by Peter Amram

Doctor John Watson, sidekick and chronicler of Sherlock Holmes, had been orienteering poorly for some time. The dialogue below is exerpted from A Scandal in Bohemia, a tale which appears to concern an indiscretion by some petty German king but is in reality crisp O-advice from Holmes, who is invariably first in his class (M155+ as of this year).
A Scandal in BohemiaHolmes has just explained some route choices, and Watson speaks:
“When I hear you give your reasons,” I remarked, “the thing always appears to me to be so ridiculously simple that I could easily do it myself, though at each successive instance of your reasoning I am baffled until you explain your process. And yet I believe that my eyes are as good as yours.”
“Quite so,” [Holmes] answered, “You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear. For example, you have frequently seen the steps which lead up from the hall to this room.”
“How often?”
“Well, some hundreds of times.”
“Then how many are there.”
“How many? I don’t know.”
“Quite so!” [said Holmes]. “You have not observed. And yet you have seen them. That is just my point. Now, I know that there are seventeen steps, because I have both seen and observed.”
A messenger interrupts. That petty German king has himself been turning in some pretty long O-times lately, and his errant fieldcraft is as much on his mind as the former inamorata who threatens blackmail. Thus the king has sent along a map of a recent race in Bohemiain in which he finished far back among the peasantry. The venue, however, is unknown to both Holmes and Watson.
“This is indeed a mystery,” I [Watson] remarked, “What do you imagine it means?”
“I have no data yet,” [said Holmes]. “It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.”
So: (1) always maintain a pace count, and (2) don’t bend the map to fit the terrain.
At which point orienteering should prove quite elementary.

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