How to be Completely Useless

This might be one of the most frustrating images I’ve ever come across in my many years of reading blogs.


I saw it on Sojourning Abroad and it claims to be a color coded map with a list of local emergency numbers. Hmmm, I think to myself, wouldn’t that be a nice, permanent addition to the Poe Travel Binders.

So I clicked on it. And this is what I saw. Is it me or are those numbers teensy-teeny tiny? I mean, seriously. You’d need a microscope to read those numbers! I can just imagine the scenario now:

Poe walks absently down some foreign street, distracted by many shiny things. Would-Be Robber (WBR) lurks stealthily several steps behind, waiting patiently, yet intently. Poe reaches down to pet some mangy stray cat, leaving her purse dangling. WBR seizes the opportunity and slices the purse strings. Poe pulls out her trusty travel binder with a map of foreign emergency numbers, but alas, her map-reading microscope was in the purse that just got snatched. Poe sits on dirty foreign curb and cries while mangy cat rubs around her legs and gives her foreign fleas. 


I tried opening the image in a separate tab, but that has not helped at all.

I’ve been looking around my browser for ways to blow it up, but frankly, I’m too bone-weary tired to worry about my safety anymore. Well played, WBR, well played.

Mine’s Bigger

Sorry about the lack of blog posts. I’ve just been been biting my nails down to the quick over our upcoming trip to Peru. And, making and discarding numerous packing lists in my head at 3 am when I’m supposed to be sleeping.



But, I did want to check in and say, What the Tummy, Kate Middleton? Are you kidding me with that baby bump? You’re due in JULY. JULY. That’s like, a trimester or three months or something. And that’s all you’ve got? Have you even seen Jessica Simpson? Or Kim Kardashian? Hell, Fergie just announced she’s pregnant and she’s showing more than you.   I just ate lunch and my stomach is bigger than yours. Geeze. Eat some ice cream or something. 


Going Tribal Drums on Some Sharkies

I have the most awesome friends. They are always looking out for me. They really are.

For example, my friend Emilia recently made me aware of this fine product, along with her astute observation that “apparently tribal techno music is just perfect for shark repelling…??!”: (I’m trying to insert a video here. First time. Let’s see if it works.)

Based on cutting edge research (O’Connell et al, 2008, 2009, submitted), Repel Shark anklets create a permanent magnetic field near your feet that is repellent to sharks. Good in low visibility water and where lemon sharks, southern stingrays, nurse sharks, and blacktip sharks are encountered. Male, female, and unisex styles are available. All feature non-corroding magnets, our exclusive magnet bushings (a total of six magnets per anklet!!), and clasps. Fit is adjustable using chain links.

That’s all well and good but what about REAL sharks, like tiger sharks and great whites. You know, the ones that can eat you? If I’m going to wear some ugly, utilitarian, unisex anklet, I’d like some protection against those other types of sharks too, please.

So, I went in search of better shark repellents and holy sharp teeth there are a LOT of shark repellents out there! A lot of them rely on magnetic and/or electrical pulses, some chemical.

The Sharkstopper proudly proclaims that it is “the first and only acoustic shark repellent in the world.” Every time I read that, I can’t help but picture a shark with a guitar singing that 90s power ballad “More Than Words” by the not-so-aptly named Extreme.

I cannot tell you how much I love this picture. Probably more than words.

Oh, and hey, Sharkstopper is looking for investors, so go ahead and get in there and give these guys some money! You can just fill out the contact us form on their website: Subject: Butt Tons of Free Money.

They’re also very proud of the fact that they were featured on the Discovery Channel’s “Pitch Men.” No word on how they did on the show.

Oh, wait a minute, we got ourselves a shark repellent war because according to our next shark repellent company, Sharkstopper didn’t do so hot on Pitch Men and were actually referred to as “snake oil.” Hmmmm, but does snake oil repel sharks? Cuz if so, I’m still interested.

Moving on, SharkDefense is a sunscreen that apparently uses “semiochemicals” which are chemical messengers or “clues” that sharks may use to orient, survive and reproduce in their specific environments. Apparently, certain semiochemical extractions have the ability to trigger a flight reaction in sharks.

They’re also into these gestation compounds which apparently make you very untasty. “Suction grip bites are released when a gestation compound is introduced directly into the mouth.” While that is a relief, it’s not really “repelling” the shark in the early stages like I’d prefer.

Oh, and hey, these guys are selling a 2012 wildlife calendar for $20 a pop, if you’re interested. Use their “contact us” page: Subject: Take my $20. Oh, and they don’t actually sell their product. Nope, to buy this shark repellent sunscreen, you have to go to the first guys I mentioned at the top of the page (Repel Sharks)

This product has me most excited – primarily because they’re from Australia, home of the Poe-Eating Hybrid Monster Sharks.

