Tag Archive: personal

March 14 2016

How I lost over 110lbs (short answer: surgery)

This is about to get very autobiographical. Even people who’ve known me for decades will probably learn a lot about me from this.

Many people who’ve seen me lately have probably noticed that I’ve lost some weight. However, due to my frame (I’m built like a linebacker) and some other factors, they may not realize how much weight I’ve lost.

As of this writing (March 13, 2016), I’m down 116lbs from my maximum of 403lbs, “achieved” on May 3, 2015. The last time I weighed 287lbs was when I was 17. The time between then and now saw me gradually gaining weight, followed by extremely rapid loss during the past 5 months due to gastric bypass surgery on Oct. 20, 2015.

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July 15 2011

Sooooo…capital punishment…

I’m sure this one won’t be controversial at all.

We’re reading The Last Day of a Condemned Man, by Victor Hugo, for my monthly book club. It’s the journal of a man in 1820s France who has been sentenced to execution. Needless to say, we will be talking at great length about capital punishment at our next book club meeting, because this book is very much against it. I suggested that everyone in the club write down what their current opinions on capital punishment are, to see if/how they change after reading the book. I’ll probably be the only one to actually do that.

I know this is a rather volatile topic, so only read on if you’re open to considering opinions that may be different from your own. And that’s really all this is – opinion – and I’ll try to avoid using any biased information. As always, if you disagree, please let me know – nicely.

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June 13 2011

A day at the (woodtick) races

I was up in Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area in Minnesota’s Iron Range last weekend, on a yearly camping trip with several friends: Ty, Garret, Kevin, Maggie, Val, Dan, and and Dan’s almost-one-year-old daughter Sammy. Kev and Mags noticed the local newspaper at a gas station, and had to buy one when they saw the front page. Above stories about and a mountain bike festival and an especially friendly grouse, the main headline was about the annual Woodtick Race, which has been going for 32 years as a fundraiser for the local fire department.

Well, we had to go.

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April 27 2010

Some old crap, for your amusement

I just imported some of my blog posts from my old blog, “Bevans Rants”. It was mostly just a bunch of opinions I thought were clever at the time, graphic design projects I thought were good at the time, and observations I thought were insightful at the time. In other words, not much different from Dubiosity.

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June 8 2009

Damn you, Twitter!

I’m a Twitter-hater. I admit it.

I just haven’t been able to figure out why Twitter is so popular, or what use it is to anyone who doesn’t already have e-mail, text messaging, Facebook, RSS newsfeeds, blogs, and message boards. I’ve read about it plenty, I’ve heard people gushing about how great it is, and in the past month or two, I’ve noticed that nearly every person on the internet whose opinions I care about (podcasters, bloggers, reporters) has been pimping friggin’ Twitter. Gah.

So, I give up. I’m tired of fighting it. I’ll give this fad a try. I thought the blogosphere was stupid (even though I’ve been blogging since before the term “blog” existed”) and it obviously grew on me – I now have 4 blogs and have set up numerous others for other people. I thought text messaging was stupid, but I’ve found that it’s often quite useful. I thought podcasting was absurd, and now I’m subscribed to like 30 podcasts. I thought MySpace was for teenagers starving for attention, and I was right. But, I thought similar things about Facebook, and now it’s the site i use the most. E-mail was something I grew up with, so no problem there.

So maybe I’ll be wrong about Twitter. I’m willing to find out.

If you want to follow me on the goddamn Twitter, I’m @dubiosity. I think that’s how it’s written. I also added a box on the right.

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February 4 2009

25 things about me

Some of my friends on Facebook have been passing around this “25 things about me” thing. Basically, people write 25 things about them and post it on Facebook. Jeez, I didn’t even have to write that second sentence, did I?

I’m just going to share what I wrote here, because I took longer than I should have in writing it. And why the hell not?

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January 24 2009

Meeting Dan Barker

DSC00842My signed copy of Dan Barker’s book “Godless”. Yes, my real name is Bryan (for those of you who don’t know). 

Last Sunday, I went to a Minnesota Atheists meeting, where Dan Barker (Co-President of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, author of the book “Godless”, and former evangelist) was giving a talk.

