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Chris DeMuth Jr. is the founder of Rangeley Capital LLC. Rangeley is an investment firm that focuses on event driven, value-oriented investment opportunities. Rangeley Capital and his value investing forum, Sifting the World (StW), search the world for misplaced bets. Rangeley exploits them for... More
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  • Teaching Kid About Investing 35 comments
    May 21, 2014 11:24 AM

    Incentives - Not taught in school but kids can understand them

    Never, ever, think about something else when you should be thinking about the power of incentives.

    - Charlie Munger

    What do you want your kids to know that they don't get in school? My first answer would be "behavior" and not in the sense that my son's kindergarten teacher uses, but in the sense of understanding the basics of human behavior generally and incentives in particular. This topic has big ramifications on investing, politics, and life generally.

    529 - Tax-efficient savings that can offer a challenge to your kids

    As I described in an earlier post, I would recommend placing up to $370k in Nevada's 529 program for various tax reasons. I made the additional commitment to my son to give him half of any money that I save due to any merit-based academic or other scholarships that he is able to secure.

    Education - Warren Buffett (NYSE:BRK.A) is a great place to start

    We started by watching Warren Buffett's "Secret Millionaire's Club" together. It was a great place to start in terms of ideas on investing and manageable businesses for kids. This was a good fit for 2- and 4-year olds, but has ideas that are still appropriate at 6.

    Odd Lots - Throw around your (lack of) weight

    We really try to focus on how small scale can be an edge. The two best tactics so far have been in odd lot opportunities and in mutual's deposits. Thus far, these have proved to be lucrative - great risk:rewards and limited downside but not scalable. For <$100k kids' accounts, they can be among the best opportunities. But the question of how to make $10k out of $5k is very different than making $1 bil out of $500 mil so you might as well take advantage of all of the quirky opportunities strewn around the capital markets.

    Press - What is describing/causing euphoria or fear?

    We selectively read the Journal together. We generally focus on the questions of

    What is overrated? and

    What is underrated?

    We come up with a list of companies and tickers so that we can follow our ideas and track their performance. If it matters to you, then measure it.

    Casinos - A perfect laboratory for learning about (mis)judgment

    Once a kid gets the basics of behavior, incentives, and misjudgment, then casinos can be a great place to learn. They restrict kids' access, but you can still make it to the periphery of the floor. Take your kids someplace with other activities, such as Tahoe, but let them see a casino up close or at least as close as they are allowed to get.

    • How are customers being manipulated?
    • Who is being tricked?
    • What senses are they using?
    • What emotions are being triggered?
    • Who is making good decisions?
    • Who is making bad decisions?

    When my son was four, he came up with many more answers than I thought of. This is part of his armor that he is building up because it is harder to manipulate someone when they understand how manipulation works. Since Casinos are masterful at these tricks, there are many to discover.

    Audacity - Rely only on primary sources

    Anyone can ask but only some bother.

    Many primary school teachers seem to be truly lovely people who are great at teaching my kids reading, writing, and arithmetic, but schools are not necessary (or even helpful) when it comes to teaching boldness. One activity that I've added to my kids' curriculum is this - when they read a book or play a game that we like, they sit down and write the author or designer a letter with our views and a few questions. So far, everyone writes back and it is fun to get responses from people they respect. I want them to get into the habit of getting in front of the people that matter in their respective fields. For example, this morning, we were talking about Minecraft, so my son sat down and dashed off a note to its creator complimenting the game, asking a series of questions, and indicating that he would be interested in investing if the designer ever is looking for capital (I happen to know that it is a private company and the designer doesn't need capital, but the point is to rely only on primary sources; if I told my son the "right" answer, I hope that he would ignore it and get it from the computer programmer directly).

    Lion Investments - Disclosure: Portfolio Manager Just Turned 6

    Today my son launched Lion Investments. The PM will devote some of his energy to this endeavor, but he unavoidably splits his time between investing, baseball, and kindergarten. He learned what he could from Warren Buffett and Bill Ackman. He also learned about some of the great American businessmen from the nineteenth and twentieth century - men such as Ford, Rockefeller, Carnegie, Morgan, and Vanderbilt. These men are typically ignored or vilified. Instead, we ask the question, "what can we learn and what is worth celebrating and emulating?" The answer, of course, is "not everything", but there still is much to learn. Having the right heroes can make a big difference.

