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The Sherlock Holmes Handbook: How to Outwit a Criminal Mastermind

It's been well over a century since the first Sherlock Holmes adventure was published, and yet the master detective remains as popular as ever; witness the upcoming release of Holmes, starring Robert Downey, Jr., the Holmes-inspired television phenomenon that is House, M.D., and countless adaptations over the years. But what is it about this 19th century detective that we still find so compelling today? Why do modern-day detectives still study his methods and techniques? What can we still learn from Sherlock Holmes? I set out to answer those questions, and the result is my new book, The Sherlock Holmes Handbook: the Methods and Mysteries of the World's Greatest Detective. All week I've been posting excerpts from it, which is available at Amazon and at bookstores everywhere. Hope you've enjoyed this little preview!

How to Outwit a Criminal Mastermind
"He is the Napoleon of crime, Watson. He is the organizer of half that is evil and of nearly all that is undetected in this great city. He is a genius, a philosopher, an abstract thinker. He has a brain of the first order." —Sherlock Holmes describing Professor Moriarty in "The Final Problem"

sherlock - mastermindPowerful minds are not always drawn to the pursuit of good; there are those whose genius is tainted with criminality and who, as Holmes believed of his arch-nemesis Professor Moriarty, possess "hereditary tendencies of the most diabolical kind." Like Holmes, you may discover that the crimes committed in your city are not the random work of unrelated thieves and killers but are connected—though subtly—in a giant web, at the center of which is a mastermind like Moriarty, controlling all from a seemingly untouchable remove. Until you can find proof admissible in a court of law that such is the case, however, your day-to-day casework will remain an unending, Sisyphean task; unless you can outwit the mastermind, your crime-solving efforts will address only the branches of evil, not the root. By undertaking the following methods, you may be able to take the fight to him.

1. Gather evidence of the mastermind's crimes. This first step is the most difficult, for as Holmes said of Moriarty, "so aloof is he from general suspicion . . . so admirable in his management and self-effacement" that finding proof of his criminal ties may seem impossible. Holmes's method was comprehensive: He surreptitiously searched Moriarty's house on three occasions (and found "absolutely nothing"), peeked into the mastermind's finances ("I made it my business to hunt down some of Moriarty's checks"), and tracked the doings of Moriarty's criminal associates. Most importantly, he took every precaution to conduct his investigations without the mastermind's knowledge; unfortunately, Holmes reports in "The Final Problem," Moriarty was "too wily for that." If you too are found out, proceed to the next step.

2. Thwart his attempts to assassinate you. "The only conceivable escape for him," said Holmes of his archenemy, "lay in silencing my tongue." Yet it's not from the mastermind himself that the blow likely will fall, but from one of his many agents, and it's in their interest to kill you quickly and quietly. That can only mean one thing: snipers. Holmes's prodigious paranoia of assassins wielding silent-but-deadly air guns in "The Final Problem" likely saves his life, as does his insistence on keeping clear of windows and closing all shutters. Do likewise, and in addition make yourself as difficult as possible to track, keeping to alleys and by-ways rather than main thoroughfares and using rear windows and garden walls to access buildings. Keep a revolver close at hand, but use it only if absolutely necessary, else you might end up in the dock for murder, rather than your enemy.

3. Make yourself scarce. Once your damning evidence has been assembled and the machinations of the mastermind's ruin are in motion, he will be at his most dangerous. Desperate, the mastermind will do anything to destroy you before the net of justice closes around him completely; it's prudent, therefore, to get as far away as possible until the game is won. Don a disguise, as Holmes did when Moriarty came after him in "The Final Problem," and hop the next train out of town. Tell no one save your most trusted confidant of your plans, for your enemy has spies everywhere. Travel light but leave nothing behind that you cannot live without—a lesson that Holmes and Watson learned the hard way when Moriarty's henchmen set fire to their famed Baker Street rooms as they fled.

4. Resist the temptation to have the mastermind arrested prematurely. Certainly the mastermind's desperate, last-minute attempts to assault you will involve a few arrestable offenses, but these are petty crimes compared to the vast network of felonies in which he has had a hand. Bide your time or risk watching him tried for an offense against which his powerful lawyers can easily defend while his henchmen go free, swearing vengeance against you. Or, as Holmes explained the dilemma to Watson, "We should get the big fish, but the smaller would dart right and left out of the net."

5. Don't let down your guard. He will eventually find you, of that you can be certain; all you can do is delay the inevitable showdown. Lest he should take you by surprise, adopt an attitude of hyper-vigilance, as Watson describes Holmes doing: "I could tell by his quick glancing eyes and his sharp scrutiny of every face that passed us, he was well convinced that, walk where we would, we could not walk ourselves clear of the danger that was dogging our footsteps."

6. Prepare for the final assault. The mastermind will attack when he thinks you're most vulnerable. You must let him do it, but be ready. In "The Final Problem," Holmes and Watson flee London for the tiny Swiss hamlet of Meiringen and are trekking to see the fearful Reichenbach Falls when a messenger boy arrives with an urgent plea for Dr.Watson: A woman is dying at the hotel and needs Watson's attention. Though it's clear to Holmes that the boy is in Moriarty's employ and his plea is nothing but a thinly veiled scheme to get Holmes alone in a dangerous locale, Holmes goes along with it; the showdown must happen, and he is ready.

7. Fake your own death. This step assumes that you have succeeded in besting the mastermind in the previous step, as Holmes did Moriarty at Reichenbach Falls. After using martial artistry to send Moriarty plunging to his death, Holmes finds himself confronted by a unique problem: He has succeeded in ridding the world of a criminal mastermind, yet his own life is in more danger than ever. Moriarty's henchmen remain free, and they will surely seek revenge. To return to London would mean facing assassination at their hands, and traveling under his own name would mean pursuit by those same would-be assassins. He's forced to choose between facing death or feigning death and so opts for the latter, traveling far and wide for three years under an invented identity.

