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For the past few years, I’ve given the same gift for Fathers’ Day over and over: tickets to see our local major-league baseball team, the Toronto Blue Jays, play a couple of times over the summer. My Dad and I went to our first game a little while ago. As usual, I drove to his place and we walked, took the subway and walked again to the stadium downtown. Along the way, we chatted about family, friends, work and life. Our conversation turned to health, as it often does: my dad is Always Doc, which is probably a whole lot nicer than being Always Grumpy like his son. And along the way, I discovered an interesting parallel between our very different career choices.Dad’s health is pretty good, given that he’s in his mid-eighties. There are some issues, and he’s a little slower getting around than he used to be… but he’s got few complaints and just keeps finding new hobbies that fit his capabilities. I’d never have thought he’d turn into a billiards player, but there you have it!

My health is pretty good too, in my mid-fifties. I’ve also got some issues, and my Dad was making some recommendations about diet that he thought might help. You might remember from earlier posts that my dad practiced medicine for 57 years, retiring in his early eighties. That’s four years ago now, but it became obvious to me that Dad is still keeping up with his reading. I asked about it; he said, “Of course!” When I told one of my sons about the exchange a few days later he said, “I’d expect nothing less.” This is Always Doc we’re talking about: even though he’s no longer officially practicing medicine, he’s reading and studying to stay abreast of new developments in the field of his vocation and avocation. For him, it’s general practice medicine.

For me, it’s IT (or ICT, if you prefer). I read and study constantly too, at home and in both of my IT-related jobs (systems capacity planner at a major bank and part-time professor of computer studies at a local community college). I have subscriptions to a growing list of websites for news and commentary; I read textbooks, talk to colleagues and like-minded professionals, and poke around in the internet for information to help me stay up to date so I can do my planning work effectively and prepare current, useful lecture and course materials. It’s a never-ending task, but it’s one that I enjoy. There’s always more to learn, and in a field like IT with it’s accelerating pace of change, I find I can barely keep up!

I think this is the way of it for all of us: for gardeners and home-makers, custodians and engineers, doctors and lawyers and politicians, there’s always something new to learn. But this is especially true in professions that are knowledge-based and/or closely linked to technology: materials and techniques and systems and sensors are changing faster every year. Specialties are growing narrower, and still we struggle to stay up-to-date. Life-long learning is no longer a luxury or an option: it’s become a mandatory part of our everyday activities. I hope some of my students read this and take the hint! To that end, here are some of my favourite sources for IT reading:

  • The Register – “Biting the hand that feeds IT” – the slogan says it all about this UK-based source of snarky but real IT news & commentary.
  • Tom’s IT Pro – wide-ranging news and updates across the industry.
  • TechTarget – offers a range of separate sites; you can sign up for the ones you’re most interested in. I change up my subscriptions here as my areas of concern evolve with my assignments and interests.
  • betanews – I just found this one last week. So far, it seems like a great place to find the farther-out views. We’re almost into aliens and conspiracy theories, but the articles I’ve read still offer interesting insights.
  • IT World Canada – a Canadian perspective on IT news & commentary.
  • ZDNet – I’ve always pronounced this as “zeddy-net”, which sounds comfortingly Canadian or British, like poutine or tea. But I suspect it’s called “zee-dee-net” by our friends in the States, more like a super-sized trencher of soda pop. It’s a good, reliable source of the usual range of serious IT news.
  • Information Week – “Connecting the Business Technology Community” – the articles tend to include business and political implications or perspectives on tech news. Great stuff!

So do I read all of them? No… I just watch for interesting headlines. Should you read these? Depends on your interests, but if you’re in IT, you should definitely be reading every day!

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