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En route

Checking in on the road, en route to Novacon this weekend. As it's reasonably local I'm driving; as it's more than a few hours away, I'm pausing overnight with relatives. This is normally a straightforward journey, except when it turns out there's a bomb squad truck occupying my normal parking spot at the other end.

(Yes, I heard the explosion when they detonated the hand grenade. No, it wasn't very dramatic.)

Meanwhile, Welcome to Kitty City (by Cyriak Harris)!



Hmph. See what happens when you say nasty things about social media? They are out to get you!


Do you know is there any label yet for that style of animation? Apart from "that crazy shit that Cyriak does".


I wonder if it was a grenade or not.

The reason I wonder is that, when I was a child, a friend and I were playing around digging holes on a bit of river bank out among the fields, when we discovered something not-at-all like the bits of mud and stone and branch we were used to. When we wandered back to the house, we mentioned this to my father.

He rather assumed it was probably an old oil drum that had somehow got washed down and then buried. So he went and had a look, before returning somewhat more thoughtful. You see, oil drums are basically cylindrical, and although this was about the right general size, oil drums aren't usually streamlined.

The police were called.

They were thoughtful too.

The bomb squad were called.

They looked at the situation - river, former line of railway with bridge, and conceded that it was a valid target area, and that hmm, this really did look nasty. Luckily, our house half a mile away was the nearest habitation, so evacuation was a bit of a cinch.

It was a couple of hours later that they wandered back looking somewhat happier. Yes, this was WW2 vintage. Yes, it had been dropped by an aircraft. But it wasn't a bomb, it was a drop tank, what a fighter would use for extending its range.

(Buggers wouldn't let us have it as a souvenir, though.)

So, I do wonder if what yon bunch found yesterday was an actual grenade, or some harmless lump of metal that was innocently lurking under a log for the past few decades before getting rudely blown apart.


I dunno, 'that crazy shit Cyriak does' is a complete and precise description of the genre.

(Also check out Cycles and, of course, MOO!, which I think is the best thing he's ever done.)


There were heavy grenades. I think nowadays they are all of a size that you throw away without killing your self if you go down. That's not much blast. Mine did not make that much noise, but the flying metal kicked up a lot of dirt. No kidding, they will kill you DEAD, DEAD DEAD if you are too close. Good cops. Big bombs are still found in Germany. And in England.


Knew a fellow from Poland who found an unexploded grenade from WWII out in the woods when he was playing as a teenager. He thought it'd be wonderful fun to sneak it into the fireplace.
Didn't actually wind up hurting anyone when it went off, fortunately, but it did convince his parents he might be happier in the US than Poland.


If I'd known you were going to NovaCon I'd have bought tickets. Ah well, have a good time in Brum (I assume as the local SF group organises it) Charlie and I hope you don't come down with con flu or anything.


For various reasons, NovaCon is these days in Nottingham rather than Brum. But it's a nice enough city - the ability to take a tram out to Phoenix Park is something not enough cities have.


Soon after we moved to a new house in the mid-70s, my father found something unidentifiable and partly metallic in the back garden, and had the police out to look at it. In our case it turned out to be the stump and concrete foundation of an old clothesline post, so they didn't attempt to detonate it, but they didn't accuse him of wasting their time.


Grenades come in more varieties these days. The interesting ones are "offensive grenades" which you can throw while advancing. No fragment supposed to penetrate the skin at more than 15m. Very lethal at less than 10m


Living in a military town with lots of vets, it's not that unusual for someone to find one of Grandpa's souvenirs in the basement. Seems to happen every couple of years. Young GIs in town used to bring things they shouldn't home from Iraq, the Army has since gotten better at stopping them.

Arriving home to find your way blocked by police is no fun. The first time, I came home from work to find the alley blocked by a dozen police cars. They'd decided it was a good time to bust the crack dealing cab driver who lived in the alley cottage behind our house (other side of the alley)

The second time, arrived home at night to find the alley blocked by fire engines. So I parked out front and walked through the yard to the back, and found that a transformer on the pole near the cottage had been hit by lightning and was on fire. The burning oil coming from it looked rather like lava--wish I'd had a camera on me. This was particularly upsetting because there was a nest of Quaker Parrots under the transformers. Two survived and rebuilt the nest, but the Utilities blamed the parrots and insisted on removing them, but that's another long story, and I'll skip it.


Visits by the Bomb Squad are rarely expected.

I grew up in a sleepy little village just outside Dublin, mostly distinguished by having two pubs on a fork in the road. With a Victorian looking building in the middle.

One morning we got an early wake-up call by the local Guards (police). A rental car had been abandoned outside said building, which is the local police station. The car had a blanket over something large in the back. Owners nowhere to be found.

Now the village may be sleepy, but the police station is barracks for most of South County Dublin, including the British Ambassadors residence less than a mile away. And this particular night the Ambassador had the Foreign Secretary in residence. (Did I mention this was when the IRA were still active? and the previous ambassdor had been blown up 100 yards down the road?). So that night there were almost 40 "special branch" police (of both nationalities) on duty and staying in the barracks. They were not amused to find nearly a ton of suspicious looking something just outside the building they were staying in. Cue the Bomb Squad.