But before I talk about that, I want to talk about why that’s such a big deal for me.

One of my deepest, darkest secrets (besides being an atheist) is that I’ve been struggling with social anxiety disorder for the past several years, probably longer. It’s not something that I ever talk about, and only a handful of people even know that it’s a problem for me. Most people just think I’m shy and awkward, which of course is also true.

This problem is something I’ve wanted to write about on this blog for a long time, but it’s been very difficult for me (and you’ll find out exactly why if you continue reading). In fact, one of the big reasons why I started this blog was to help me work through my own “issues”. Staying silent hasn’t worked for me, so maybe getting things out in the open will.

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September 25 2008

I need Halloween costume ideas

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Halloween is about a month away, and I need a good idea for a costume.

Last year, I went as a Bridge Inspector. I actually won the "best costume" award at the Halloween party, but I only won for the idea, because my costume was pretty lousy. I wore what I was wearing that day, but mis-buttoned my shirt. Then I put a hard hat on, backwards. Then I made a nametag labelled "Brige Inspectar" and wore it upside-down. And I went out and spent a whopping $1.49 on a clipboard. Yes, it was a VERY distasteful costume. My aunt actually gave me the idea.

The year before, I went as a birdwatcher. I wore what I was wearing that day, put on a straw hat and binoculars, and that was it. I wore them for about half an hour before I got tired of them and put them away.

The two or three years before THAT, I didn’t have a costume at all. And before that, I went as "Darth Maui", which was just a hawaiian shirt (which I happened to be wearing that day…noticing a pattern?) and a toy lightsaber.

So yea. I need something better.

Some restrictions:

  1. Has to be cheap. Preferably free.
  2. Has to work with my goatee. I’m not shaving.
  3. No makeup. No makeup. No makeup.
  4. I’m a tall/large person. I don’t think I need to say more.

Ok people, think for me. Find me a costume idea!

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September 14 2008

To the library!

centralThis doesn’t even LOOK like Minnesota…

I used to buy a lot of books, which I’d almost always read just once and then put on my shelf. Having a full bookcase makes me feel smart, even if most of them say “Star Wars” on the spine. However, when I went broke, I realized how much of a waste it was to buy books, and eventually remembered that I could always go to the local library for most of the books I want, like I did when I was a kid.

My local library system (the Ramsey County Public Library) has a pretty good selection (including comics, to my surprise) but their collection of atheist and religion-critical books is unfortunately limited to the big names (Dawkins, Dennet, Hitchens, etc.) and they don’t have any of the interesting-sounding books I’ve heard about on Point of Inquiry. (Seems like I add a new book to my “To Read” list every time I listen to a new episode.) For a while, I thought I’d have to buy the books if I wanted to read them (or even download them on the internet) but then I decided to think bigger. There’s a bigger library!

 

So today, I wandered out into the rain, drove into downtown St. Paul, and eventually stumbled, dripping, into the Central Library for the first time, about 20 minutes before they closed. An employee set up my Ramsey County library card to work with their system (awesome, I don’t have to carry around another card in my wallet) and I immediately came to the Non-Fiction section, where I picked up 50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God by Guy P. Harrison, and Irreligion by John Allen Paulos. I was looking for something by Robert M. Price, but I didn’t find any in the limited time I had.

The Central Library is amazing. It’s one of those huge, old stone buildings with thick walls and dark wooden shelves. There are pillars and arches, and elaborately decorated ceilings. It feels like the kind of library you only see in movies, and except for the computers and barcodes and handicap accessibility, it doesn’t look like it has changed at all since it was opened, in 1917. I only got to see a small part of it because I got there as they were closing, but next time I’ll be sure to give myself lots of time to gawk.

The history of the library is also pretty interesting, and includes some pretty familiar names in Minnesota history – people who now have counties named after them. It was surprising and sad to hear that the previous St. Paul Public Library burned to the ground, taking 158,000 books with it.

Anyway, I’ll definitely be spending more time at that library in the future. I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to check it out.

