A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for April, 2014

The Fourth Amendment Takes Another Hit Right to the Heart

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Once again the Nazgûl have done an outstanding job of serving their master. This time they drove another stake through the heart of the already heavily staked Fourth Amendment:

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that police can stop and search a driver based solely on an anonymous 911 tip.

The 5-4 decision split the court’s two most conservative justices, with Justice Clarence Thomas writing for the majority and Justice Antonin Scalia penning the dissent.

Checkpoints should be much easier to setup now that this ruling has been made. Just have a gun on a cellphone a few miles away from the checkpoint call in an “anonymous tip” on every vehicle the passes. Reasonable suspicion has been a bit too rigorous for cops wanting to search a vehicle. Thankfully this ruling means that they can “receive an anonymous tip” and search go ahead with the search. Many opportunities have been opened by this ruling and I’m sure we’ll get to see them all as creative officers wanting to throw around their power put their minds to the civil rights bypassing grind stone.

Georgia Rustled a Lot of Jimmies With Its New Gun Rights Bill

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Nathan Deal, the governor of Georgia, recently signs a pretty sweeping gun rights bill:

Gov. Nathan Deal signed legislation today that would vastly expand where Georgians can legally carry firearms, a proposal that has drawn heaps of praise and scorn from outside groups.

“People who follow the rules can protect themselves and their families from people who don’t follow the rules,” said Deal, adding: “The Second Amendment should never be an afterthought. It should reside at the forefronts of our minds.”

It’s nice to see the people of Georgia have better legal options available for their self-defense. But what’s really entertaining about the signing of this bill are the number of anti-gunner jimmies that it rustled. Let’s start with Warren Summers, the chief of police of Norcross, Georgia:

Picture this: It’s a pleasant summer day. The kids are out of school, and you’ve decided to take them to the local park. You’re sitting on a park bench in the shade, watching them play, when you suddenly notice a man dressed in a heavy winter coat approaching the playground.

As he scurries past you, you notice a handgun strapped around his waistband. Alarmed? You should be. Who is this man, and why is he armed at your children’s playground? Concerned enough to call the local police?

I find it ironic that a police officer is trying to make people who carry handguns near schools sound sinister. That’s exactly what cops do. Most of us who live in larger metropolitan areas don’t know the cops personally so we don’t know if they are level-headed individuals or violent psychopaths. If you’re concerned about a stranger without a badge carrying a gun near a school then you should be equally worried about a stranger with a gun and a badge carrying a gun near a school. Or you could be a sensible human being and realize that a vast majority of us are nonviolent so assuming every stranger you see is maleficent is a pretty paranoid attitude.

Slate, always a great source of hysterics, took it’s usually sarcastic tone when discussing the signing of the bill:

The problem in Georgia isn’t that you can’t own a gun. The problem, you see, is that once you do own a gun you can’t take it absolutely everywhere you want to. But what to do about those pesky restrictions on where you can, and cannot, pack heat? Problem solved. On Wednesday, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed a bill that doesn’t cramp gun owners’ gun-toting style so much by vastly expanding where firearms can be legally carried in the state.

That actually was a problem and will remain a problem as the bill didn’t eliminate all gun-free zones. ThinkProgress (can you tell I was searching through well-known anti-gun websites for blog fodder) almost disappointed me but then redeemed itself in the last paragraph:

The provision authorizing guns in bars is especially likely to result in an uptick of violence. According to Washington State University Sociology Professor Jennifer Schwartz, “40% of male [homicide] offenders were drinking alcohol at the time” of their offense, and about one in three female offenders were also drinking.

Let me first point out that Minnesota allows permit holder to carry firearms into bars. You can even legally have a drink so long as your blood alcohol level stays below .04%. Guess what? Our state’s bars haven’t turned into murder zones. In fact permit holders in this state committing murder or manslaughter is only .542 per 100,000 versus 1.78 per 100,000 of the general population. So the concern that allowing permit holder to carry in bars will cause an increase in violence is nothing more than fear mongering. I also applaud ThinkProgress for including a link to a totally irrelevant study. 40% of male homicide offenders may have been drinking but that doesn’t mean they were permit holders, drinking at a bar, or otherwise fall in the demographics that ThinkProgress is trying to demonize.