    He found eleven companies that interested him. One is reasonably likely to fail, but it could be an interesting lesson. The portfolio is a bit heavy on toy-related names, but each had a thesis, some research, a plan to follow up, and a view of how they might be mispriced. Some are beaten down which brought up the idea of mean reversion, which is a pretty intuitive concept for kids. You can follow his picks here, if you are interested. Finally, if you want to set up a similar account for your kids and you accept this invitation, both my kid and yours will get $100 added to their accounts. That plus the 0.2% that Lion Investments is up on its first day as of this writing would not be a bad way to start.

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  • sheldond
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    Comments (1457) | Send Message
    Really Great stuff Chris.


    Thanks for sharing. I think my kids will enjoy some of that.


    21 May 2014, 11:33 AM Reply Like
  • nclsamy
    , contributor
    Comments (123) | Send Message
    Good read! Thank you!
    21 May 2014, 12:30 PM Reply Like
  • earljr1
    , contributor
    Comments (537) | Send Message
    Where are you finding odd lots? Are you doing any currently?


    And that kid is probably way too smart to be in kindergarten. Why not homeschool him since you really are anyway?
    21 May 2014, 02:39 PM Reply Like
  • Chris DeMuth Jr.
    , contributor
    Comments (11457) | Send Message
    Author’s reply » I have stopped writing about odd lots on Seeking Alpha because several of my friends who share this tactic reacted badly, thinking that the larger audience could hurt the trade. There is some evidence that they were correct and in any event I didn't care to argue. But I discussed several in the past before knocking it off:


    Stuck Between A Rock And A Hard Place? Not With DGT Holdings


    I Got 99 Problems But A Proration Ain't One: Exploiting A Loophole In The PPG-GGC Exchange Offer For Fun And Profit


    I Got 99 Problems But A Proration Ain't One, Part II: IFN


    I Got 99 Problems But A Proration Ain't One, Part III: GRR


    Here is one of my comments on the first of these articles:


    In my judgment and experience, you are right that this is fairly low risk and that the major issue is liquidity. I hope that it works out for you. I am obsessive about safety, but won’t lose any sleep over the precise rate of return as long as it is within a reasonably attractive range. Sometimes one will make a little money and sometimes one will make a lot; I don’t worry too much about that.


    In this case, the topic at hand is paying a market price that is a discount to liquidation value. Whether one chooses to size this exposure in order to receive a cash premium or one sizes this to hold onto the equity, it is unlikely that you are overpaying. To me, risk is always and everywhere a function of price. As long as I underpay, I am safe even when it is not exactly certain how it will unfold.


    The effective dates will be announced when the SEC approves the proxy language. On Friday December 14, 2012, DGTC filed their preliminary proxy statement (PRE 14A). The SEC will review the language, might issue some comments, and will eventually approve the filing. At that point, DGTC will file their definitive proxy statement (DEF 14A).


    If you want to follow along their progress, you can set up an e-mail alert for DEF 14As. If you want to follow in greater detail, you can also read successive PRE 14As between now and then, which will show you what progress is being made towards the final DEF 14A. Once I have two preliminary proxies, I use the Microsoft Word ability to lay the two documents over one another to highlight difference, so that I can ignore uncontroversial boilerplate and instead focus on the language that is at issue between the SEC and company. Also, dates will begin to solidify as the process unfolds.


    Yes, you probably could buy the odd lot, get taken out, and buy back shares. Since the odd lot holders are getting bought out at a discount to liquidation value, it will be accretive to the NAV of remaining holders, to the valuation range will actually improve somewhat upon completion of this process.


    Let me just mention one other strategy to consider. If you are married, have children, or other entities that you invest for such as a foundation, you could buy 4,999 in one and 5,000 in another in separate brokerage accounts. Here is an example of what you can do. Last year, my favorite odd lot opportunity was Norilsk Nickel Investments offered $30.60 per NILSY ADS in odd lots of 1,000 or fewer shares. This opportunity took less than a month to exploit and the spread was over $10. While the profit opportunity was capped at slightly over $10,000 per account, it was a terrific risk:reward and a substantial return.


