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January 3, 2013

Slate: Do you think like Sherlock Holmes?

NEW YORK — I do not think like Sherlock Holmes. Not in the least. That was the rather disheartening conclusion I reached while researching a book on the detective's mental prowess. I'd hoped to discover that I had the secret to Sherlockian thought. What I found instead was that it would be hard work indeed to even begin to approximate the essence of the detective's approach to the world: his ever-mindful mindset and his relentless mental energy. Holmes was a man eternally on, who relished that on-ness and floundered in its absence. It would be exhausting to think like Sherlock. And would it really be worth it in the end?

It all began with those pesky steps, the stairs leading up to the legendary residence that Sherlock Holmes shares with Dr. Watson, 221B Baker Street. Why couldn't Watson recall the number of steps? "I believe my eyes are as good as yours," Watson tells his new flatmate — as, in fact, they are. But the competence of the eyes isn't the issue. Instead, the distinction lies in how those eyes are deployed. "You see, but you do not observe," Holmes tells his companion. And Holmes? "Now, I know there are seventeen steps," he continues, "because I have both seen and observed."

To both see and observe: Therein lies the secret. When I first heard the words as a child, I sat up with recognition. Like Watson, I didn't have a clue. Some 20 years later, I read the passage a second time in an attempt to decipher the psychology behind its impact. I realized I was no better at observing than I had been at the tender age of 7. Worse, even. With my constant companion Sir Smartphone and my newfound love of Lady Twitter, my devotion to Count Facebook, and that itch my fingers got whenever I hadn't checked my email for, what, 10 minutes already? OK, five — but it seemed a lifetime. Those Baker Street steps would always be a mystery.

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New England News
Obituaries
  • Elwood (Al) Shaw, 93

    Meredith, NH — Elwood (Al) Shaw, 93, of Center Harbor, passed away peacefully on Sunday, March 30, 2014, at Forestview Manor in Meredith. He was the beloved husband of the late Greta L. (Sykes) Shaw, to whom he was married for 62 years.

    Continued ...
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  • Jo Ann Hughes, 79

    Sandown, NH — Jo Ann (Phelps) Hughes of Sandown, New Hampshire passed away on Thursday, March 27, 2014, surrounded by all of her children at home. She was born in Little Bend Kentucky, to Beatrice (Shepherd) Phelps and John (Cat) Phelps in 1934. Jo Ann was predeceased by brothers, Marcus Phelps, Johnny Phelps, Forrest Phelps and sisters, Juanita Phelps, and Jeanette (Phelps) Vincent. She is survived by brother, Donald Quiggins of Georgia; sisters, Geneva (Phelps) Stanley of Kentucky, and Frances (Phelps) Bratcher of Tennessee who had just visited Jo Ann in September of 2013.

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  • Sherry Lynn (Cookson) Scanzilo

    Raymond, NH — Sherry Lynn (Cookson) Scanzillo, 58, of Raymond, N.H., passed away Saturday, April 5, 2014, at the Elliot Hospital surrounded by her loving family after a sudden illness.

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  • Thomas Hugh Clinton, 73

    Atkinson, NH — Tom passed away on Sunday, March 30, 2014, at Elliot Hospital in Manchester. Tom was born on October, 30, 1940, at Clover Hill Hospital in Lawrence, Mass., as the only child to Hugh Clinton and Evelyn (Forcier) Clinton. Tom graduated from Methuen High School in 195

    Continued ...
    The Carriage Towne News Thu, April 17
    8 days 1 Photo
  • Jo Ann Hughes, 79

    Sandown, NH — Jo Ann (Phelps) Hughes of Sandown, New Hampshire passed away on Thursday, March 27, 2014, surrounded by all of her children at home. She was born in Little Bend Kentucky, to Beatrice (Shepherd) Phelps and John (Cat) Phelps in 1934. Jo Ann was predeceased by brothers, Marcus Phelps, Johnny Phelps, Forrest Phelps and sisters, Juanita Phelps, and Jeanette (Phelps) Vincent. She is survived by brother, Donald Quiggins of Georgia; sisters, Geneva (Phelps) Stanley of Kentucky, and Frances (Phelps) Bratcher of Tennessee who had just visited Jo Ann in September of 2013.

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