Monday, June 1, 2015


I confess.  I am one of the complainers.  One of many who bitch and moan about the internet, how much garbage there is on the e-waves, how many times you are redirected to a home page you don’t want to see, how some sites harbor nasty Trojans and cooties to mess up your computer, and how slow the connection is the day I need it with lightning speed (especially when, deep down, I know it is the internet provider, not the internet itself).

Well, you get my drift, don't you?

But, for research, for delving into the depths of a subject, especially one with which you are not familiar, it is a damn miracle.  I am in awe.  I am stupefied and astounded.  And the contents get better and more plentiful by the hour.  Need to find out how people die from hanging?  Go to a forensic pathologist’s website and get the information you need.  Want to read the works of Jane Austen?  Go to the Jane Austen Society of the UK’s website.  Need to delve into medieval works?  Go to Princeton’s or the Gutenberg project’s websites.  Everything, and more, is there.

I have been doing research, in one form or another, for over thirty years.  Back then (and I even dare say not even fifteen years ago), digging into a subject was like riding a snail and expecting it to gallop.  Attempting to find the perfect content and materials for your work was like digging inside a bottomless traveling trunk filled with junk.  You had to actually visit a library, decipher the Dewey decimal system (if you could), dig through the card stack, go to the proper aisle, and pray the book you needed was there.  Or, horror of horrors, you would have to dig through miles of microfiche in order to get to your desired material, praying you actually had the proper stack based on your keywords.  Or, gasp, request the proper books, or copies of pages from those books, from the storage cellars in a library in Kalamazoo or somewhere in the nether regions of Europe, which would usually take anywhere from 3-10 days to reach you.  If it reached you, ever.

Did I mention the time involved in all this???

When I was researching for my Master’s degree on medieval French romances, I was fortunate enough to have had permission from the Bibliotèque Nationale in Paris to look at the extant manuscript where the romance I was researching, Chrètien de Troyes’s Le Chevalier au Lion, had been incorporated.  It took me three days to wade through it, find the piece, and make notes from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. with a slight lunch break in between.  And, to tell you the truth, it was a rush job.  I really would have needed to stay for a week more, at least, if I hadn’t done a ton of research prior to that.

Oh, and did I mention the cost?

Years ago, research would have entailed traveling to the actual libraries themselves, since many of the materials would not have been lendable.  It required spending money on postage, on copies (at library cost since you couldn’t borrow the book), on gas, on hotel stays, on meals, and even flights.

And, to end it all, you would need to build an extra closet in your office for all the research material you collected.

Now, I click, peruse, discard, copy Internet addresses, download, and save everything in a file in my computer.  Then save it again on a flash drive.  And then save it once more in Dropbox.  Time involved in all this?  Maybe a couple of hours within the 24-hours of your day.  Cost?  The electricity for the computer and the Internet connection.  The only issue, for the moment, will be worrying about computer crashes (ergo the excessive saving), power outages, or Internet provider issues—which can be a pain in the behind.

Life is good.

Now, I can spend my time in the comfort of my home, music blaring, snacks by my side, and enjoy the easy ride.  Instant gratification.  The world is my oyster.  Better yet, the world...a click away.

This is a copy of Chrétien de Troyes Chevalier au Lion.  It took me exactly one minute to find it and attach it.

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