Sharkcamo is a low tech approach to preventing shark attacks on surfers. Taken from the principles of Mother Nature, Sharkcamo is a patented copyrighted graphic that applies to the bottom of your surf board and helps neutralise the prey reflex found in sharks that cause them to attack.”

And you can buy it right there on the website. Plus, they’re not asking you to purchase any other items. However, I’m not really sure how I’ll carry a surfboard with me while scuba diving, so this item might have limited usefulness.

Speaking of limited usefulness: I am definitely not going to invest in Shark Shield, which is a device that attaches to a surfboard and uses electrical waves to give sharks some uncomfortable muscle contractions, actually attracted some sharks instead. Including this 12-foot great white that decided to try to eat the surfboard during a test back in 2008. Here’s my favorite line from that Gizmodo story:

The manufacturer claims that it’ll work just fine as long as you aren’t surfing, paddling, or moving at all, however.

Well, apparently they’ve seen me scuba dive because there’s not much movement to that at all.

Maybe I’ll just dress up like a shark and they’ll think I’m one of them.

Everybody’s a Comedian When They Get Bit By a Shark

***We interrupt our regular Istanbul vacation recap posts to have yet another panic attack over an upcoming vacation that I’m certain will result in my death, or at the very least, a maiming.***

I knew something was up.

While perusing the search terms that had brought people to the Poe Log yesterday, I noticed something very, very odd – Jlo was not the top search term. Or even the second. No, the top 5 or 6 search terms were all variations of the term “Australian shark attacks.”

Turns out, Australian Poe-eating sharks are at it again, preparing for my upcoming visit to their fine sandy shores. According to the HuffingtonPost:

“An Australian man is recovering after becoming the country’s third shark attack victim this month.”

Continue reading Everybody’s a Comedian When They Get Bit By a Shark

I Bet It’s Exactly Like ‘Under the Sea’ – CSI Edition

I’m halfway through my online scuba lessons and I’m becoming very, very worried.

We’re taking online scuba certification classes, with plans to do the actual dive portion in Puerto Rico in December. All of this is to prepare us for diving in the Great Barrier Reef next year.

I am, as you may have noticed, a very risk-adverse and worried person. I worry about brain eating amoebas. I worry about sharks, of course. Now, thanks to President Obama and his trip to Australia and a little gift he received from some diplomat, I’m now also worried about crocodiles. (Thanks Australia!)

This shark is probably at least 33% smaller outside of the water.

Look, I have a really great life and I don’t want to jeopardize it. As much as I like pretty fishies, I’d like to keep living. And doing nonsensical things like trying to breathe underwater, seems a bit foolhardy to say the least. (And I’m saying it.)

But I also understand that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Plus, I know other people who scuba dive and they seem to get through it without losing any limbs or anything.

Anyway, since I am so prone to panicking, my scuba-buddy-for-life XFE and I thought that the pace-yourself-approach might work best. We could take the online courses, at the slower Poe pace, reviewing and rewatching the slides until actual learning somehow, miraculously, penetrated the haze of panic and settled into my little brain.

Add the allure of going to Puerto Rico and getting out of DC in the midst of a probably cold December for the in-water portion, and I slowly began to feel a tiny bit better about the whole certain-impending-underwater-death thing.

(By the way, the lessons in Puerto Rico will be private ones. You do not want to see me in a group lesson setting. No bueno. Lots of tears and panic and confusion. I think we all learned our lesson from the Great Copper Mountain Ski Debacle of 2008 [or was it 2009?] Either way, someone had to be rescued off the mountain and out of her group ski class by the nice men on the skimobiles.)

So, with a plan in place, I was starting to feel in control, a bit calmer even, while envisioning myself swimming alongside giant sea turtles and frolicking with Nemo under the sea.

That dog looks as excited as I feel.

Then, I started taking the online PADI classes and Holy Fear Injection. What. The. Hell.

So far, it’s all about stuff I should be worried about. They’ve mentioned things that can go wrong that even I, in my wildest dreams, never considered. For example: the second half of last night’s section discussed what to do if you encounter an “unresponsive diver.” This is not something I’d ever even thought about, but my first reaction is to  say, get yourself out of there, get to the surface and undertake a combination of screaming/swimming/thrashing until help comes along. However, that is not proper scuba procedure. Apparently, you are supposed to help the person to the surface. And, some other stuff I wasn’t really paying attention to.

Also: entanglement. Which can come in all kinds of forms like, plants, fishing lines, loose lines and old nets. Where the hell do they think we’re going to be diving? What kind of underwater “Wipeout” are they planning here?