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September 7 2008

Searching for Douglas

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Lately I’ve been taking walks at the local nature center. It’s free, it’s within walking distance (I still drive though), there are very few people (and usually none on the unpaved trails), and it’s so nice and peaceful that I can sometimes even stop being a nervous wreck.

I carry my MP3 player (the classic iRiver H120) so I can listen to audiobooks and podcasts as I walk, and I’ve recently been listening to The God Delusion. There was a part where Dawkins mentioned an interview with Douglas Adams, where Adams explained why he called himself a “radical atheist” and mentioned that part of the reason why he became an atheist in the first place was that he read two of Dawkins’ books.

Dawkins also mentioned that this interview was reprinted in The Salmon of Doubt, a collection of Adams’ miscellaneous magazine articles, interviews, and even the first couple chapters of his last, unfinished book. That got me thinking. I’d purchased Salmon of Doubt back when it first came out in 2002, and at the time I probably read the interview without thinking about it much (I was still a semi-believer). I suddenly had an urge to dig it out and read it again.

Since I moved out for college, all of my books have been stored in large Rubbermaid containers. I’ve got at least 4 of them, and they’re all full of books, textbooks, and comics. They’re all in my garage right now (I’m leaving them in the boxes until I move again) and they’re all stacked underneath other huge boxes full of other stuff. But I really wanted to find that book, so I went digging.

Well, after going through all those books, I didn’t find it. I’ve got several boxes filled with miscellaneous crap, but I didn’t feel like going through all those. I did find my copy of Last Chance To See, which I’m going to start reading instead.

But…I really wanted to read that interview. So I looked it up on Amazon, and thanks to the “Look Inside” feature, was able to read the first couple pages, and I eventually found my way to the interview’s source publication’s web site, American Atheist magazine. They still have the text of the interview online, even after all this time. (They mention that Disney and Jay Roach are working on the HHGTTG movie, with the goal of having it out in 2000.)

I read all of Douglas Adams’ books in high school. At the time, I just thought he was a clever and funny writer, and his books were some of my favorites. (And actually, most of the books I read in high school are still some of my favorites.) But as I get older, his books mean a lot more to me, and the fact that he was an atheist makes them even more relevant to me now. I go back and read them, and I see a lot of stuff that I missed back in high school; lots of witty criticisms and commentaries on topics I knew little about back then.

I read my 812-page copy of the Hitchhiker’s Trilogy once every couple years, but I haven’t gone back to read any of his other books since high school. It’s actually been over a decade since I read the Dirk Gently books or Last Chance to See! I’m sure they’ll seem almost new to me next time.

(I was going to write about the time I actually got to meet Douglas, but it’s getting late and this post is getting long, and it’ll make a pretty good post on its own at a later date.)

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August 31 2008

Bevans the Atheist – Why I don’t believe in Christianity

Series: Bevans The Atheist

  1. Introduction
  2. Why I don’t believe in Religion
  3. Why I don’t believe in Christianity
  4. Why I don’t believe in God (coming soon)

NOTE: I’m currently re-writing this post. I don’t think I’ve adequately explained my true feelings on this matter.

If you read my previous posts in this series, you may have noticed that I’m basically explaining my belief system backwards, because I feel like that’s the best way to explain it. Or maybe I’m saving the really good stuff for the end. The root question of religion is whether or not there is a god/gods, and that will be covered in my next post in this series. Then there’s the “what’s he like” question, which is covered by specific religions, which I’ll be addressing in this post. Then there’s the “how do we know that X religion is right” question, which I at least partially addressed in my previous post in this series. That’s kinda confusing, isn’t it? Oh well. On with the show.

This is probably going to make a lot of people very angry.

People who accept some form of Christianity believe certain things that set it apart from other religions. Some of the most important are:

  1. God created the universe.
  2. Jesus is the son of God (or he is God…or something).
  3. Jesus is the savior of mankind.
  4. Jesus died to redeem our sins.
  5. Jesus came back from the dead.
  6. Jesus is coming back someday, and he’s totally gonna fuck us up.
  7. The Bible is friggin’ awesome.

I’m going to save #1 for my next post, because it’s a big’un.

