The analog iPhone

Ready for the bio-apocalypse: a steel-framed handgun and the amazing Pocket Ref

In the speculative-fiction novel Directive 51, author John Barnes postulates an alarmingly plausible near-future in which all plastics, synthetic rubbers, and oil-based fuels have been destroyed by maliciously created self-replicating nanobots and bioengineered microorganisms. All modern communication, transportation, and just about everything else is brought to a halt, and the world is plunged into chaos. The most advanced technology possible peaks at steam engines and vacuum tubes. The book is so believable that Roseann, normally a both-feet-on-the-ground skeptic, mentioned casually after reading it, “You know, it wouldn’t hurt to have a few cases of canned vegetables stored here . . .”

Given our remote home site, dependable well, and abundant wildlife (not to mention free-ranging cattle), we’d be in better shape to survive a bio-apocalypse than 99 percent of the U.S. population. And I feel about 99 percent better equipped to do so since my friend Bruce handed me a copy of Thomas Glover’s Pocket Ref.

I’ve used various one-subject pocket references before (wiring, plumbing), but this tiny 864-page book covers an array of subjects that is simply stunning. Look through the index and pick an uncommon letter—say, W. Now pick one entry out of the 31 listed under W—say, weather. Glover’s Pocket Ref will tell you the following things about weather: Beaufort wind scale; cloud types; cold water survival time; dew points; Fujita-Pearson tornado intensity scale; heat/humidity factors; hurricane intensity scale; ice thickness safety; weather map symbols, and wind chill factors. Over in the Fs, under formulas, you’ll find a staggering 105 entries, from Ohm’s law to antenna length to load on a wire rope or sling to sound intensity to voltage drop vs. wire length, diameter, and current.

Knots will still work - but better stock up on sisal rope.Other entries: knots—lots of them—treatment for a sucking chest wound; steel tubing specifications; maximum floor joist spans; simple and compound interest factors; area formulas, solvent types; and I could go on for another 863 pages. Need to calculate how much water is left in a cylindrical tank of known diameter and length? No problem. Need to know the rank of the uniformed military personnel who show up after the apocalypse to declare martial law? No problem. Do you have a hard time remembering the geologic time scale (did the Miocene or the Pliocene come first?)—no problem. I can now quickly figure the BTUs available in a cord of Douglas fir, or the clamping force possible with a 15mm 8.8 bolt, or the proper hand signals for a crane and hoist operator. Amazing. 

A reference book such as this shouldn’t be entertaining—its mission is to promulgate information. But it’s fascinating to simply browse through the Pocket Ref and see what you can learn. Take my advice: Buy one and just toss it in your glove box—if you come out one morning and find your tires have melted into blobs of bio-slime, you’ll be ready to face the future.

If someone in the New World wants to sell you a firkin of home-brew, you'll want to know just how much that is.

Available on Amazon—as long as Amazon still operates . . .