My next stop in the search for rustled jimmies was Salon. Unlike ThinkProgress, Salon delivered up front:

This probably won’t come as news to Salon’s readers in the state of Georgia, but it turns out it’s way, way, way too hard in the Peach State for one to procure and go everywhere with a gun. So the state Legislature, keeping its eyes firmly fixed on the real issues that matter, is on the verge of remedying this grave injustice by eliminating seemingly every single law regulating firearms in Georgia (which, considering this is Georgia, might not be quite as much work as it seems).

So much impotent sarcasm. We can see that the mere fact that Georgia tends to lean towards gun rights really upsets the staff at Salon. But the real gold was found towards the end:

As if all of that weren’t enough, MoJo reports that the bill would also so broaden the state’s SYG regulations that even a person using a gun he does not legally hold would be allowed to claim a SYG defense.

Oh. My. God. This bill enables people to use whatever tool they have at hand, regardless of whether or not they legally hold it, to defend their life? What a travesty! How dare somebody be allowed to legally defend themselves with something they don’t legally hold! Seriously, that paragraph was probably the best find in my search for rustled jimmies. It packs so much stupidity into such a small paragraph.

I really enjoy it when pro-gun rights legislation passes because it really, really upsets people who think everybody has a moral duty to die at the hands of a violent criminal instead of defending themselves. When somebody subscribes to such a cockamamie idea I relish seeing them not get what they want.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 25th, 2014 at 10:30 am

Don’t Let Fear Stop the Progress of Firearm Technology

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After Beretta revealed its PXi4 series of sensor laden pistols I started thinking of many cool things that merging electronics and firearms could enable. Then I got to thinking of a criticism I sometimes here in regards to marrying electronics and firearms, which is that the existence of such technology would lead to it becoming legally mandatory. This criticism isn’t entirely without merit. Ed Markey, a senator from Massachusetts, recently introduce the Handgun Trigger Safety Act of 2014. The act would require all handguns manufactured three years after the passage of the act to include technology that only allows them to be used by authorized individuals. It’s a great gun control tactic since such technology isn’t widely available. In fact the Armatix iP1 is the only pistol on the market that advertises such technology and it hasn’t been widely tested yet (not to mention it’s only available in .22 Long Rifle).

Alas I don’t believe the fear of access control technology becoming mandatory in firearms should stop the firearms industry from pursuing more high-tech firearm designs. After all, the technology doesn’t even exist yet and we’re already seeing legislation mandating access control for firearms. Whether the technology exists is irrelevant as far as legislation is concerned. But more importantly the advantages of merging electronics and firearms are many.

I touched on some of them when I was fawning over the Beretta PXi4 and have touched on other advantages in an earlier post. When you look at the advantage of tying a round counter, recoil sensor, slide cycle timer, trigger pull weight recorder, chamber pressure sensor, malfunction counter, and other statistics to a heads-up display or mobile phone the possibilities become practically limitless. Imagine being able to instantly call up the number and type of failures a particular gun has suffered over the years you’ve owned it. You could see, for example, that cartridges that operated at specific pressures caused a certain error. Tuning ammunition to give a desired bullet velocity while maintaining a minimal desired amount of recoil would be trivial. If you encountered an error that you had previously encountered years ago you would be able to call up that data and see what changes you had to make to get around it (because let’s be honest, after a few years we usually forget a lot of fine details about how we fixed something). Buying a used gun would involved less guess work if you could demand the data for the total number of rounds firearm and number of errors experienced from the current owner.

As a species we are merging electronic technology with all of our other technology and it is inevitable that firearms will receive the same treatment. In a generation or two gun owners will likely be just as baffled by guns that cannot report the number of rounds fired since it was purchased as we are by flintlock rifles today (that is to say there will only be a handful of people who know how to properly operate or understand the older technology). The sooner we get underway with his merger the sooner we get all of the kinks worked out.