    To scale this opportunity, the best tactic was to participate across accounts. In my experience, in addition to your own account, a family of four can set up accounts in at least twenty-five separate entities between individual accounts, trusts, and so forth. In this case, such a strategy raised one’s upside from about $10k to over $250k. Happily, the process was smooth and quick and Norilsk Nickel paid as per their offer.


    What if you have children or entities without the requisite capital to execute this investment, which in this case demanded $20k each? One solution is to have separate accounts set up for each and to lend them the money at the AFR ( ). That rate is currently 0.24%. At the time it was 0.16%. So, the math works like this: for each of twenty-five entities loan $20k, charge $32 in interest, invest $20k, collect $30,600 in cash from Norilsk, have the debtor pay off the $20,032 loan with the proceeds. They keep the $10,568 profit. You gain $800 in interest in addition to the $10,600 in your own account for a gain of $11,400 and various beneficiaries and related parties within your group gain an additional $264,200. Total original invested capital was $520,000. Total time elapsed was one month. Total profit was $275,600.
    21 May 2014, 02:46 PM Reply Like
  • Chris DeMuth Jr.
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    Author’s reply » Here is another:


    Turn Steel Into Gold With ALJ Regional Holdings


    From my comments on this article:


    "ALJ Regional Holdings, Inc. (OTCPK:ALJJ) successfully sold KES Acquisition Company, a steel mini-mill that recycles steel from scrap and produces bar flats at a low production cost. They have now sold their one and only operating business.


    For each 10,000 shares that one bought in the open market at $0.74 per share, the total cost would have been $7,400.


    If they were tendered, 9,080 shares which were purchased for $6,719.20 would have been repurchased by the company for $0.84 per share, for a total of $7,627.20. There would be a $908.00 gain realized gain thus far. The remaining 920 shares last traded at a price of $0.75 for a total market price of $690.


    What was accomplished here? The net investment was a purchase of 920 shares at a net price of -$0.25.


    Management is terrific. Opportunities abound. They will likely do something significant with ALJJ that makes it worth much more than the $0.84 that they paid. But, that is all upside."


    The shares last traded at a price of $2.61.


    As for school, my current plan is to use our local school, which we like, and to home school as a supplement instead of replacement. Happily our schedules allow us to make that work. My curriculum is heavier on Munger, memory training, game theory, and a bit of preparedness (more on that last topic here:
    21 May 2014, 03:03 PM Reply Like
  • earljr1
    , contributor
    Comments (537) | Send Message
    These kinds of ideas are my favorites of your writing. If you are not going to write about odd lots any more, can you give me any tips on how to find them? It seems like the good ones are fairly rare, maybe once or twice per year.
    21 May 2014, 06:11 PM Reply Like
  • bazooooka
    , contributor
    Comments (3689) | Send Message
    ""If you want to follow along their progress, you can set up an e-mail alert for DEF 14As.""
    22 May 2014, 03:22 AM Reply Like
  • earljr1
    , contributor
    Comments (537) | Send Message
    I assumed he meant to watch the DEF 14a's after you have identified a possible target. Reading every DEF out there would be impractical for one person I would think. There must be a community somewhere, or some newsletters that help filter out the best opportunities?
    22 May 2014, 09:27 AM Reply Like
  • earljr1
    , contributor
    Comments (537) | Send Message
    Okay, I'm starting to find some sources. I can understand why nobody is in a hurry to post this stuff.
    22 May 2014, 12:34 PM Reply Like
  • Chris DeMuth Jr.
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    Comments (11457) | Send Message
    Author’s reply » I find myself doing something around once a month or so. Here is one:
    23 May 2014, 11:37 AM Reply Like
  • earljr1
    , contributor
    Comments (537) | Send Message
    Thanks. I will check it out.
    24 May 2014, 03:36 PM Reply Like
  • psychological-dividends
    , contributor
    Comments (820) | Send Message
    Great stuff, I'll use it as a blueprint for when I have kids. I'm in my 20s and am not yet prepared for fatherhood.


    Another useful thing may be to think of great businesses as compounding machines that spit out a sequence of non-zero, high numbers: 6, 9, 11, 21, 38, 4, etc. I'm going to teach my kids that mental idea as well.
    21 May 2014, 09:05 PM Reply Like
  • connellybarnes
    , contributor
    Comments (556) | Send Message
    Nice article on teaching your kids investing!