Then there are all these boating terms to remember, and hand signals (25 of them, which they blew through in about .5 seconds), and procedures for weights and BCDs and alternate inflator regulators, and on and on. I have to know how to use a compass. A compass??!! I have no idea how to use a compass. They didn’t really teach that back in the trailer park. And there’s math. Very important math related to how deep you can go and how much air you have.

Plus, did you know that things like water movement affect your ability to see and not get disoriented? Other things that affect visibility? Oh, just the weather, suspended particles of plankton and algae, and the composition of the bottom of the ocean. How am I supposed to account for that??

Oh, and good luck with that whole seeing thing anyway, since apparently refraction magnifies everything by 33% so everything looks larger and closer. That includes sharks, by the way.

Apparently, sharks are PADI certified as well.

My favorite advice, however, is what to do if there’s an aggressive animal around. That’s right. An aggressive animal. First, there are the list of precautions to keep from being shark dinner:

  1. Treat all animals with respect (CHECK)
  2. Be careful in murky water (again, not really something I can control)
  3. Avoid wearing shiny or dangly jewelry (Hmmm, guess I better not wear my grillz then)
  4. Remove fish you have speared from the water immediately (Not going to be a problem because I’m sticking with point number uno, and spearing fish is NOT very respectful.)
  5. Wear gloves and exposure suit (welp, since we covered the loss of body heat in the water in section 1, I’m pretty sure my wimpy cold butt is going to be covered up. Also: see refraction factoid. I do not want my imperfections—few as they are—to appear 33% larger.)
  6. Maintain neutral buoyancy and stay off the bottom (this one is hilarious and I will point out why in just a minute)
  7. Move slowly and carefully (pretty sure I’m not going to move slowly or carefully if and when I’m confronted by an aggressive animal. Pretty sure that’s not going to happen.)
  8. Watch where you’re going and where you put your hands, feet and knees. (Since I’ll be tucked into a fetal position and crying underwater, I’m sure this won’t be an issue.)
  9. Avoid contact with unfamiliar animals. (They’re ALL unfamiliar to me. I don’t know any of these animals. I’ve never met them before. I’m not going to be playing fetch down there with any of them.)

So here’s the advice they give you if all the above precautions don’t work and somehow, you, in your skimpy bathing suit decorated with dangling sequins and bugle beads and carrying a line of speared and unfamiliar fish in the murky water behind you somehow managed to attract the attention of an “aggressive” animal.

This girl appears to be breaking multiple precautionary rules. I'm pretty sure she's gonna get eaten. That one on the left looks hungry.


  1. Remain still and calm at the bottom. (WAIT. You told me to stay off the bottom in precautionary point 6. Now I’m totally confused. What am I supposed to do??)
  2. Do not swim toward it. (No. Problem. You can’t swim if you are actively in the process of soiling your wet suit.)
  3. Watch what it does. (Also known as, ‘push your scuba buddy towards the nice fishie’).
  4. If it stays, calmly swim along the bottom and out of the way. (As if I’d have the presence of mind to do any of these things.)

There better be some really awesome and friendly fish down there. I’m bringing a gun, just in case.

Just Like Justin Bieber, I Too Need a Haircut*

It’s time for a haircut. And I say that with some trepidation.

Does it look better when I close one of my eyes?

Not because I’m worried about getting a bad haircut. I mean, I have curly hair. It’s kinda hard to mess it up. Not impossible, mind you. There have been bad haircut decisions, including some unfortunate bangs (you cannot have bangs if you have curly hair. It’s not possible. Just stop fooling yourself.)

But in general, it’s hard to mess up curly hair. And, I have a fairly straightforward cut. It’s not like I ask for something different every time I go in, or have some illusions about the texture or thickness of my hair. I don’t bring in pictures of Jennifer Anniston and ask for her hair. Not going to happen.  

You too can have my lustrous locks.....if you can totally change the texture of your hair.

No, the reason I have anxiety about getting a haircut is because I want to cheat on my stylist.

I choose a salon purely based on geographic desirability. How close is it to my work? Can I run over at lunch and get my hair did and still shovel a bowlful of salad down my craw?

My current hair salon is literally around the block from where I work. I started going there a few years ago after the stylists at my previous salon (two blocks from work) left that salon. I had been going to her (I can’t even remember her name now) for about 3 years. She was Vietnamese and I never understood a thing she said to me. I wasn’t thrilled with the haircut, but it wasn’t awful. I kept going to her because it was convenient. Not cheap, but convenient and a few steps above Supercuts (are those places still around?).

When my previous stylist left my previous salon, I was quite relieved. Now was my chance to make a break for it. So I started going to my current salon, which was even more convenient. And, my new stylist was cool, and young, and hip, but not intimidatingly so. And I understood everything she said.

But still. I’m not blown away by my hairstyle and I’ve been going there for about 2 years now.

I guess  want to see other stylists.

