Project Diesel Memento

This morning I received an email from Ken in NH:

Raymond doesn’t name check you, but you are mentioned indirectly:
https://devblogs.microsoft.com/oldnewthing/20190930-00/?p=102942 

Also, I think you promised to tell us about the ammonium nitrate souvenirs some time ago. Any interest in writing that soon?

I sort of remember making that “promise”. I went to Raymond’s blog and found Ken had linked to my post on the same topic making it easier to find. Raymond makes reference to me in his post with:

One of the DirectX developers owned a farm and gave each team member a small plastic bag of ammonium nitrate as a souvenir.

You might think it odd he mentions the farm but not Boomershoot. This was in 1997, over a year before the first Boomershoot event. I was working on the explosives at the time but had not yet found something that worked. I had the ammonium nitrate but hadn’t yet figured out how to make it go boom with rifle fire.

Back to the 13 year old “promise”. It’s time to deliver.

I went looking for the 22 year old Word document. Yeah, I’m a packrat and knew I wouldn’t have deliberately deleted it.

I found two documents:

Directory of H:\Humor

09/30/2019  11:33 AM    <DIR>          .
09/30/2019  11:33 AM    <DIR>          ..
07/22/1997  03:56 PM            35,328 Diesel.doc
07/22/1997  04:00 PM            19,456 Diesel2.doc

Diesel.doc:

Project Diesel Memento

Enclosed you will find about 1/4 pound of ammonium nitrate (N2H4O3). When mixed with approximately 1 teaspoon of diesel this common farm fertilizer could be made to explode with the force of several sticks of dynamite. If the charge were properly placed in the ground it would probably make a hole about large enough to bury a person (or two in the case of Raymond Chen).

As it stands, and even if mixed with diesel, it is extremely difficult to detonate. On the farm we used 1/2 stick of dynamite which itself required a blasting cap to be detonated. It requires extremely high pressures (several thousand PSI) and heat to detonate. On the farm we would bore a hole in the hard dirt and clay under a stump and firmly pack in about a pound of it (mixed with diesel and the dynamite booster) to “liberate” the stump from the ground.

Other means of detonation exist, see for example New and Improved C-4 — Better-Than-Ever Recipes for Half the Money and Double the Fun by Ragnar Benson or The Anarchist Cookbook. I have extreme doubts about the accuracy of the recipes in The Anarchist Cookbook and have been unable to get Benson’s recipes to work when attempting to detonate the mixture with rifle fire (as he claims will work). So, if you want to use this to blow something up you will probably have to obtain some dynamite and blasting caps or ask Timothy McVeigh for help (I believe he actually used nitromethane, not diesel).

Regards,

Militia Joe from Idaho

The Militia Joe from Idaho reference is to a skit I created for a Swine Before Pearls television show in 1995 while I was working at Microsoft on Direct X 1, The Manhattan Project.

Diesel2.doc:

July 22, 1997

Raymond,

One is for you (if you want it). Please give one to NWilt. The others you can distribute as you see fit (trinkets for the natives, whatever).

Have fun!

See you soon. You are coming over for harvest, right?

Regards,

I printed something like 20 copies of “Project Diesel Memento”. I put about a quarter pound of ammonium nitrate in “Seal a Meal” (as they were called at the time) bags. This was sealed off in the bottom part of the bag and the printed text was put in the top part of the bag and sealed. I then shipped the entire set to Raymond at Microsoft with the cover letter shown in Diesel2.doc.

NWilt was my manager when I worked on Direct X 5, Project Diesel. It was probably about 2012 when NWilt contacted me and invited me out to lunch. He told me he still had the Project Diesel Memento.

And now you know the mementos story I “promised” to tell so long ago.

2 thoughts on “Project Diesel Memento

  1. OK, “promise” may be been a bit of a stretch. 😉 Thank you, I enjoyed hearing the history.

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