Monday, August 31, 2009

Road trip seeking the perfect Cioppino

We decided to escape the San Joaquin Valley heat Sunday morning and head for Phil's Fish Market at Moss Landing on the Central Coast where you can get some of the best seafood in America. My favorite dish is the Cioppino and it didn't disappoint. Jill had the blackened sea scallops and they were wonderful. You can't get bad seafood at Phil's. But I was there for the Cioppino.

Among the many things I'm doing on this journey to age 60 is eating some of the best food in America. I also love the Cioppino at the Tadich Grill in San Francisco's financial district, and it would be difficult for me to pick the best between the two.

Phil's Cioppino was featured earlier in the year on the Food Network's "Throwdown With Bobby Flay" so the restaurant's reputation is taking off. (Phil's Cioppino won the Throwdown). The show has made this tiny little restaurant even busier, but they handle the crowds well. You can see video of the Throwdown by clicking here.

The beauty of getting to Phil's is that Moss Landing is situated on Highway 1 halfway between Santa Cruz and Monterey. So if you're visiting either place, the drive to Moss Landing is only about 20-25 minutes. In recent years, they replaced the one-lane bridge to Phil's so you don't have to wait for traffic coming the other way. But I kind of liked the old one-lane bridge because it increased the anticipation.

After eating, you can walk to the beach right behind Phil's and take in the beautiful Pacific Ocean. The cool air was refreshing, especially considering how hot it was in Fresno.

There's something about the ocean that puts life into perpective.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Practice makes perfect -- sometimes

My quest to toss the shot put in a seniors track meet by my 60th birthday in October took a positive turn today. I got some real coaching for once, and it made a huge difference. My session today reminded me of the saying, "Practice doesn't make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect."

The idea is that if you practice all wrong, you aren't going to get any better. Well, my self-training was all wrong. I was practicing bad habits and I was getting proficient at those habits.

But I got some help from James McEwen. That name may sound familiar to Fresno Bee readers. James is the brother of Bee Metro columnist Bill McEwen. But better than being Bill's brother, James is the head track and field coach at Rio Vista Middle School. Yes! I finally added some expertise to my training.

We met up at the Fresno State track and James offered suggestions for training and conditioning, and then worked on my technique -- without the shot put. I even learned about "slapping the giant and elbowing the midget." It's a saying to keep your free hand in the proper position to help your entire body work together during the toss.

He offered many other tips and when we finally got to the shot put pit, I knew I was making progress. Afterwards, James emailed me a review of the practice and suggestions on things I should work on.

As I write this, I admit to be being very tired and sore. But in a good way. We finished about 6:30 p.m. and I was dragging after about 90 minutes of practicing.

This was a good life lesson. I knew I needed training help, but I didn't know how much until James started working with me. In so many things, we don't know what we don't know. And you don't have to turn 60 to understand that bit of wisdom.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Two weddings and a birthday

Big events are coming in the next two months, and the calendar will rule our movements as we get ready for two weddings in September. And then my 60th birthday is in October, which is what this blog has been about since I started it in June.

But the focus right now is on the September weddings. My nephew is getting married on Sept. 5 and a very close friend is getting married two Saturdays later. I love weddings because they bring family members and friends together from all over the country. There's a lot of stress and there never seems to be enough time to get everything done. But it always seems to work out.

The September weddings represent a wide spectrum of brides and grooms on life's journeys. The first wedding is of a young couple just setting out on that path. The second wedding is of contemporaries -- at least the groom is in my age group -- a little farther along that path but no less committed to making the journey together.

It's all very cool, and coming very soon -- as is my big event. It's only 53 days away. The idea of this blog was to talk about how to survive turning 60. I'm not sure whether I'm surviving it, or it just keeps bearing down on my like a freight train. This is where we cue the Johnny Cash music. . . "I hear the train a comin'. . . "

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

So this is what an actual shot put pit looks like

I walked over to the Fresno State track on Sunday morning to check out the track and field facilities, and saw the shot put area. I have an interest now in anything to do with the shot put because I'm training for a seniors track meet. The shot put is my event because, well, I can't run the hurdles. This is one of the ways I'm coping with turning 60. That comes in 55 days.