Fear is a terrible motivation for failing to pursue a new technology. Allowing fear to prevent us from advancing technologically only hinders our species’s potential. Yes, there are wicked people who want to use technology for nefarious things. Senators want to use technology to enact gun control. Military leads want to use technology to reign more efficient death and destruction down upon their enemies. But those wicked people won’t stop their pursuit simply because good people are afraid of the technology. We might as well reap the benefits because we will certainly be dealing with the consequences regardless of our decision.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 25th, 2014 at 10:00 am

Why My First Response is Running, Err, Tactically Retreating

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Am I a sheep, sheepdog, or wolf? The answer is none of the above. I carry a firearm and known how to defend myself so I don’t qualify as a sheep. I’m not an initiator of violence so I’m not a wolf. Nobody would qualify me as a sheepdog because when a bad situation arises my first response is to get the fuck away from that situation.

This puts me at odds with Tactical Tom. In their eyes I’m a coward who has failed to rise to the occasion and defend the sheeple of the world. But there’s a reason I prefer running away to fighting. As Tam points out, even if I somehow defy all odds and take down all of the evil terrorist gang members the situation isn’t resolved:

So, there our hero is, sitting in the mall, munching on a Chick-fil-A and reading Sheepdog Magazine Monthly when that event that he’s wargamed out in gun forum discussion boards for years finally happens! A bunch of guys yelling “Allahu akhbar!” come swarming out of the GAP, firing AK-47s from the hip and headed straight for the food court!

[…]

Using the tactics he learned at Rick Taylor‘s Advanced Tactical Combat Gunfighting Level II class, he assaults into the ambush…

…Only to be mowed down by the guys in blue who show up towards the tail end of the festivities.

I know tactical Tom is ready to engage any manner of hypothetical baddie and come out triumphantly. But he’s often spending too much time fantasizing about the hero’s treatment he plans to receive from the grateful sheeple he saved to consider that other sheepdogs were called to the scene and aren’t privy to the details of what transpired. All they know is that a bunch of people called and were in a panic because men with guns were shooting the area up. They are going in expecting to be shot at and aren’t going to spend a great deal of time on target identification. If they see somebody with a gun they’re likely going to assume that that person is a bad guy and take him down. So even if you managed to take down the entire Taliban you’re not home free.

Violent situations are usually clusterfucks and anybody who arrives after the situation is already underway won’t be able to make heads or tails of what is transpiring. That being the case it’s always best to be somewhere else. If bullets start flying around me I’m going to look for an escape. Only if one is unavailable* will I begrudgingly move to the second plan of utilizing my own capacity for violence. After all, bullets are hazardous to my health whether they’re being fired by terrorist gang bangers or guys with badges.

*Before some self-proclaimed guarding of the universe sheepdog comes in and makes a quip about my willingness to abandon somebody I love please note that availability relies on both existence and condition. If the escape exists and I can make use of it in a way that also saves my loved ones I consider it available. Otherwise I consider it unavailable.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 24th, 2014 at 10:30 am

Beretta Shows Us the Potential of True Smart Guns

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Smart gun is a dirty word in gun rights circles. This is because the term is used by gun control advocates in their crusade to restrict gun owners. But smart gun technology doesn’t have to be a dirty thing. There are a lot of neat features you could enable by including on-board electronics in firearms as Beretta is planning to show us with its new PX4i Storm series:

Beretta’s newest Law Enforcement pistol, unveiled at DSA ’14, is the Beretta PX4i Storm. This pistol is a standard PX4 Storm that been wired with electronic sensors which can track when rounds are fired, how many rounds are in the magazine, the status of the safety and even if a round is in the chamber or if the hammer is cocked.

[…]

If a police officer removes his PX4i from its holster the iProtect system could, for example, automatically notify the police dispatch as well as other officers nearby and route them to assist the officer in trouble. This can all be done without the officer having to make a radio call. It can even detect if an officer is injured or killed and issue an appropriate alert.