Later that afternoon, two little old ladies, who had rather too much to drink in the neighbouring hostelry the night before, returned to find their car in two niat pieces. Controlled explosion. No, travel insurance does not cover the costs.


A friend of a friend got another friend to "steal" his van (in England) so he could claim the insurance. His friend drove it to NI, but got hijacked by the INLA before he could get it to his garage. They left it on a bridge and the army blew it up. The insurance company refused to pay out - the small print exclusions had something about wars etc


Belfast, growing up in the 70's and 80's -- we were more surprised when we went out for the day and didn't see the Bomb Squad at least once (or at the very least hear the distant sound them at work)!


True. Insurance companies would not pay out for damage caused by terrorist activities or security operations in NI, but there was a process for claiming compensation for these types of things from the NIO (Northern Ireland Office) -- there were more than a few scams that netted hefty payouts for the unscrupulous on the back of the process.


In March a 250kg aerial bomb was found on a construction site near a friend's house. Disarming it turned out to be some major logistical heavy lifting. It was a good thing a couple of blocks around the site were evacuated since it turned out it was too far gone to be disarmed with a cutting charge. They ended up having to detonate it, and that could be heard several kilometers off.


No explosives involved in my story, I'm afraid. Charlie, this is a fine weekend for conventions; I'm going to be at OryCon myself. Have fun!


I've never been to an SF convention. Maybe I should try it some time


If you'd been in the US, you'd have been saved by the authorities from a Weapon of Mass Destruction(tm). Hand grenades here, since they contain more than 7 grams of explosive, are considered WMD. See 18 USC 2332(a)


Many thanks for the Cyriak link - I never seem to have time to trawl the trackless wastes of the 'Net, so rarely come across gems like this. I just watched his latest 'True Loves' music vid and it bought a tear to my eye - a brilliant piece of work from someone who's obviously a mathematician as well as an artist.

Plus the fact that, after watching it in full screen, 720P, when I switched back to Chrome the whole browser window looked like it was moving for a good 10 seconds :-)


"You know they're out to get you when you find a grenade in your In tray." - me after receiving a packet of "radio parts" that included a No.69 Offensive Grenade, fortunately inert, unfortunately tatty. (They're WW2 vintage and mostly bakelite, hence (I assume) the seller's confusion with electrical parts. Regrettably it was missing the filling plug, screw-on cap and streamer with lead weight and arming pin, otherwise it would have been worth rather more that the rest of the lot put together. On the other hand, I wouldn't have known it was inert, and that would have been extremely embarrassing.)


I recommend it. I never went to a con until late in my thirties, and then didn't go to another until midway into my forties, now I'm going to one or two a year and I wish I'd gotten into them earlier.

As to UXBs, when I was growing up, it was a thing that happened kind of regular-like that one of the boats in the area would haul up a sea mine or a dumped bomb in their nets. It's shocking and all to find a bomb in your back garden, but at least you can get away from it; these poor fellows typically had to leave the thing in their nets and steam for shore so that the bomb squad could get to it. And we might be talking a thirty-footer hauling a bomb designed to sink (or at least, seriously inconvenience) a capital ship. In not necessarily good weather.

It's a hard life, fishing. I'm glad I never got into it.


I should have guessed that, Birmingham's too expensive for most conventions these days unless it's for something like Twilight.

Nottingham's good for conventions, not so keen on it for anything else I must admit.

Still, hope Charlie has a good time all the same and gets out of the hotel too!


"Offensive grenades" assume that the thrower is less well protected than the target, and generally use blast as their primary effect (radius normally less than one's ability to throw).

"Defensive grenades" assume that the thrower has a nice trench to hide in, and tend to chuck about some rather high-energy fragments as their primary effect (radius normally further than one's ability to throw).

Smoke grenades may or may not involve the use of phosphorous (depending on whether you want to obscure, or to signal).

Meanwhile, some local history...

12/03/1917 RE8 D4810 was being collected from Radford aerodrome, to be delivered to 37 Reserve Squadron. It crashed at Tannery Farm, after spinning. 2/Lt D Stross and 2/AM A. W. Giles were both killed. Stross had been attached to the Machine Gun Corps and the Royal Field Artillery. He left a wife and child at 53 Grange Avenue, Chapeltown Road, Leeds and his parents lived at West Hampstead. His brother was Maurice Stross, Oak Bank, Harehills Lane, Leeds. Giles left a wife and a one year old child at Kelsall, St Anne’s Road, Headington, Oxford. He was a carpenter and joiner by trade and had transferred from the Devon Regiment. His brother-in-law was Henry Meadows, of Yarnton Manor near Oxford.

Lest we forget.


My father had some Stuff up in the attic, which my two brothers quietly Removed and Disposed Of while he was in the hospital for another stroke. Funny what he was able to bring home from Italy...I asked my brothers if they'd had fun, though ("Nah, it didn't blow up at all when we shot it a couple of times...").

Will also be at OryCon this weekend.