I took a photo of the shot put area with my cell phone and it's posted above. This is a lot better than the makeshift shot put area in my back yard. The shot put pit in the photo is at Fresno State's Dutch Warmerdam Field, which is named for the Bulldog's longtime track coach Cornelius "Dutch" Warmerdam.

Warmerdam, who died in 2001, was the first athlete to pole vault 15 feet, which he accomplished initially in 1940. He did it with a bamboo pole, compared with the fiberglass models used now that whipsaw vaulters over the bar. Warmerdam dominated pole vaulting in the 1940s and held the world record for 15 years until it was broken in 1957. He was considered one of the best athletes in the world.

I do feel a little sheepish hanging around a field named for a sports legend, and acting like I belong. I'm not sure if I have the guts to actually take my shot put ball over to the field and toss it out of the pit. . . Maybe I'll stick to my backyard where I know I belong.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Grilling on a casual Saturday

On this Saturday morning, 57 days from my 60th birthday, I continued my training on the shot put, adding a few inches to my backyard personal best. I tossed the 12-pound ball 26 feet, 8 inches. That's well short of my goal of 36 feet, but I'm making steady progress.

This has turned out to be a casual weekend, the first one I've had in awhile. That's nice. We've been over-scheduled this summer. And it's still summer, judging by the thermometer. But the Fresno weather seems to have been overcome by the humidity of the south. I definitely don't like muggy weather. Where's that dry heat Fresno is famous for?

Tonight we're going to barbecue hamburgers stuffed with blue (or is it bleu?) cheese. That should be fun, and keeping with the casual theme of the weekend. Next week will be a busy one at work so this pace is perfect.

It's funny how you appreciate your casual time more as you get older. I suppose it's because we've been part of a hectic pace for so long. At a younger age, I would have called this weekend "boring." I'm signing off and heading for the remainder of my boring -- er, casual -- weekend.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The 60/60 campaign has started, and we're turning for home

I'm into the period that I'm calling my 60/60 campaign -- 60 days until I'm 60 years old. The countdown today is at 58 days. That means my 60th birthday is bearing down on me. It's even closer if you consider that at this age, 58 days seems like not much more than a long weekend.

I mentioned that I was soon turning 60 to a friend yesterday and she was stunned. "You're not that old!" Well, yes, I am that old. She, of course, tried to cover her tracks, but the point was made that 60 is considered "old" by just about anyone who hasn't reached their 60s. And that's OK because I'm comfortable with where I am.

It's funny how 60 is different than the other milestones. Maybe it's because you're almost Social Security age, and closer to the end than the beginning. But aren't we so much wiser and more patience?

Ah, yes, patience. I wish I had the patience of today when I was in my 30s. But sometimes I revert back to my lack of patience -- like the other day when I was trying to get some life insurance information and was put on hold twice for 10 minutes each. When the representative came back on the second time, she accidentally disconnected me. I wasn't very patient. In fact, I was very angry.

But who did it hurt as I huffed around trying to call somebody back at the insurance company to yell at? My entire afternoon was messed up because I let that get to me.

Fortunately, I don't let that happen much anymore. Good thing. That tantrum took 7 days off my life.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

So how's that training for the shot put coming?

As I mentioned earlier this week, I've decided to see if I can compete in seniors track and field competitions in the shot put. There's a 60-65 age group so I'd be the youngest in my division. I hope that helps me in the competition, although this event is new to me.

I'm not sure what I'm trying to prove, other than I can toss a 12-pound metal ball a certain distance. But I'm very competitive, and when I take something on, I want to do it well. We'll see if I can master an event that takes coordination and strength.

Unfortunately, my shot-putting technique is terrible right now, and I'm a long way from being what I would call competitive in this sport. But I'm going to see a guy who once coached shot putters. I hope he takes me -- even if it's only for 30 minutes.

I've set up a crude shot-put area in my back yard. I mark the distance with a tape measure and I've driven a stake into the ground marking my best throw so far. I'm making progress, but is my arm ever sore. And you should see the dents in the lawn that the 12-pound ball makes. It lands with a thump and makes a nice semi-circle.