The problem is I walk past this current salon every single day on my way to work. And I often run into my stylist on the street. What if she saw me with a new haircut? Would she be pissed? Would she smell the new scent of the different styling products and judge me harshly? So this is what I go through every 3-4 months when it’s time for a trim (yes, another benefit of curly hair is you can slack off between trims. The only reason I know it’s time for a trim is that my hair is starting to bunch up in ringlets. Cute on Shirley Temple. Not a 39-year-old woman)

Oh! I see a salon even closer to work! Maybe I should go there. (Do you kids even know who Shirley Temple was? Or is it just me?

I’m sure, per usual, I’m thinking about this waaaay too much. I’m sure my current stylist couldn’t care less. It’s not like I’m Justin Bieber or anything. It’s not like anybody would be losing $100,000 in an exclusive doll licensing deal if I got my hair cut.

Any tips on how to break up with a hairdresser? Or should I just suck it up and do the easy thing? I tend to lean towards the easy option, personally.

*(How’s that for Search Engine Optimization?)

Does this haircut make my body look small?

Baby, I’m a Firework

Holy hot flashes. This scares me. Because, as my bed-partner-till-spontaneous-combustion-do-us-part XFE will tell you, sleeping next to me is like sleeping with the sun. I’m hot y’all. Really, really hot.

According to the Irish Times:

“A CORONER’S court has heard how a man who died in a fire in his house three days before Christmas had spontaneously combusted.

The case was outlined in Galway yesterday, where an inquest into the death of a pensioner heard how investigators were baffled as to how Michael Faherty had died.

A verdict was returned that the man died of a phenomenon called spontaneous human combustion. (emphasis mine.)

Mr Faherty (76), originally from Connemara, died at his house at Clareview Park, Ballybane, Galway, on December 22nd.

West Galway corner Dr Ciarán McLoughlin said he had never encountered such a case in the 25 years that he had been investigating deaths in the region.

Forensic experts found that a fire in the fireplace of the sittingroom where the badly burnt body was found was not the cause of the blaze that killed Mr Faherty.

The court was told that no trace of an accelerant had been found and there was nothing to suggest foul play…..“This fire was thoroughly investigated and I’m left with the conclusion that this fits into the category of spontaneous human combustion, for which there is no adequate explanation,” he said.”

The coroner said the fire had been confined to the sittingroom and the rest of the house sustained only smoke damage. The only damage was to the body, which was cremated, the ceiling above him and the floor underneath.

That's right: Dude was a human torch.

DANG Y’ALL! Among all the other things I worry about (yeah, I’m looking at you brain-eating amoebas), I’ve always been worried about spontaneous human combustion. And now, here’s confirmation that I should, indeed, be very, very worried.

Despite the fact that I freeze away during the day, I am in fact a very hot sleeper. Like, scorching hot, can’t even touch my skin hot. It’s very odd because like I said, during the day, I’m quite cold. I can’t get warm. But somewhere in the middle of the night, I turn into this lady:

This is a total exact replication of what I look like while sleeping at night. Yep, accurate as hell.

I haven’t always been a hot sleeper, I don’t think. But somewhere over the last 5-6 years, I’ve definitely noticed an uptick in my body temperature when I sleep. XFE shirks from my fiery touch (that sounds way worse than it actually is.) Petunia won’t even sleep with me in the summer, and that cat is up in my business ALL THE TIME.

I don’t blame either of them. I routinely kick of the sheets and flip my pillows over looking for a cool spot. I don’t even want to sleep with myself. But when winter comes around? Both Petunia and XFE use me like the human heater I am.

And yes, I’ve asked my doctor about it (along with a query about my oddly lumpy head. Man, I got issues). She isn’t the most sympathetic practitioner out there. She says I’m fine. I question where she got her medical degree. According to the Internet, I might be dying. Stupid Internet.  

Stuff like this isn’t helping my paranoia: According to this story in the UK Huffington Post:

“Liquefied fat is the reason that the body burns, according to one rather gruesome theory, ‘the wick effect’.

Once ‘the wick’ or clothes have ignited, fat from the burning body seeps out and acts as the fuel source, allowing the victim to burn further. Fat burns at a much higher temperature than other substances, and many of the victims have been overweight. Home Office pathologist Professor Michael Green told the BBC in 2005: ‘The way the body burns – the so-called wick effect – seems to me and to my colleagues to be the most scientifically credible hypothesis.’”

First off: EEEEWWWWW. Secondly, holy human candle! Terrifying. I better go drink some ice water. And lay off the funnel cakes so I don’t add “fuel to the fire” so to speak. Anyone else out there a hot sleeper? We should maybe form a community, hold a telethon or something, to pay for some more research into this dangerous condition.

Spontaneous Human Combustion is no laughing matter.