This is neat. I would love to have some of this technology in my competition pistol. Being able to automatically track the number of rounds fired would help me know when to replace wearable parts. It would also be interesting if the gun could record my draw time (which is possible since there is an accelerometer), the amount of time is takes me to go from drawing the pistol to firing the first round, and how long it takes me to perform a reload. If the technology was done correctly you could event eliminate the need for a shot timer in single-gun competitions by having the gun record the span of time between the first draw and the last round fired. Heck, if the guns were setup to communicate with one another you could even eliminate shot timers from multi-gun competitions.

Combining this technology with Bluetooth would open up a realm of possibilities. Imagine tying a firearm with something like Google Glass. At any time you could look up and know exactly how many rounds remain in your weapons magazine, whether or not a round is currently chambered, if there is a malfunction, how warm the barrel is (it would be helpful to receive an indicator if the barrel has reached a temperature where accuracy begins to deteriorate), how much charge remains in the optic’s battery, and so on.

I’m sure this technology will be pooh-poohed by a lot of gun owners. Many gun owners seem to dislike radical changes in firearm technology because they believe it will decrease reliability. But if there’s something electronic optics have taught us it’s that reliable electronics can be built and they can benefit our shooting. It won’t surprise me if the PXi4 has initial reliability issues but those issues will get resolved in time. Additionally there’s also the fact that electronics can be included in a firearm in such a way that an electronic failure won’t hamper the operation of the firearm itself, which I assume is how Beretta has designed the PXi4.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 24th, 2014 at 10:00 am

Incidents of Gun Crime Increase in Minneapolis

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After a nice stint of declining gun-related crimes Minneapolis suffered a notable increase last year:

Gun incidents rose 40 percent in Minneapolis last year, the first significant jump in years following a long-term downward trend in gun-related cases.

The gun incidents in the city report being released Wednesday include people being shot or shot at, reports of gunshot wounds or a gun used in a crime.

It wouldn’t surprise me if gun control advocates started blaming those of us who carry firearms for defensive purposes and the lack of gun control laws passing in St. Paul’s most notorious marble building. If that happens I will deservedly rip their claims apart. But the take away from this story, in my opinion, is that it’s still a good idea to carry a firearm.

I do hope that this is a statistical anomaly and the downward trend that was being enjoyed years prior picks up again.

Update: 2014-04-23: 16:50: As it turns out the initial calculations were in error:

A department spokesman said this afternoon that crime analysts discovered a flaw in the data and that new calculations found an 8 percent increase, not 40 percent, in gun incidents from 2012 to 2013.

So it doesn’t look like things are as bad as they first appeared. Granted, I still don’t like going to Minneapolis but that’s mostly because I hate trying to find parking.

I also want to thank Paul for forwarding me this information.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 23rd, 2014 at 11:00 am

NYPD Experiences the Internet

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The Internet, as we know it today, was created largely by people who weren’t fans of authority. This is rather evident when you look at the mostly decentralized nature of the system. In fact the very protocols that make the Internet work are proposed through Requests for Comment (RFC) and the only deciding factor for whether or not they achieve widespread adoption is peoples’ willingness to adopt them. So what happens when a very anti-authoritarian network meets a very authoritarian organization? Hilarity:

For another case study in the perils of using Twitter for branding, look no further than the #myNYPD hashtag that is now trending for all the wrong reasons in the New York City area.

What started out as an attempt to solicit pent-up good feelings among the New York Police Department’s constituents is turning out to be a troll-fest of epic proportions.

The New York Police Department (NYPD) wanted to use Twitter as its propaganda arm by having users post heartwarming pictures of its officers helping New Yorkers. What they got instead were pictures of brutality carried out by NYPD officers.

There is a lesson to be learned by the NYPD from this. The department’s image sucks and for good reason. Officers in the NYPD have a long history of committing acts of brutality and being generally corrupt. Thanks to readily available recording equipment, namely cell phones with cameras, the amount of evidence of the NYPD’s brutality is voluminous. What this means is that any attempt to solicit the help of the Internet, which is heavily composed of people who are not big fans of brutality, will end in disaster.