I've checked out the competition on the Internet and I'm very impressed with the folks who participate in this event. It appears that I need to be in the 36-foot range to be even competitive and I'll need to hit about 42 feet to have a chance of placing. My best toss so far is 25 feet, 10 inches. That's a one-foot improvement over Saturday.

This means I'm off at least 10 feet on my first goal and 16 feet on the second one. I don't know if I can close the gap, but I'm going to try. There's a meet in San Diego next month and one in Las Vegas in October. San Diego is too soon, although I might try it just to get used to the competition. Heck, I don't even know the rules, other than you must leave the shot put circle out the back. It's a foul if you go out the front.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Turning 60: Is it too late in our lives to confront our fears?

Let's pretend that our lives are a yet-to-be-released movie, and we're still in the editing room. What would we change as we reviewed the footage, knowing that we could go back and edit things in or out? More importantly, how would that transformation change who we've become in our 60th year?

And for this exercise, you can't sell the stock in your 401k accounts before the stock market crash. I'm not talking about that kind of stuff. I'm talking about your lives in broad terms -- the way you've lived and what changes you'd make. I'm looking for deep soul-searching. It isn't easy, that's for sure.

Three years ago, actress Diane Keaton turned 60 and she was asked in an interview what she'd learned over all those years. She did not hesitate. "There is great value in being fearless," she said. "For too much of my life, I was too afraid, too frightened by it all. That fear is one of my biggest regrets. I wish I had put myself out there a little bit more and experienced people more instead of protecting myself."

I feel a bit like her. I wish I had taken more chances, especially in my 30s and 40s when the opportunities came along. Maybe that's what I would change in the edited movie of my life. I have had a great newspaper career and I clung to it -- unable to take chances on doing something else. I have been rewarded greatly for staying the course. But what have I missed? Would it have been better?

Even now I don't want to take chances, figuring that I have too much invested in the status quo to make bold changes. I tinker around the edges of change. I toy in my mind about bit edits in my movie -- but in the end I go back to the original script. It has given me comfort and I that's been important to me.

I think I need the security of what I know instead of the insecurity of what change may bring. I'm 60 days from 60, and I can't change my life script.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A baby boomer's question: What will the last two months of my 50s bring?

I'm two months away from 60 today and now I'm wondering whether I'm making too much of these final days of my 50s. But I decided to chronicle this milestone, so that's where this blog is going between now and Oct. 18. You'll have to indulge me.

I'm still a little surprised that the years moved this quickly. I know everyone says that, but my 50s went by in a flash. That is probably because they were very rewarding -- professionally and personally. I think my 60s will be as much fun, although undoubtedly in different ways. I'm looking forward to whatever this next decade has to offer.

I have already told you that I'm training to throw the shot put in seniors track meets. That will be fun and I hope I meet my goal of not only being able to compete, but also do well in the competition. One of the reasons I'm doing this is to get in shape, and this goal keeps the pressure on me.

I need to spend more time at the gym. I pay dues to Gold's Gym, yet I have been going in spurts as of late. Can it be a "spurt" if the last time I was at the gym was two months ago? I feel much better when I go, yet I can't find the time to get there. Now, that doesn't make sense, but it's the way it is.

I'm a baby boomer trying to figure out what's next. There are millions of us in this generation going through the same thing. Those of us born in 1949 are turning 60 this year. I'm one of them, and the countdown to Oct. 18 has begun. I hope you stay with me as I talk about this experience.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

We're approaching countdown

In two days, it will be exactly two months from my 60th birthday, which is the reason I started the Surviving Turning 60 blog in the first place. The idea was that I'd write about what I'm going through as I get ready for this significant birthday. For the most part, I've written about issues facing people in our age group, but I haven't really explored in any real depth my feelings about turning 60.

I plan to do more of that in what I'm calling the countdown period -- the 60 days leading up to Oct. 18. That begins on Tuesday, Aug. 18. So we'll see where this discussion goes. My hope is for me to get in touch with my feelings and maybe share that with those of you who are feeling the same thing about turning 60.

