopped sweating. The trail deviated away from the border and then woulc back to the border giving me less and less confidence in my ‘almost there’ belief.

The desert-like environment would be a normal forest if the sand was dirt and trapped all the saturation. If the sand was dirt, I might have enjoyed tons of shade instead of Florida’s 1 o’clock sun was killing me.

While the trail was away from the border, the trail blazes dissected tall grass with a few random patches of black water. The visual repeated itself every quarter mile. I’d see 5 to 6 blazes scatter across a huge opening with grass and palm leaves on either side of the trail. The trail blazes would duck behind what looked like a patch of thick trees. However, when I reached the trees, there was never any shade and the only feeling of accomplishment was that I now faced another huge opening that looked exactly like the last one.

By now I was very weak and riding really slow; the sand in my shoes began to grade my feet with every stroke; and my muscles were beginning to cramp. I would alternate riding and walking because different muscles were cramping. I wanted to stop and rest, but I knew the sun and dehydration would ruin any rest.

It got to the point where I could not go any further without water. I fought off the urge several times to gulp up the black water, but I couldn’t fight it any longer. I tried to think of a way I could filter it through a bunch of sand, but I just settled for filtering it through my shirt. I tried to find the coolest little patch of water along the trail with the fewest floaties and swimmies. There was no question in my mind, I would either risk the diarrhea or spend the rest of the day hoping someone would find me.

I dug very deep that day. I stopped several times for water, but I tried to keep moving. My eyes began playing tricks on my turning a fern into a park ranger in the corner of my eye and my mind began acting very bizarre. I remember thinking how normal it would be to come across a deer standing on its hind legs, and how I would have tried to drink its blood.

I did appreciate the stories Ben told me of Marine training and I am quite sure they went through trials much worse, but the concept of soldiering on motivated me. It was a mental struggle to stay confident in my sense of direction and remain hopeful that finding the car was the only place my trail could end.

After a few false alarms, I did finally see a man-made structure, that turned out to be the bathrooms near my car. There was a fence I had to jump, where I just left my bike and ran straight to my car. I guzzled as much as I could of my hot water (hopefully that thing about plastic bottles leaking carcinogens when the get hot isn’t true). As I was getting my bike and pulling out of there, I saw the guy I had met who suggested I take the road and not the trail. He had finished his walk and made it back to his car before me.

With a quick stop at a gas station to get some Gatorade and Power Bar, I was on my way home. I was out of commission the rest of the day. I lost over 3 pounds of water weight, which I just now realized did not include the 32 oz Gatorade I just finished. With just 2 or 3 ticks on me, I considered myself pretty lucky. Especially since there was no revenge of the black water I drank.

Mountain Bike Adventure Gone Wrong Part 3

Part 3

Being very tired and out of shape and dehydrated my logic went like this: On the map, it looked like it would be only slightly longer for me to take the trail versus the road. Assuming the trail was similar to the earlier part of the trail, I’d not only have a lot of shade and refreshing, cool water to pedal through, I’d also have more energy and adrenaline. I was about two hours into the trip at this point and felt pretty good about the decision at the time even though I was out of water.

This ended up being the wrong choice and that was made clear very early into the return leg. However, it only became clear after what felt like the point of no return.

Parts of this trail were so over grown that I was widening the trail with every down stroke. Other parts of the trail were under about 15 inches of water. The one consistent part of the trail was that it gave only the hope of shade and never the reality of shade. The trees looked dense from a distance, however they were actually spread out and thin – it was just as disappointing as a desert mirage.

Maybe one of the most dangerous parts of the predicament I jumped into was second guessing myself. Early in this leg of the journey I began seriously scrutinizing the integrity of the tri-fold brochure map. According to the waste of paper, I was suppose to hit the corner of the park pretty much right away and follow the border north a few clicks then veer slightly East, away from the border for a few humps before arriving at my car. That did not happen. The trail went dead West until it met the fence bordering Forever Florida.

There was a little bridge to get over the barb wire and it was clearly marked that the Florida Trail was now entering private property. Another quick look at the insulting tri-fold confirmed what I already knew – my path was the new blazes I saw heading North along what looked like an AVT trail that was recently gone over with a rototiller. I ignored one thought in my head, which I cannot understand why a smart guy like me would ignore – “Go to Forever Florida and get some water.” I probably ignored that idea because according to the map, I was about a third of the way there. One hour max and I’ll be in my car with my water bottle.

I struggle along this ridiculous path for a very long way. It was the type of trail where you could not see it turn. It seemed to go indefinitely ducking only under the curvature of the earth. It got to the point where I could not take the struggle any longer. So I threw my bike over the barbed wire fence onto the Forever Florida side of the border and rode peacefully on their well-manicured border road. Oh did I forget to mention, this whole time the private property had a strong, strapping, smooth twin to my bumpy, overgrown, runt road?

To be concluded…For real this time.