What the NYPD should do now is accept that its image sucks, understand why its image sucks, and work to improve its image but not doing horrible things. What will probably happen is the person who though up the #myNYPD idea will be fired and more traditional routes of distributing propaganda will be utilized.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 23rd, 2014 at 10:30 am

How Times Have Changed

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I’ve been on this planet for 31 years so it wasn’t that long ago that I escaped from high school. But in that short period of time things have certainly changed. Zero tolerance policies, which were just starting to be mentioned when I was finishing up my high school sentence, are now the norm and they are leading to increasingly idiotic outcomes. Alyssa Drescher is a high school student who brought a pocket knife to school. For her infraction she’s looking at expulsion for one year:

Seventeen-year-old Alyssa Drescher is facing expulsion after Wells police reportedly found a pocket knife in her purse during a random drug search Tuesday morning.

Her father, Rick Drescher, said he bought the knife for his daughter a few months earlier at Menard’s. The knife was in her purse after a day of cutting hay bales at her boyfriend’s home a few days prior, and Alyssa forgot to take it out, Rick said.

[…]

The father said school officials could have given her a three- to five-day suspension, and initially said they believed that she mistakenly brought the knife to school. Now, however, Jensen is seeking to expel her for 12 months at an expulsion hearing before the USC school board at 5:30 p.m. Thursday.

I took a lot of shop classes in high school. Like most other shops students I carried a pocket knife and used it every day. The only policy my school had about pocket knifes at that time, at least that I’m aware of, was that the blade had to be under a certain length. But even that rule wasn’t enforced, at least by the shop teachers. So long as you weren’t acting in a violent or irresponsible nature nobody really cared that you had a pocket knife as it was recognized as a legitimate tool.

Now pocket knifes are treated as weaponry and students who mistakenly bring them to school face increasingly severe punishments. It’s no stretch of the imagination to say that zero tolerance polices are ruining academic careers of students who have made absolutely trivial mistakes. In fact this is a reflection of our society in general. At one time a person who committed a crime and suffered his cage sentence was released with a relatively clean slate. Now anybody who has served time in a cage, regardless of how minor their infraction was, is dogged with that history for the remainder of their lives.

Our society is becoming one where mistakes are not forgiven. If you forget to remove a pocket knife from your purse you may forfeit the entire school year and be forced to redo it all over again. Smoking a little weed when you’re in college can lead to a cage sentence that will harm your chances of gaining employment after you finish college (if you’re even allowed to finish college). Nothing good can come from our increasingly intolerant society.

Update: 2014-04-27: 20:52: The school board unanimously voted to expel her:

WELLS — The United South Central school board voted unanimously Thursday to expel the 17-year-old girl who claims she mistakenly brought a pocket knife to school last week. The expulsion will last through the end of the school year.

Another academic career ruined by our retarded zero tolerance society.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 23rd, 2014 at 10:00 am

Moving Towards Electromagnetic Guns

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Firearms are considered a mature technology. The basic concept hasn’t changed in centuries. Since inception firearms have effectively been tubes designed to contain pressure and direct it out a specific direction. Inside the tube is a projectile placed in front of a chemical propellent and when the propellent is ignited it creates pressure that propels the projectile out of the tube. The need to contain and direct pressure is one of the limiting factors in firearm design.

3D printed firearms have become a buzzword as of late. While politicians and the media are making 3D printed firearms out to be the next destroyer of civilization the truth is there are currently severe limitations on what can be manufactured on an affordable printer. While this will improve over time I think it may be time to consider investing resources into improving electromagnetic guns.

The reason I say that is because electromagnetic guns don’t rely on high pressure to propel a projectile. Rail guns rely on closing a circuit between two rails with a conductive projectile, which creates Lorentz force to move the projectile. Coil guns rely on timing a series of electromagnets to pull a projectile down a barrel. Neither design involves high pressure created by burning chemical propellents. A rail gun will generate a great deal of heat as the projectile moving down the rails generates a lot of fiction. That leads me to believe a coil gun design would be a better option if one’s goal is to create a firearm that can mostly be manufactured on a 3D printer.