Let’s start with #7. Christians believe many things about the Bible, like:

  1. It’s literally true.
  2. It’s figuratively true.
  3. It’s a guide to leading a better life.

Those are huge simplifications, and I’m not even covering all the angles, but I want to stay brief and readable here; if this gets too long, I’ll have to distribute this post in paperback form. (That’s a joke of course – there is no limit to how much you can write in a digital format.)

Well, we know that the Bible isn’t literally true; at least not the whole thing. Genesis is obviously completely wrong. We’ve discovered things like evolution and the big bang and archaeology and stuff. This fact shouldn’t shock you. Also, there are countless contradictions and errors.

So is it figuratively true? Well, that’s an extremely vague way to put it. I guess you could say that such an indefinable idea can be applied to the Bible. There are so many different stories in the Bible that you can read that you’ll inevitably come across one that makes you say “gee, that’s kinda like _____” and it can help you in your everyday life. But the same can be said of other ancient texts, or the Iliad, or the works of Shakespeare, or the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, or the 4th season of King of Queens (if there even was a 4th season) or whatever you have sitting on your coffee table.

So, does the Bible really help you lead a better life? Again, it basically comes down to which text you choose to guide you. There’s certainly a lot of good stuff in there, like “love thy neighbor as thyself” and all that. But there’s also a lot of horrible, insane stuff in there. Even ignoring the entire Old Testament, for every inspiring passage, there’s one that makes me wonder why the book has sold as well as it has. There are far more reasonable, well-written, and helpful books out there that can help you lead a better life.

To better understand the Bible, I strongly urge you to check out the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible.

Now, let’s examine the elephant in the room: Jesus.

Pretty much everything we know (or think we know) about Jesus comes from the Bible. And as we’ve established, the Bible is full of contradiction and error. Not only was the New Testament written decades after Jesus’ death and supposed resurrection, but it has been translated, mistranslated, reinterpreted, and rewritten numerous times over the centuries. For example, the idea that Mary was a virgin comes as a result of a mistranslation in the King James Bible. The word for “young woman” was mistaken for the word for “virgin”.

You know, I’m having a really hard time putting my thoughts into words here. I’ve read, watched, and listened to a lot of fascinating info on the origins of the Bible and the story of Jesus for my entire adult life, and there’s a whole lot of very compelling reasons to doubt it all, but putting dozens of sources together into cohesive sentences here is…daunting.

Well, to pull myself out of the corner that I’ve written myself into here, I’ll instead focus on what I DO believe about who Jesus was.

I don’t have a problem with assuming that he did exist. But his story has been so distorted over the years – adapted to fit the prophecies, merged with other savior stories, and so on – that it’s probably impossible to know who he really was. My guess is that he was just one of many charismatic philosophers of the time, and he happened to draw a bigger crowd than the others. He had a lot of good things to say, and a lot of people liked him. He upset the status quo, and was executed as a result. No miracles, no magic, no resurrection, no coming apocalypse (except that which we create for ourselves). To me, he’s a historical figure like Shakespeare or Homer (why do I keep going back to those two?) in that there are doubts about whether they even existed.

Maybe he believed that he was really the son of God. If so, he was unfortunately deluded, because (as I’ll explain in my next post in this series) there’s no such thing. All in all, he seems like he was a good guy, so I hate to have to take him down a few pegs like this. My ingrained Christian indoctrination is making this topic very uncomfortable.

If, right now, you’re thinking “that was all crap!”, I pretty much agree with you. In this post, I tried to succinctly explain my true feelings about Christianity, and I failed miserably. But I’ve laid down a framework, and I’ll be coming back to this post to revise and add to it as I am able. Really, there’s so much to talk about on this subject that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get everything written out definitively.

I also wanted to point out why I’m not providing any links to my sources for what I’m saying here. For one, I don’t feel like it. I’d wind up spending way too much time tracking down my sources and linking them here. And really, would it matter if I did? I’m not trying to convince anyone here; I’m trying to say why I’ve come to the conclusions that I have.

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August 25 2008

Why I don’t like the term “Brights”

brights Finally, an atheist organization with a decent logo.

