The Geiger Counter

Matt Geiger is a Midwest Book Award Winner, a national American Book Fest Finalist, and an international Next Generation Indie Book Award Finalist. He is also the winner of numerous journalism awards. His books include “Astonishing Tales!* (Your Astonishment May Vary)” and “Raised by Wolves & Other Stories.” He once won an axe-throwing competition.
Sun
08
Dec
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The Hunt

I was reminded Wednesday of how fragile and thin the veneer of civilization is. 

This was not one of my quiet, plodding, vaguely philosophical realizations. It did not come with a slow nod or a breathy “aha.” No, this came with the crack of a gunshot slicing through daggers of sleet. This came with the thud of a dead body hitting the muddy earth. And just like that, I was up to my arms in viscera, having literally the most visceral experience of my life. 

Thu
31
Oct
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Primitive is Relative

Primitive is relative

I somehow failed to rinse all the shampoo out of my hair the other day. When I noticed it later, my daughter ran her little finger through it and exclaimed: “It feels like dry wetness!”

A few days earlier, when I told her she had to wait 30 days to get something she wanted, she lamented: “Thirty days?! But 30 days is 100 days!!!”

It’s easy to think ‘No, 30 isn’t 100,’ but to do so is to miss the point. Because when she said those words, when she told me that little story, she wasn’t showing me the world; she was showing me herself. She gave me a glimpse into her inner emotional life. It was only 30 days, scientifically speaking, but there is so more to life than cold, hard facts.

Sun
27
Oct
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Spaces

Our entire lives are spent going in and out of buildings. 

By leaving the wide-open sky and the vast globe, in an unfathomably large universe, and passing through a doorway into a building, we immediately make ourselves feel bigger. Inside a hut, or even a mansion, we sense that our size, in relation to our surroundings, is concrete, large, and meaningful. 

These are the actions around which the rest of our lives are constructed. Into a house, out of a house. Into a school, out of a school. Into an office, out of an office. Into a store, out of a store. Into a movie theater, out of a movie theater.

Fri
04
Oct
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Liar's Paradox

“This statement is a lie.”

If the above sentence is true, then it’s a lie. And if it is a lie, it is true. 

It’s called the liar’s paradox, and it’s a response to the people who contacted me after my column about Xeno’s paradox (“Achilles and the Tortoise”) a few weeks ago. They worriedly told me they didn’t “get” the paradox I was writing about. It didn’t make sense to them, and they were confused by it. 

My answer, of course, is that’s the point. If you don’t understand a paradox, then you understandthe paradox. If you don’t get it, you get it. That’s the whole idea. Paradoxes being impossible to comprehend is like cakes being sweet or toddlers being young; it comes with the territory. 

Thu
26
Sep
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Lunch

The relentless optimism of conspiracy theorists is inspiring. They possess the admirable ability to believe people can dream up and execute complicated plans! The quixotic idea they embrace is that someone, somewhere can keep a secret. They harbor the wonderful but completely unjustified belief that human beings can communicate with each other, listen to each other, and follow through with their plans. They think people can do what they set out to do, and they can do it without trying to take credit immediately after the fact. 

Sat
14
Sep
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Toys-R-Us

I was devoutly unenthusiastic when we arrived at the circus. 

The diminutive red and white candy-striped tent stood there, underwhelming me in the forlorn Midwestern parking lot of an out-of-business Toys-R-Us store, with portable bathrooms resting atop weed-dotted and crumbling asphalt. This was the kind of place where the R on the sign, which was always backward before the company became insolvent and shuttered its doors, would inevitably look rusty and sad, as if it were about to fall down and face the correct way. A more depressing, less playful, more down-to-earth letter than it was before the harsh realities of online shopping sunk in.

The atmosphere, there in the wreckage of what had been like a holy shrine to me in my childhood, was decidedly post-apocalyptic. All that had once been was gone; a big, dazzling temple of bright new toys reduced to a collection of gray detritus. I got out of the car and stepped into an apt graveyard for my youth.

Fri
06
Sep
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Nothing New

We rode our bikes as fast as we could, and when the whir of the chain and the wind reached their highest pitch, and the pedals began rotating faster than our legs, we’d slam our feet on the breaks to careen along the gravel road. After each run, we’d measure our skid marks and declare a winner. The longest mark won, and we played forever, or at least until we had to go home and have the pebbles plucked from our knees, watching with horror and fascination as the hydrogen peroxide bubbled and hissed and spat in our open wounds.

This was life before the Internet. A vast world where people were separated by untraversable geographical distance, where children in summer were compelled to engage in the somewhat biblical task of seeing what kind of mark they could leave upon the earth.

Sun
01
Sep
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My Wild Ride

Each spring, my dad would disappear into the old corn loft where rabid raccoons used to hunker down and stare out with their glowing eyes for wayward children and dogs to bite. A few moments later, he’d emerge with an antique rocking horse, a faded plastic steed held aloft by four rusty springs and a creaky metal frame. 

These rides seem quaint today, when children run around with smart phones and dive in and out of virtual reality. But in the 1980s, an old, yellowed plastic nag that bounced around when you climbed aboard her back was the best you could hope for. 

“Here you go,” my father would say as he set it down in the yard. “Have a great summer!”

He’d head out into the fields, and I would be left to get reacquainted with my horse, who had wintered in the corn loft with all the mangy Procyon lotor. 

Fri
02
Aug
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Tigers and Words

The word “advice” comes from Old French, and before it Old Latin, and it means “to see.” The word “apocalypse” is of Greek origin, and it means “to lift a veil.” In other words, to see better. A wise oracle is sometimes called a “seer.” This one doesn’t take a genius to figure out; it comes from see-er, or “one who sees.”

The more you scratch the surface of the words we use today, the more you find that many of them have something to do with our sight. Language, after all, is about how we see the world. It is our daily rebuttal to the eternal, nagging question posed by the cosmos: “What am I looking at?” And the answer, which is “something strange,” is always reassuring. 

Fri
26
Jul
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Slumber

After my wife and daughter and the dogs went to sleep and the cat woke up, I unzipped a black case filled with wires, tubes and instructions. I was doing a home sleep study, and the doctor’s office loaned me a device to monitor my sleeping and rate my slumber. 

I did it because I kept getting pop-up ads telling me that I might have sleep apnea, and that if I do, my heart will probably explode, or perhaps I’ll just be very sleepy and inefficient when I try to write my weekly column in the afternoon, in other words right now. 

I agreed to do it because I like surprises, and medical bills are always incredibly surprising. 

When my doctor instructed me to take a sleep test, my wife promptly instructed me to find out how much it would cost first. I’m not sure how much my health is worth, but I assume she needed to know if the procedure would cost more than the agreed upon figure above which I am completely replaceable. 

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