Other excerpts from The Sherlock Holmes Handbook:

How to Disguise Yourself
Opium Dens and Narcotics in the Victorian Era
How to Fake Your Own Death
How to Keep Your Mind Sharp
The "Real" Sherlock Holmes

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5 Subtle Cues That Can Tell You About Your Date's Financial Personality
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Being financially compatible with your partner is important, especially as a relationship grows. Fortunately, there are ways you can learn about your partner’s financial personality in a relationship’s early stages without seeing their bank statement or sitting them down for “the money talk.”

Are they a spender or a saver? Are they cautious with money? These habits can be learned through basic observations or casual questions that don’t feel intrusive. Here are some subtle things that can tell you about your date’s financial personality.

1. HOW THEY ANSWER BASIC MONEY QUESTIONS.

Casual conversations about finance-related topics can be very revealing. Does your date know if their employer matches their 401(k) plan contributions? Do you find their answers to any financial questions a bit vague—even the straightforward ones like “What are the rewards like on your credit card?” This could mean that your partner is a little fuzzy on some of the details of their financial situation.

As your connection grows, money talks are only natural. If your date expresses uncertainty about their monthly budget, it may be an indicator that they are still working on the best way to manage their finances or don’t keep close tabs on their spending habits.

2. WHAT THEY’RE WATCHING AND READING.

If you notice your partner is always watching business news channels, thumbing through newspapers, or checking share prices on their phone, they are clearly keeping abreast of what’s going on in the financial world. Ideally, this would lead to a well-informed financial personality that gives way to smart investments and overall monetary responsibility.

If you see that your date has an interest in national and global finances, ask them questions about what they’ve learned. The answers will tell you what type of financial mindset to expect from you partner moving forward. You might also learn something new about the world of finance and business!

3. WHERE THEY GET THEIR FOOD.

You may be able to learn a lot about someone’s financial personality just by asking what they usually do for dinner. If your date dines out a lot, it could be an indication that they are willing to spend money on experiences. On the other hand, if they’re eating most of their meals at home or prepping meals for the entire week to cut their food budget, they might be more of a saver.

4. WHETHER THEY’RE VOICING MONEY CONCERNS.

Money is a source of stress for most people, so it’s important to observe if financial anxiety plays a prominent role in your date’s day-to-day life. There are a number of common financial worries we all share—rising insurance rates, unexpected car repairs, rent increases—but there are also more specific and individualized concerns. Listen to how your date talks about money and pick up on whether their stress is grounded in worries we all have or if they have a more specific reason for concern.

In both instances, it’s important to be supportive and helpful where you can. If your partner is feeling nervous about money, they’ll likely be much more cautious about what they’re spending, which can be a good thing. But it can also stop them from making necessary purchases or looking into investments that might actually benefit them in the future. As a partner, you can help out by minimizing their expenses for things like nights out and gifts in favor of less expensive outings or homemade gifts to leave more of their budget available for necessities.

5. HOW THEY HANDLE THE BILL.

Does your date actually look at how much they’re spending before handing their credit card to the waiter or bartender at the end of the night? It’s a subtle sign, but someone who looks over a bill is likely much more observant about what they spend than someone who just blindly hands cards or cash over once they get the tab.

Knowing what you spend every month—even on smaller purchases like drinks or dinner—is key when you’re staying on a budget. It’s that awareness that allows people to adjust their monthly budget and calculate what their new balance will be once the waiter hands over the check. Someone who knows exactly what they’re spending on the small purchases is probably keeping a close eye on the bigger picture as well.

REMEMBER THERE’S NO SUBSTITUTE FOR TALKING.

While these subtle cues can be helpful signposts when you’re trying to get an idea of your date’s financial personality, none are perfect indicators that will be accurate every time. Our financial personalities are rarely cut and dry—most of us probably display some behaviors that would paint us as savers while also showing habits that exclaim “spender!” By relying too heavily on any one indicator, we might not get an accurate impression of our date.

Instead, as you get to know a new partner, the best way to learn about their financial personality is by having a straightforward and honest talk with them. You’ll learn more by listening and asking questions than you ever could by observing small behaviors.

Whatever your financial personality is, it pays to keep an eye on your credit score. Discover offers a Free Credit Scorecard, and checking it won't impact your score. It's totally free, even if you aren't a Discover customer. Check yours in seconds. Terms apply. Visit Discover to learn more.

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Animals
Where Do Birds Get Their Songs?
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Birds display some of the most impressive vocal abilities in the animal kingdom. They can be heard across great distances, mimic human speech, and even sing using distinct dialects and syntax. The most complex songs take some practice to learn, but as TED-Ed explains, the urge to sing is woven into songbirds' DNA.

Like humans, baby birds learn to communicate from their parents. Adult zebra finches will even speak in the equivalent of "baby talk" when teaching chicks their songs. After hearing the same expressions repeated so many times and trying them out firsthand, the offspring are able to use the same songs as adults.

But nurture isn't the only factor driving this behavior. Even when they grow up without any parents teaching them how to vocalize, birds will start singing on their own. These innate songs are less refined than the ones that are taught, but when they're passed down through multiple generations and shaped over time, they start to sound similar to the learned songs sung by other members of their species.

This suggests that the drive to sing as well as the specific structures of the songs themselves have been ingrained in the animals' genetic code by evolution. You can watch the full story from TED-Ed below, then head over here for a sample of the diverse songs produced by birds.

[h/t TED-Ed]

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