Obviously the electromagnets, capacitors, and other necessary electronics can’t be manufactured on an affordable 3D printer at this time. But those components are all readily available either online or an electronic hobbyist shops. And best of all buying the parts doesn’t announce to the world that you’re building a firearm or explosive (something that buying chemical propellents or components necessary to create chemical propellents can do).

There are major drawbacks to such a gun though. At this point in time traditional firearms are a known quantity. We know how to manufacture them in a way that is reliable. Coil gun designs are in their infancy and a lot of research and development would be necessary to make such weapons that could perform all of the duties of a traditional firearm can. Being able to accelerate a projectile to anywhere near the speeds of a traditional firearm isn’t easy and reliability will likely be an issue for some time. But coil guns may represent a weapon that is easier to manufacture in the home during this age where knowledge of electronics is becoming more common that knowledge of metalworking. Furthermore the components needed to build a coil gun are more difficult to control than components needed to build a traditional firearms (namely chemical propellants). In fact this is probably the most appealing aspect of electromagnetic weaponry, the components need to build a coil gun are also used in everything that our modern civilization relies on. Controlling such commonly available components is impossible (technically controlling anything is impossible but controlling commonly available components is orders of magnitude more difficult than controlling specialized components).

I think pursuing electromagnetic guns is something the gun rights movement should consider and maybe even invest resources into investigating.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 22nd, 2014 at 10:30 am

National Association for Gun Rights Leaking Personal Information

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The National Association for Gun Rights (NAGR) is an organization that I’ve heard nothing good about and that hasn’t changed with the most recent news I came across via Shall Not Be Questioned. It turns out that the NAGR has been leaking information submitted to their contact page:

On Friday evening we were contacted by Jeff Hulsey, a retired gunsmith from the Gulf Coast region of Texas. Jeff had a problem. Starting back in August of 2013 He began receiving emails at his personal email inbox, which is through the popular Gmail domain, that it did not appear were intended for him.

[…]

What concerns Jeff is the fact that even though he is trying to point out the fairly obvious error that they are making that they are leaking personal information to an unknown source. We asked Jeff if these emails were truly unsolicited. He replied, “Absolutely unsolicited. The only dealings I’ve ever had with the NAGR were to score a couple of stickers for the side of my toolbox. I’m not even a member.”

When asked if the rest of the emails looked like the email he provided to us he stated, “Yes. It’s random questions from people who visited their “Contact Us” page, then forwarded by someone within their organization for follow-up or review. Some of them contain some very specific personal information, like the USPS worker who details which facility he works at in pursuit of an answer to a legal question.”

If you’re advertising yourself as a gun rights organization you need to realize some accepted practices within the gun rights arena. What may be the most important practice is privacy. Gun ownership is under constant attack by politicians and gun control activists. Because of this gun owners tend to desire privacy. Unless you’re willing to respect the privacy of gun owners you’re unlikely to gain much ground as a gun rights organization. But what makes this apparent misconfiguration or mishandling worse is the NAGR’s response:

To Jeff, this looked like a simple mistake. It looked like someone had the wrong email address and was forwarding him email incorrectly. He tried to contact NAGR and got no response. He has since received about one email a month from them following the same pattern.

Misconfiguration an e-mail forwarder or mishandling data, although bad, are mistakes that any system administrator in a hurry can make. Failing to acknowledge and correct the problem after it has been pointed out is unacceptable.

Handling personal information isn’t trivial. There are a lot of mistakes that can lead such information be leaked to unauthorized individuals. We see this even with well reputed organizations such as Target. What I find most telling about an organization is how to respond to their mistakes. The lack of response from the NAGR shows me that the organization is either disorganized or unconcerned. If it’s too disorganized to fix a simple mistake how can it expect anybody to trust it with fighting for gun rights? Political fights require a great deal or organization. On the other hand the NAGR may be unconcerned about its users’ privacy. If that’s the case how can anybody trust the organization to be seriously concerned with gun rights?

I haven’t supported the NAGR because I’ve never heard anything positive about the organization. But news like this leaves me urging people not to support or interact with the organization. Any information you give the NAGR, including payment information for all we know, could end up in unauthorized hands.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 22nd, 2014 at 10:00 am