Mountain Bike Adventure Gone Wrong Part 2

The trail looked like the home of Swamp Thing and I expected to see some gators and snakes, but as it often is in Florida, the most menacing thing I saw were a mosquitoes.

This part of the trip allowed me to gain a new appreciation for Florida’s unique beauty. It was peaceful, it was shady, it was challenging and it was like nothing I’d ever ridden before. Unfortunately, the swap trail shot me out on a dusty road within the park and the second half of the journey would be after about 2 miles on the hot road.

This road bisected a typical Florida “desert” (more on that later). I am man enough to say, that at this stage of the game, my decision making went downhill rather quickly for I had the opportunity to take a shortcut back to the car. However, I had just finish the fun part of the ride and hoped the second portion would be just as exhilarating. That hope outweighed the fact that I was out of water and getting a sunburn.

So I ride on the dirt road for a long while stopping briefly to look at the map and get a few bug bites. At one point I had to forge a stream, which was about a foot deep and probably 60 feet wide. I finally got to the place where I thought I’d pick the trail back up and get out of the punishing sun. However, the map was unhelpful and I found myself sitting on my bike taking a break trying to decide if I should just complete the loop on the road, or search for the trail.

There is no water around, so I’m able to rest a little longer than usual because there were no bugs. By now, I’ve got the elastic of my shirt over my ears with the rest of my shirt flopped on my back kind of Lawrence of Arabia-esk to protect my ears from burning off. Completely unrepentantly, I look up and see this man walking towards me about 50 feet away. He’s got on dark jeans, a long sleeve sweater and a black ball cap. So I talk with this guy a little bit and couldn’t quite decide if he was legit or not. Anyway, I tell him I’m looking for the path that loops back around to the parking lot and he doesn’t seem to think it exists. He says I just want to take the road back. Well low and behold we both happen to see trail blazes going off in the direction I would expect them to go. The strange guy assures me that I don’t want to go that way but that I want to take the road back. Oh yeah, and he didn’t have any water, only Pepsi. What do I do? I wait till he walks around the corner and I take the path following the blazes.

To Be Concluded…

Moutain Bike Adventure Gone Wrong Part 1

So my wife had to work on Saturday and I wanted an adventure. I have always enjoyed mountain biking but of course Florida deficient when it comes to mountains. Non the less, I was able to find a 15 mile, single-track trail not too far from home. There are a lot of ways this adventures could have gone, but to be sure, this was the closest to death I have ever been.

The Bull Creek Wildlife Management Area is remote. It is at the end of a six mile, dirt road twenty or thirty miles from any city. The WMA is unmanned with a just a sign-in clipboard with one name on it.

Not knowing what to expect I grab a map, throw my camelpack on and start off. I find what seems like the trail head submerged is reddish black water. The trail was slightly overgrown, but engaging. Most of the trail was bright Florida sun with many wet parts.

The ride got interesting when the trail dove below sea level. The heavy rain over the last couple of days saturated everything near a creek. Parts of the trail was like riding through a swamp. There were even parts of the submerged trail that had small wooden bridges. I thought they were pointless until I tried to bypass one and my whole tire went underwater.

To Be Continued…

Always Amused With Doomsday Predictions

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For reasons I can’t understand, I have always really liked hearing theories on when people thing the end will come. The stories are always out of the box I grew up and they are always told from a passionate person who is fully committed to their day when the world will explode or implode or melt or be reborn or whatever. These theories sometimes lead up to a big event, which promptly disappoints everyone invited. The world moves on and everyone forgets about the poor mislead people who sometimes come to a tragic end. In the same vein, I also like hearing conspiracy theories.

Now I have to say, I am really disappointed at how doomsdayers and conspiracy theorists are overlooking the upcoming transition to digital tv on June 12th. Maybe it is better suited for the conspiracy theorist, but I think there could be a compelling reason to believe the world will come to an end when all broadcast goes digital. Come on let’s hear some ruse.

Is it a Root or a Shoot?

There is something about blog titles that ask a question that make me think, “why don’t you just find out for yourself?” Here you will see the Shipe garden – quickly rivaling the Shipe Park that get’s a lot of Google hits.

The first plants I've cared about

The first plants I've cared about

When I wrote the title of this blog I truely did not know if my mango seed was sprouting a shoot or a root, but I have since learned in a manner of 60 seconds that it is in fact a root. Now I have to wonder if my seed is pointing the right way.

I think I was supposed to scratch the hairy layer off the seed.

I think I was supposed to scratch the hairy layer off the seed.

My Avocado plant is doing quite well. Actually, it has been so exciting to watch that I gave up on the germination process on my other two avocado seeds. This was for the better since the cats always try to nudge the seeds off the window sill.

I'm very proud of the little guy's two branches

I'm very proud of the little guy's two branches

If there are any green thumbs out there with suggestions, please leave a comment.