Before I embraced my atheism, I had never heard the term “Bright” used in reference to an atheist. So, that’s probably a good sign that I need to describe what it is before I describe why I’m opposed to it.

Bright” is a term used by some very prolific people in the atheist movement (such as Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett) as a euphemism for “atheist”. The idea is to mimic the way that the homosexual community redefined the word “gay” to paint them in a more favorable light.

I can certainly see the reasoning behind this. When many believers use the word “atheist”, they’re thinking of morally bankrupt, god-hating, hell-bound degenerates. However, changing the name isn’t going to stop this. Look at the word “gay”. People who hate gays infuse the word with their hatred and negativity, and would do so no matter what word they used.

And then there’s the fact that “brights” as a term could be easily confused as something meant to be insulting to all non-brights. After all, the word “bright” is frequently used to describe someone who’s smart. Are we trying to say that we’re smarter than the believers?

I’m not opposed to the movement itself, which seems to have at its center the goal of improving the public’s opinion of atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, secularists, humanists, and the non-religious. They’re trying to do what most other atheists are trying to do. I just don’t think this is the way to do it.

The only way we’re going to overcome the negativity is to confront it head-on. If you find someone saying hateful, untrue things about atheists, tell them they’re wrong, and explain why. It’s natural for humans to react negatively to what they don’t understand, and most people feel the way they do about atheists because they’ve never met one.

This is why things like the OUT Campaign are so necessary. There are millions of non-believers out there, but there are so many of us still in hiding (myself included) that people think we’re just a lunatic fringe. When the general public can look at the atheist next door and see that we’re just as normal and moral as they are, the negativity directed at us due to ignorance will dissipate, and we’ll be able to more effectively interact and shape the world.

The term “bright” needs to go away. It would be nice if Dawkins and Dennett and some of the other supporters would just say “hey, we thought this was a good idea, but we’ll all be better off if we just improve our current titles”.

I highly recommend just reading the Wikipedia article. Honestly, what’s written there on the subject is far more articulate than what I’ve written here.

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August 12 2008

It seemed like a good idea, at first… (the Boy Scout coin)

I was listening to Atheist Talk this morning, and their guest, Lori Lipman Brown, brought up an issue that I had assumed was settled, for good or bad.

The issue is the minting of a special coin to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America. The bill was introduced months ago, but apparently it’s being held up due to lobbying by people like Brown.

I want to tell you exactly why the hell I’m opposed to this bill, but first I need to talk about my history in Boy Scouts.

For most of my childhood, I was involved in Scouting. I started in Tiger Cubs when I was really young (I don’t even remember when that was…6 or 7 probably) and then moved up to Cub Scouts, working my way up the ranks until I entered Boy Scouts. I went on nearly every camping trip, I made a lot of friends, and learned a lot of important stuff. As I got older, I took on certain leadership roles in my troop, and held the position of Scribe, Patrol Leader, Assistant Senior Patrol Leader, and eventually even Senior Patrol Leader (the non-adult leader of the troop). I earned at least a dozen and a half merit badges and got to the rank of Life Scout (which is one step down from Eagle), and even became a member of the Order of the Arrow before I succumbed to being a teenager and lost interest.

So it’s with great sorrow that I say that I can no longer support the Boy Scouts. And here’s why:

The Boy Scouts of America maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God. In the first part of the Scout Oath or Promise the member declares, ‘On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law.’ The recognition of God as the ruling and leading power in the universe and the grateful acknowledgment of His favors and blessings are necessary to the best type of citizenship and are wholesome precepts in the education of the growing members." (source)

Religion has always been a part of Boy Scouts, of course. And I always just tried to ignore those parts as much as I could when I was a member. However, the unstated premise here is: no atheists or agnostics. Interestingly, they don’t seem to care which religion you practice, just as long as you believe in God (or, presumably, gods). It’s worth pointing out that 62% of all units (troops, packs, etc.) are sponsored by religious groups, the largest being the Mormons, Methodists, and Roman Catholics.