    I don't have kids. But if I did I would want to teach to understand the world as it exists according to science and empiricism, as opposed to peoples' opinions.


    I don't see investing as particularly important. Well, turning money into more money is much better than the alternative. But probably the only reason I bother with it is I dislike irrationality.


    At some fundamental level I dislike phenomena like religions, political intrigues, mistaken wars carried out by the military, psychological errors in large corporations (sunk cost fallacy), optical illusions, gambling, sitting in the front seats of aircraft (they are riskier), aggressive driving, and prices that have incorrect probabilities. They all bother me in the same way of being psychological delusions or not being optimal.
    21 May 2014, 10:12 PM Reply Like
  • connellybarnes
    , contributor
    Comments (556) | Send Message
    Actually a few of these, like gambling with an edge or religions that are consistent with empirical evidence, I don't mind.


    The casino exercise sounds really cool. I've never been in one. Although I did once bet a dollar on a slot machine in a Vegas airport to try and understand the psychological appeal of it. It just took my dollar so I was unhappy and won't be a repeat customer.
    22 May 2014, 03:53 AM Reply Like
  • Biological
    , contributor
    Comments (1918) | Send Message
    I respectfully suggest two books to challenge your perceptions: and
    22 May 2014, 09:58 AM Reply Like
  • connellybarnes
    , contributor
    Comments (556) | Send Message
    As I said I don't mind religions that are consistent with empirical, scientific evidence.


    My main objection to religions that disagree with science is that (1) I believe there is a chance that some vastly intelligent entity could have created the laws of physics, or else the laws of physics could have occurred randomly through a stochastic process. (2) Suppose these laws were created by an intelligent computational process or God. (3) Then we observe a Universe that is lifeless at all presently observable points except our own Earth, and we see no supernatural phenomena that would lead us to believe that such a God is that focused on intelligent life. (4) As a consequence, one might surmise that such a God might care quite a bit about mathematics or physics. If I were such a God, and discovered the vast majority of sentient life in the Universe consists of "faithful" people who hold incorrect opinions about the operations and natural laws of the Universe, I might just scrap the whole thing and start over.


    So basically I wouldn't want to hold an opinion that could be incredibly offensive to any being that could have created the laws of physics.


    In my fairly constant reading of science, I've found no evidence that there are any sort of supernatural processes after the existence of the laws of physics were established. For example, Mohammad hearing the voice of Allah, Joseph Smith receiving plates from the angel Moroni, Baha'u'llah receiving revelations, various religions which teach of afterlives (which would require extremely novel physics and neuroscience), or even nontheistic belief systems like Buddhism which posit past lives.


    It's not that these phenomena are impossible. It's just that when I try to dispassionately study the best scientific work that pertains to these belief systems, the science is generally solid and in good agreement, and the belief systems are focused around gurus dealing with different problems in different eras, and beget whole sciences of their own, such as historical analysis of religious documents. When I say dispassionately I mean, sure from a self-interested perspective, it would be swell to have an afterlife with 72 virgins, but realistically, a lot of top physicists and neuroscientists would argue otherwise. And Occam's razor would certainly favor the solid empirical work by scientists from many different cultures who come to similar conclusions, over religious gurus who come to various conclusions.


    I'm happy to read any top scientists on religion as long as they are being rigorous and aren't going off the deep end like Roger Penrose with his Orch-Or theory. But generally speaking I'm not interested in reading books by people who don't have strong backgrounds in empiricism or science, because I find they are usually engaged in rhetorical exercises without having a strong understanding of how to measure and validate facts about existence. For example while I did appreciate C.S. Lewis' The Abolition of Man as an anthropological study of religions, I wouldn't say he was really an expert on what exists in our Universe and what properties it has. As another example simply Googling the names of the authors of the books you linked shows they don't have any strong background in empirical science and instead their careers consist of proselytizing religion or working for Intelligent Design organizations.


    On the positive side religions do have some good ethical codes and often encourage provisioning for the public good (e.g. "It is easier to pass a camel through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." - Jesus, that prophet who repeatedly inveighed against worldly wealth). But those are rules for orderly societies. They are not about empirically testing hypotheses about the behavior of space, time, and information processors like brains and computers.


