Some weeks back, someone gave me a book called The Long Walk.
If there ever were an apt metaphor for small-business life in these waning hours of 2008, it is this memoir of Polish officer Slavomir Rawicz. In 1939, Rawicz -- after being arrested and shipped off to a Siberian labor camp -- escaped and managed to walk south well over a thousand miles through the Siberian wilderness into Mongolia, through the Gobi Desert and the Himalayan foothills, and finally into freedom in northern India.
Rawicz' method was simple: Hang in there. Make the best choices you can and keep moving: ice blisters, sand shivers, lots of walking and what may have been -- for real -- a 90-minute audience with two abominable snow people. But the part that got me was the tools. He and the seven other prisoners he trekked with basically lived and died on the things they had or had not: The ax head that was slipped to Rawicz by the wife of the camp commandant. The deer skin moccasins they fashioned. The wraps of wire they found. Or the disasters they suffered when, with no rope, compass or a way to carry water, events overwhelmed them and four never got home.
So, then. What would today's life-saving techno tools be? In these lean times, in this holiday season, in this 21st century, here are my picks for cheap, simple, durable techno items to have on hand so you will live to tell your tale of survival.
Memory up the phone: Take out that smart phone of yours. There on the side you will probably find a little casket with the word "MiniSD" or "xD" or "MicroSD" or something like that on it. That's a memory slot a lot like the one on your computer, only smaller. Pretty much every major maker -- Motorola (MOT), Samsung, Nokia (NOK), LG, you know the names -- makes powerful portable data devices with expandable memory. Companies like SanDisk (SNDK) or Fuji or Kingston will be more than happy to sell you just such a card. And they are dirt cheap. MicroSD cards with 8GB of storage run, like, $14 at Amazon. And these chips will simply turbocharge that phone of yours. Making it run faster, handle more tasks and generally be easier to use.