On Saturday, I decided that I would begin training for a seniors track meet. These are age group events, and my grouping would be 60-65. I chose the shot put because I think I can do this event. I know I can throw the shot better than I can run the 110-yard hurdles or pole vault over a bar and into a pit.

I bought a 12-pound shot to begin training. Nobody sells these things in this town. I finally found it at First String Sports on Blackstone. In the 60-65 age group, they use a 5-kilogram shot, which is 11 pounds. The only one I could find was 12 pounds so it will have to do for my training.

I set up a shot put area in my back yard. Searching on the Internet, I found that I need to be able to do about 35 feet to be competitive and at least 42 feet if I want to get one of the top three places in a meet. My best on Saturday was 24 feet, so I have a ways to go in my training.

This was the first time I ever did this. My technique is bad, and my strength will improve. So with some coaching and weight work, I think I can add the distance needed over the next two months. By my birthday, my goal is to add 15 feet, which would mean a 39-foot toss. There's an event in San Diego on Sept. 12, but I don't think I will be ready that soon.

You should see the dents that a 12-pound ball puts in the lawn. That is one casualty so far, and my arm is very sore, but in a good way. I haven't pulled anything so I didn't overdue it.

Do you think there will be drug tests? They do call some of these events "Senior Olympics." This is the dream (or nightmare)that I have been having:

"Sorry, you have been disqualified. Your drug tests came back positive for blood pressure and cholesterol medications." I plead that they aren't performance-enhancing drugs, and the meet director says, "Well, they're keeping you alive and we consider that performance enhancing. The last dead guy didn't post a score."

Friday, August 14, 2009

Medications can impair driving

A study by the AAA Traffic Foundation says more than three-fourths of seniors take medications, but most of them don't realize that many of their drugs can have a negative impact on their driving.

Older drivers can have slower reaction times as part of the aging process. Add in the impact of medications, and it could cause serious problems. Medications such as ACE inhibitors, beta blockers, sedatives and pain killers can impair driving, according to the AAA.

Surprisingly, only 18% of seniors surveyed reported receiving a warning from their doctors about the impact of their drugs on their driving ability. The study also found that 69% used one or more medications that could alter their driving, and 10% used five or more medications.

AAA has a handy Web page offering tips to mature drivers. Click here to read the information.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Frustration over health care reform is bigger than health care

We've all seen by now the protests at the town hall meetings on the health care legislation now before Congress. But judging by the anger coming out of the mouths of protesters, this is more about frustration with government than it is about health insurance.

It would be helpful to discuss this important issue without the name-calling and yelling. So let's wipe all that frustration away and have a decent discussion about the future of health care in our country. Where do we want it to go, how much do we want to pay for it and who is going to be covered? Those are simple questions and the answers should be simple to provide.

I'll start by saying I think our health care is the best in the world. The problem is that it's being rationed by insurance companies under the current setup. Insurance execs are the gatekeepers to health care whether Republicans want to admit it or not. How many of us have had prescriptions that our doctors have written denied by the insurance companies? How many have had procedures denied or delayed by insurance companies?

The system needs to be fixed. But to hear the protesters talk, the current system is perfect. That makes me wonder what kind of health insurance they have. Must be the Cadillac care that so many people wish they had.

I've seen the bad side of insurance coverage, and I know many of you have, too. Companies deny payment several times, hoping you won't resubmit the claim, even if the policy says it should be paid. If you send it in enough times, they'll finally pay it. And this is for procedures that are covered.

It's the practice of many insurance companies to deny the payment for awhile just to see if they can get away with not paying.

We must do better in this country, and we will -- unless the insurance companies win the battle against health care reform.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

How's that memory working?

Why is it that some days I can remember the combination to my locker in the 7th grade at Tioga Junior High School and another day I can't remember where I put my keys? As I finish up my 50s (I only have 2 1/2 more months in this decade), I think I'd rather have a better memory than anything else.

