It's a pretty amazing time we're living in. I often find myself taking it for granted; at no time is this clearer than in conversations with older generations. I'll be talking with my mom about a movie, and she'll wonder whether a particular actor was in a particular movie. Immediately I'm thinking about the Internet Movie Database, and if I'm on the portable, I'll be there in a flash, spitting out the answer with nary a second thought. This, of course, still floors my mother. She doesn't own a computer, so beyond the growing tendency of a brief punch of information, with more available - to many, but not her - on the World Wide Web, she's oblivious to the potential of the Internet.
But that's just the tip of its utility. If I hear an expression, if someone refers to a historic moment, if I have any sort of question, my knee-jerk reaction is to bring up my browser and start searching for more information. If I live to see the day of ubiquitous, wearable, Internet-connected technology, it could very well be the end of me. I can see it now:
Man Perishes on Park Bench: Forgets to Eat During Three-day Search for Atlantis
I bring all this up because I'm amazed at how much the Encyclopedia of Arda is enhancing my reading of The Lord of the Rings. I've just started Book II - the Council of Elrond is met - and I'm sure I've already spent two hours reading encyclopedia entries, following the hyperlinks through the ages of Middle-earth and lands beyond. It's truly a wonder! For example, as soon as Merry mentioned the men of Carn Dûm (in his daze after being rescued from the Barrow-wight), I looked up their entry in the encyclopedia.
In reading the book(s) for the third time, my plan is to continue through the appendices to The Silmarillion, The Book of Lost Tales and the other volumes in the history of Middle-earth. With the Encyclopedia of Arda just a few keystrokes away, I'm sure to save many hours of hunting through books for references that I can't quite remember. And since all the entries are dated, you always have an idea about which book(s) contain the original material.