    Also please don't take this as an offense, this is just the lens that I view everything through...
    23 May 2014, 11:29 AM Reply Like
  • Biological
    , contributor
    Comments (1918) | Send Message
    Thank you; absolutely no offense taken. On the contrary, I much appreciated learning of your point of view/lens. You are the kind of individual, intellectually attuned and generous, that one wishes to find from time to time.


    My book recommendations were not scientific at all; they were meant as philosophical refutations of materialism, in the first case, and atheism, in the second in case you subscribed to either view. The authors are not scientists but their arguments, refutations, are valid.


    Forgetting about religions, we do seem to agree that it is at least as plausible (as not) that "something" created the empirical laws that you rightly hold in awe (nature is profoundly awesome in every respect, as Chris' recent Fermi post so aptly illustrates - cosmology, genome, proteins, small scale physics, etc. and other never ending awesomeness); that "something" is sometimes mentioned even in the scientific press (the "God" particle, is an example) and science does seem to point to/posits a singularity at the beginning of the universe. You may be half-way to accepting a theistic view of things, depending on what you call that "something." (Unappealing) arguments have been made for self-creation of the universe and life (i.e., the argument that nothing created us) but I believe you are not making such an argument.


    Further, I believe that, should that "something" have created the laws you see, your fear of upsetting that "something" by accepting the possibility of that very "something" having created the laws is unwarranted because the laws would be of course supernatural. I believe that "something" would otherwise be as upset or more so ("How dare you, intelligent humans, ascribe my creation to itself, not me!" - and I am not implying that "something" is in any way capricious)! Be that as it may, empiricism and observation cannot, I think, prove things either way (that that "something" exists or not).


    Thus, we find ourselves in a conundrum and needing to look to philosophy, theology and/or faith, for a plausible explanations as to why life exists and what is its purpose. On that question, we are on our own as are/will be our kids. The closest I have come to a philosophical proof (i.e., via sound arguments of logic) of that "something" is Thomas Aquinas (3rd Article, Question II, Part One of Summa Theologica). In that case, that "something" is God..., a God that, neatly, would essentially apply to any of the monotheistic religions (or, at least, Christianity, Judaism and Islam). The question of which religion is appropriate is a question of personal revelation, history (i.e., heresies), culture, etc. and we need not, of course, argue one way or another.


    My views on science and religion are as follows and this is an exact quote from the Catechism of the Catholic Church: "Though faith is above reason, there can never be any real discrepancy between faith and reason. Since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever contradict truth. (para. 159)"


    Sometimes people believe the Catholic Church is against science because the Church supports science that is undertaken in a "truly scientific manner [i.e., no quackery] and does not override moral laws [i.e., respect for life, etc.]" (quote from same source).
    To today, I have had no reason to discard this "lens."


    In fact, as one ages, one becomes increasingly certain that God does exists, that he knows you and is infinitively good, and not a trickster. That view I will pass to my children, a view that is not anti-science but respectful of it, in fact.
    23 May 2014, 08:31 PM Reply Like
  • Biological
    , contributor
    Comments (1918) | Send Message
    Suggesting Buffet to children is simply not appropriate:
    22 May 2014, 10:00 AM Reply Like
  • Biological
    , contributor
    Comments (1918) | Send Message
    Sorry, wrong link. Here is the correct one:
    22 May 2014, 10:08 AM Reply Like
  • Meatball Bob
    , contributor
    Comments (66) | Send Message
    Biological, you may want to Google Warren Buffett's Secret Millionaires Club...
    22 May 2014, 11:07 AM Reply Like
  • Biological
    , contributor
    Comments (1918) | Send Message
    Tks. Good site. Point is choice of giving (his to make) USD1.2 billion for abortion. The wholesale underwriting of this procedure merits some attention and reflection.
    23 May 2014, 04:35 AM Reply Like
  • Biological
    , contributor
    Comments (1918) | Send Message
    He seems to be an eugenicist, as was John D. Rockefeller in his day. A great read:
    22 May 2014, 10:03 AM Reply Like
  • Saud al-Khalid
    , contributor
    Comments (15) | Send Message
    Great ideas, Chris. I especially like the trip to the casino. Introducing him to what goes on there in a fun way may avoid the kind of cynicism that often comes from discovering these things later in life.
    22 May 2014, 11:16 AM Reply Like
  • Chris DeMuth Jr.
    , contributor
    Comments (11457) | Send Message
    Author’s reply » Yes, we try to have a mirthful outlook towards manipulation: "Isn't it funny that they trick you into making bad decisions by noise, light, and silly tricks? Of course that is what the world will do. Yes, there are traps. Now, what are you going to do about it?" It is a game and one that children can learn to win -- think for yourself, think clearly, and don't lose focus even when there are plenty of incentives for others to distract you.
    22 May 2014, 11:28 AM Reply Like
  • kadison
    , contributor
    Comments (327) | Send Message
    I wonder how you would do once your little one is at school learning about history/politics etc. Not easy, when you would need to explain that the teacher is not always right. I like what you said: "This for yourself"
    23 May 2014, 03:12 AM Reply Like
  • jaginger
    , contributor
    Comments (816) | Send Message
    "the teacher is not always right" is something I learned pretty early on. It's something I want to be sure my kids are aware of, too. Kids tend to believe just about everything they hear from adults (at least at certain ages.) Teaching them filtering techniques and critical thinking is of great importance.