There was the time when I was teaching, and someone asked me: "You might know about these, Greg, we've found a very old-style glass bottle, and don't recognise the label" Me: "What does it say" Them: "Picric Acid" Me: "ARGGGGH!" (Or words to that effect - levitated from chair, and ran out of prep-room) Investigated, found it crystalline and dry (i.e. bloody dangerous) couldn't find any senior management-staff-types - phoned 999: Operator: "Police, Fire, Ambulance" Me: "Bomb squad please"

MOST of the pupils thought it was great fun, the deputy head had conniptions (I hadn't consulted his importance - moronic idiot). The only ones who wern't happy were the teacher and art-class in the next room, whom I summariy ordered OUT NOW. In spite of my being very junior staff - they all went, it must have been the manner of my instructions, and the remark that, erm "It's a class-A military explosive, now out!"


Best UXB story EVAH!, from the Wikipedia article about RAF Scampton...

"In the late 1950s, as a preliminary to road widening work by Lincolnshire County Council, the gate guardian – then a Grand Slam bomb – had to be moved. Efforts to lift it with a small crane proved futile, as it was much heavier than expected. Upon closer examination, it was found to be still filled with live explosives. It was carefully removed on an RAF low loader and detonated on a test range. It is unclear how a live bomb managed to be put on display, but it seems that it was in place for well over a decade."

For those not of a technical bent the Grand Slam bomb weighed ten tonnes of which four tonnes was the explosive charge. This was a mixture called Torpex which is very fast in explosive terms, originally designed for use in torpedoes to rip up the sides of armoured ships. The Grand Slam was meant to penetrate deep into the ground or into concrete reinforced buildings like submarine pens; exploding it above ground must have been fun.


Or there's always Album Sleeves reinterpreted in a feline sort of way ... though the Concept of Album Sleeves and even ' Albums ' may have to be Explained to The Kids of Today ..who know Nothing ! NOTHING ! I tell you ! Youth is wasted on the Young ...


P.S. ..I particularly like " LET IT BE " but I suppose that there's no accounting for tastes remains the Rule...


You've reminded me of something. Just this past June the local history museum, here in Colorado Springs, had a similar incident. A 1930s Boy Scout first aid kit on display was found to contain a small bottle of Picric acid.


My schooldays had nothing so dramatic. However, we did occasionally have to get a bottle of thionyl chloride from the top shelf of the stock room. The trick was to stand on tip toe and gently ease the bottle forward until it fell into the hands. We also made 2,4,6 trichlorophenoxyacetic acid as part of the organic chem class. Better known as Agent Orange. Ether distillations were also fun.


There was a case at a school I was due to attend where the chem teacher accidentally made a load of Manganese Heptoxide. He was carried out on a stretcher. Problem with that compound is that it is so dangerous that once you've made more than a gram or two the only safe thing to do is run.


Not that much on the CON now. Ever since I read about them I wished we had used Grand Slams in Nam. Not invented here don't you know.


A friend was cleaning out his parents' house in preparation for them moving to a retirement community. This was while they were still living there and were mainly sorting out the keep/gift/trash items.

In the unfinished basement he noticed his dad's fire suppression system that he had forgotten about for decades. Small glass globes tied with twine to the joists under the 1st floor. Inside these globes was halon. Oops. Now the twine was at this time well over 30 years old and may have been rotten. He couldn't tell.

His dad got really upset when he called the fire department to come and get them.


maybe not halon. carbon tet? that long ago? not real good news. worse than halon


Nope. Halon. He knew it was there when growing up but had forgotten about it.


Dropping liquid conc "Ammonia" into gas-jars of Chorine is FUN too! You get increasing yeller-and-blue flames until "crtical" proportions are reached, followed by kerblammm!

Great fun....


No thanks. Operation Arc Light used 1,000 lb. bombs; you can feel those suckers through the ground 25 klicks away. That and being about 12 miles from the (by that time no longer extant) town of Roseville in Northern California when a train carrying MK-81 250 lb naval bombs caught fire and 6,000 of the bombs exploded are all the big bangs I want in this life. I understand they found some of the unexploded bombs 20 years later when they were rebuilding the town; lots of laughs.


The Americans were making tallboy's (The 6 tonne earthquake bomb) and evolving a quicker method for making Grand slam;s, by late 1944. The Tallboy could get most of the way into 16ft of re-inforced concrete and explode the rest of the way through, thus rendering submarine pens useless, at Hamburg destroying 2 u-boats in the process. The Grand slam managed to burrow into and then blow through 23ft of reinforced concrete at Farge, near Bremen. And they weren't designed for armour piercing either, rather for earth and soft rock, but the quality of metal and the supersonic speed (of tallboys anyway) from 18,000feet meant they could mostly get through.
All information from Paul Brickhill's famous book "The Dam busters".


Charlie's paternal grandfather's brother. Lest we forget other aspects, he was born in Poland.


Will also be at OryCon this weekend.

We probably saw each other in passing, too. A really surprising number of people from Portland post on this blog.

Charlie, would you have any interest in coming back to Oregon some November?



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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on November 10, 2011 9:02 AM.

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