Then there’s this:

"Boy Scouts of America believes that homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the obligations in the Scout Oath and Scout Law to be morally straight and clean in thought, word, and deed. The conduct of youth members must be in compliance with the Scout Oath and Law, and membership in Boy Scouts of America is contingent upon the willingness to accept Scouting’s values and beliefs." (source)

So, they discriminate against atheists, agnostics, AND homosexuals.

I could point out that they also don’t allow female members, but then it IS called the BOY Scouts. And besides, seeing female leaders, camp counselors, and even the occasional scout wasn’t that uncommon in my time.

And I should also point out that not all scout groups are discriminatory. In fact, most of them aren’t. Most are led by people who live by the morals that they teach and know to treat all people with respect and dignity, no matter what the official position of the organization is. And I think that eventually, the whole organization will change its stance on these discriminating issues. However, right now, the official position of the BSA is to discriminate against atheists, agnostics, and homosexuals.

Now, for some Libertarianism: I believe that any privately-funded organization is fully within their rights to discriminate against whomever they wish. I don’t have to like it. However, the BSA is NOT a private organization. Which brings us back to the coin. Remember the coin?

According to the bills, they intend to mint 350,000 of these coins and sell them for $10 per coin, with all of the profits going directly to the BSA. That’s $3.5 million going to a religious organization with discriminatory policies and practices. Why don’t we just send the Pope a check?

This bill is clearly in violation of the First Amendment and Church/State separation. The government should/must not fund religious organizations, no matter how much good they do. And it certainly shouldn’t fund organizations that discriminate against ANYONE. Indeed, this bill seems to be a very sneaky way to support religion, disguised as a way to honor one of this country’s most beloved organizations.

Just for the hell of it, here’s what I think the BSA needs to do:

  1. Stop discriminating against atheists and agnostics. Stop discriminating against homosexuals (and bisexuals and all that). Stop discriminating against females. In fact, just stop discriminating against anyone.
  2. Modify your programs to allow for alternate paths for the nonreligious. For example, where advancement regulations currently require a scout to attend their church/temple/mosque and discuss what they saw with a leader, allow them to visit a secular center or read a secular book, watch a secular documentary or TV program, or something like that. It’s kinda hard to say what exactly, since atheists don’t have churches.
    In fact, even better: require kids to attend a church AND a temple AND a mosque AND a secular…thingy, and so on. Having kids learn about different cultures is one of the most worthwhile things the BSA could do.
  3. Stop with all this "you need God to be moral" nonsense. You don’t. This is definitely a topic that needs its own post, but I did post an article I found recently that is a good start.
    How about replacing "reverent" in the Scout Law with "moral"? It seems to me that the inclusion of "reverent" instead of "moral" indicates that you think that they are one and the same. However, how is it moral to discriminate against someone else? Again, a topic for another day.

I really hope the BSA shapes up. My memories of my time as a scout are some of the happiest I have, and it makes me sad that I can no longer recommend it as it is today.

I also recommend an episode of Penn & Teller’s show Bullshit (season 4, episode 1), which tackles the boy scout/church & state issue specifically (though not the coin bill).

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October 29 2007

300 scene duplicated with type

Here’s a little something I did for another class project. It’s done entirely in InDesign, which is to MS Word as Photoshop is to Paintbrush. I just took a screenshot from the movie 300 and duplicated it using nothing but text. It was pretty fun to throw together.

I’ll probably be posting more projects here in the coming months, providing of course that I have something worth showing.

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October 1 2007

Double-Click Geek Ale

Double-Click Geek Ale: The best way to drink yourself unconscious playing video games in your parents’ basement.

Well, here’s the new design I was talking about last week. I made it for one of my classes (assigment: create a product label) and I think it’s definitely some of my best work. I was partially inspired by the Summit logo (my dad has a t-shirt of it), which I’ve always really liked.

I was thinking about how currently-existing beers are always marketed as the perfect companions for watching your favorite sporting event, and since I’m not really interested in most sports, I decided to come up with something that might appeal to me. If I drank.

As always, I’ve slapped it on t-shirts, sweatshirts, mousepads, mugs, bags, and most of the other stuff that’s available at CafePress.

Wherein I solicit validation from strangers:

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