    Here's one way we are doing it:
    27 May 2014, 09:02 AM Reply Like
  • Squeeky Wheel
    , contributor
    Comments (350) | Send Message
    Interesting point. I recall knowing that teachers are not always right by first grade, but don't recall ever learning it; I think I was sufficiently objective to spot errors. On the other hand, teachers are *usually* right, so it's important to teach a respect for the opportunity to learn along with critical thinking regarding human fallibility.
    25 Jun 2014, 11:13 AM Reply Like
  • Chris DeMuth Jr.
    , contributor
    Comments (11457) | Send Message
    Author’s reply » Exactly. That is the balance. Even relatively dumb 20-something teachers have a lot to teach relatively smart 6-year old kids.
    25 Jun 2014, 11:20 AM Reply Like
  • Mathieu Malecot
    , contributor
    Comments (1290) | Send Message
    when i started saving for my nieces and nephews i wrote the following. more about ow to turn toy hungry kids into toy store owners, but i feel it fits the theme here:
    26 May 2014, 02:01 PM Reply Like
  • Chris DeMuth Jr.
    , contributor
    Comments (11457) | Send Message
    Author’s reply » Update: Lion Investments is now followed by four people, it received its first investment today, and is up 1.2% since the launch, ahead of both the S&P 500 and Rangeley Capital over that period.
    27 May 2014, 08:44 AM Reply Like
  • Chris DeMuth Jr.
    , contributor
    Comments (11457) | Send Message
    Author’s reply » Lion Investments just pulled ahead of the S&P 500 for the first time this month:



    May it never look back. With a six year old portfolio manager, my hope is that this will offer many decades of compounding. It is up over 4% since it launched in late May. I am grateful for the six people who have chosen to follow it and the two brave souls who have chosen to invest. This portfolio manager will do whatever it takes to make Lion Investments outperform – subject to working outside the hours of kindergarten, baseball practice, and early bedtimes.
    6 Jun 2014, 11:48 AM Reply Like
  • OnlineStockTrading
    , contributor
    Comments (137) | Send Message
    Awesome post great article. I like it very much. But stock market and investing is not that kind of things which we can teach anyone theoretically. If anyone wants to learn about investing, then he or she need to become an investor then only they can learn about this market.


    Here i have found 10 Most Interesting Facts About Stock Market
    7 Jun 2014, 02:09 AM Reply Like
  • Lil' Oaty
    , contributor
    Comments (16) | Send Message
    Hey Chris,
    I currently track SC TO-C filings and SC TO-I filings from edgar to attempt to track odd lot opportunities. Do you use any other techniques to find them? (If you/your friends don't mind sharing)
    25 Jun 2014, 12:07 PM Reply Like
  • Chris DeMuth Jr.
    , contributor
    Comments (11457) | Send Message
    Author’s reply » Google Alerts with various combinations of phrases common to their press releases might help too.
    25 Jun 2014, 12:25 PM Reply Like
  • Biological
    , contributor
    Comments (1918) | Send Message
    Maybe, we should start here (with a totally politically incorrect series [shhh, they mention "God")):



    This, and then this:



    Enjoy the weekend.
    28 Jun 2014, 07:32 AM Reply Like
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