Well, maybe I'd want better eyesight. . . and not to ache so much in the morning when I get up. Oh yeah, and to have the physical stamina I had at age 22. But besides those things, I'd want a solid memory. You know. . . so that I could recall things when I actually need them. Instead, I bolt up in bed hours later and say, "22-18-8," which was my locker combination. There's a lot of unneeded 411 in my brain.

I once had a co-worker who had a photographic memory. She could roll the movie credits in her mind of "Davy Crockett" and tell you every actor who played every role. What I would give for that kind of a memory. BTW, she did very well on television game shows.

I've tried some of the memory games out there, but I get bored because I forget the rules to the games. . . Just kidding. I get bored with these games because they are boring. So what are my options?

I've been doing some research on the subject and I've come up with a couple of suggestions. One of the key points is that all of us can improve our memories if we only have the discipline to try. So don't get bored, and do the hard work needed to improve your memory.

That means exercising your memory by using it and testing it every chance you get. Your brain will appreciate the workout and pay back those efforts with better brain function. You'll be surprised at how much you retain in your memory bank if you consciously try to remember stuff. Repeat the information. Think about it. Try to recall it a few minutes later. Do it again.

For more memory recall tips, check the Web site You can access it by clicking here.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Were the "good old days" really that good?

I heard a conversation the other day about the good old days and how much better things were back then -- whenever "then" was. People who say that usually have selective memories -- if they can remember those days at all (We are almost 60 you realize).

Sure, many things were better when we grew up in the 50s and 60s. There was less crime and locking the door to your house or car wasn't a big deal. If you forgot, no problem. You could leave your bike on the lawn all night and it would be there in the morning.

But the good old days also were days without air conditioning in our house or in our car. You didn't have a dishwasher and the clothes washer seemed to always break down. The dryer was a wooden rack that was set up in front of the fireplace in the winter and on the patio in the summer.

The television only had three stations and they didn't always work. Our TV had lots of problems and my Dad would send me down to the U-Save Liquor Store on my bike to test the tubes on a machine they had and buy replacements. The tube tester always said the tubes were bad, but the replacement tubes didn't make the TV work any better.

Our car would always break down, and it seemed we always had "vapor lock" when we went on trips to the mountains. Vapor lock supposedly caused a car to stop running because the fuel lines got hot and overheated. If you took a trip, it was common to see cars on the side of the road with their hoods raised waiting for vapor lock or some other malady to pass.

We didn't have cell phones or computers and I suppose you could say that was fortunate. But there's a lot we accomplish today with little effort because of technology and various inventions that make our lives easier, if not more complicated.

Most of us like to reminisce about times when things were easier, and I suppose that today's generation will look back on 2009 and says those were the good old days. Their grandkids will say, "But wasn't that a time of recession with people out of work and everyone losing their houses?"

"Yes, young man," you'll reply. "But the good old days gave us strength of character and taught us that we didn't need all the extra stuff you kids have today. Those were the good old days."

Saturday, August 1, 2009

How do I remember all these PINs and passwords?

As most of us have realized, our memory isn't quite what it was a few years ago, yet we have to remember so much more stuff these days. With so much of our lives wrapped up in our personal computers and other electronic devices, there must be a better way to remember the dozens of access codes.

I have so many different accounts that require me to remember PIN numbers and passwords that I sometimes get lost. ATM codes, passwords for three different computer systems at work, passwords for Twitter, Facebook and this blog. My 401k account has a password and different user name. There are codes to get into my voice mail on my cell phone and work phone. . . I know there are others. . . I just can't remember them all.

To complicate this, some accounts require changing passwords every 90 days.

Consumer Reports offer several tips in this article. Here's part of the article:

Write down your passwords if that is the only way you’ll remember them. Wait a minute—isn’t that dangerous? The conventional wisdom is that this is a no-no. But according to Microsoft, passwords on paper are “more difficult to compromise across the Internet” than those that are stored electronically.

You’ll need to put that piece of paper in a safe place, of course. Muster all your CIA spy instincts and hide the document somewhere in your home, away from your computer, in a place that’s easy to get to only if you know where to look—say, tucked inside the pages of a favorite book, taped to the underside of a laundry basket, or slipped beneath the inner sole of a shoe stashed in your closet.