Monday, June 8, 2009

Tracy Daly - A Potter's Tale

Tracy Daly takes her career seriously. As district Director of Public Affairs, she spends long hours planning marketing and government relations strategies, working with staff of the three campuses, attending board meetings, and creating award-winning publications and videos.

But when Saturday dawns, Daly can be found bent over a pottery wheel, smoothing and shaping clay into the vision hovering in her mind. She might have seen a memorable painting, a splash of color in a piece of fabric, an unusual pattern in the landscape. To work the clay into a tangible form of her vision - that is the challenge and the reward.

"I see inspiration everywhere," Daly said. "I'm on my wheel every weekend, unless I'm out of town. Hours will go by, and I'm still there."
Although she is a native Californian, Daly was raised in a tiny town in Colorado, where she could ride her bike for miles past fields of corn and hills dotted with grazing cattle. It was a place where she learned the skills of crafting from her mother and grandmother: sewing, knitting and crocheting.

"I used to sew my clothes, and home decor as well," Daly said. She continued to sew throughout college, earning her bachelor's degree in journalism and master's in higher education.

"But pretty soon reality sets in, life intervenes. It's sewing machine evolution. First, the sewing machine is always set up, ready for any project. Then, it is moved to a corner, and finally, it is packed up and put away altogether."

About 25 years ago, during a break between careers, Daly took a ceramics class to learn hand building, and really liked it.

"Flash forward to 2005, when I had a little break between my MTA job (as general manager for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority) and the district. I thought, 'I'm going to study pottery again.'

"I took an Adult Ed class in pottery. There were four adults and 16 high school students. It was a fall class, and I started with the district in January. My New Year's resolution was to continue to keep ceramics in my life.

"Too often, you let your work become your vocation and your avocation."

So Daly continued taking the night class in pottery, and became close friends with the instructor.

"At one point she said, 'I think you would like learning more.' She told me about Tuscarora Pottery School."

Tuscarora Summer Pottery School is an intensive two-week workshop held in a 19th Century rooming house in tiny Tuscarora, Nevada, with a population of 35. The closest town is 52 miles away.

"You share a bathroom and have to stagger showers. You work hard and eat like a farm hand. You can't get cell phone reception. I had to walk to the post office every day to call my husband from a pay phone. It was amazing.

"A world opened up for me. I learned as much from the other students as I did from the classes. I've never looked back."

Once she got home, she invested in a pottery wheel. A year went by, and she knew she had to learn more. "You get this hunger. You have to practice, and I was producing a lot pieces. I enrolled in a Saturday class at Saddleback."

After that, she moved the elliptical machine out to make room for a kiln. She set up a workshop in one section of her three-car garage at home.

The walls are covered with artwork and pictures that have special meaning for her. "I have an album cover of the Rolling Stones' Greatest Hits; a picture of when I went snorkeling in Hawaii. There's a picture of a piece of my artwork that placed first in an art contest when I was young. I surround myself with touchstones, things that inspire me."

Each one of her pottery pieces is marked by her "chop," a signature mark that distinguishes each artist's work.

"Mine is an inside-out 'S.' My maiden name was Sprong, and my pottery is my inside out."

She makes bowls, pitchers, and vases, mostly, and continues to improve her technique. One of her most popular pieces is her dog-bone jar, a broad-based lidded vessel with a dog-bone handle.

"I went to a friend's house and her beloved dog had recently died. The dog's ashes were in a brown paper box on the mantel. When I got home, I made her a dog-bone jar to use as an urn, and mailed it to her. She loved it.

"Then another friend's dog died, and I made one for her, and got the same reaction. It's something special for people who love their dogs. Others use the jars for pet treats and toys."

Daly now has her eye on ceramic bird houses. She saw one when she was window shopping while on a business trip, and rushed home to make one like it.

"What's out there in the future is the teapot, but that takes a lot of skill."

Daly is looking for venues to display her pottery, such as the Sawdust Winter Festival, and strives to improve by asking knowledgeable friends to critique her work.

"I just love it. It comes from a special place. There are a lot of work analogies that can be learned from working at this art, statements about perseverance, about sticktoit-iveness.

"I see pots and inspiration everywhere. I have a passion for this, and I find it very fulfilling. Sometimes things don't come out exactly as you envisioned them, but they are still beautiful."


Monday, May 11, 2009

Nuke School was smooth sailing for Greg Dickinson

Wikipedia says the U.S. Naval Nuclear Power School "is widely acknowledged to be the most demanding academic program in the U.S. Military today" because of the amount of classwork crammed into a short period of time.

When informed of that statement, Greg Dickinson looked quizzical and said, "It wasn't that hard."

But Dickinson, senior lab tech at Saddleback College, was equally blase talking about the time he hiked nearly the length of California, from Mission Viejo to San Francisco. Or the time he climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro.

The easygoing Dickinson signed up for the Navy a year out of high school only because at 19, he hadn't a clue what to do with the rest of his life.

He attended Saddleback for two semesters after graduating from Aliso NIguel High School in 1997, but felt he had no real direction in life. "My dad had been in the Army, his brother had been in the Army, and my mom's dad was in the Army Air Force. Why not me?"

Dickinson had no plans to attend "Nuke School" when he first enlisted; he thought he might like to go into medicine. But the recruiters talked him into it, and the deal was cemented when he scored well on a series of tests.

"Then, somehow I got it into my head that I wanted to walk to San Francisco. It was by myself. Who would want to go with me?" After securing a delayed entry to the Navy, Dickinson embarked on a hike up the Pacific Crest Trail that would take him hundreds of miles over five months.

Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.

"It was after El Nino, so when I got to the Sierras, a lot of the passes were blocked. I saw a couple of bears in Yosemite, and ran out of water a couple of times. As soon as I crossed the Golden Gate bridge, I jumped on a bus."

He traveled by bus to Washington, Colorado, Illinois and Michigan before heading home to prepare for his Navy service.

The Navy operates 87 nuclear power plants, including 73 submarines, 10 aircraft carriers, and four training and research prototype plants. Students - made up of enlisted sailors, officers and some civilians, must attend Nuclear Field "A" School and then Nuclear Power School. Graduates train another six months at Nuclear Prototype School before serving on a vessel. Nuke School currently is located in Goose Creek, South Carolina, near Charleston.

The school is demanding because of the fast pace and depth of the studies. Students spend about 45 hours per week in the classroom. Because so much of the courses contain classified material, students can't study outside the classroom. Subjects covered include math, nuclear physics, reactor plant technology, chemistry, thermodynamics and electrical theory.

"The program is a lot like college, with classes and labs. If you weren't doing well, they would force you to study all weekend. I would just do my homework, review, and leave. I never had to do forced hours or mandatory tutorial."

Students who didn't make the grade were transferred to non-nuclear subs.

"It was a six-year contract. I enjoyed the first two years, when we were in school. It was basic nuclear mechanic work. Then we had to go operate a nuclear reactor on a submarine. There were lots of controls and monitoring.

"The Navy has a long track record with nukes, a good one. They carefully charted the people who first worked on nuke subs to determine if there were any long-term effects. The only thing I heard about with nukes and humans was that people who worked around nukes had more girl babies than boys. The same thing is true of firemen. It might have something to do with the heat."

Dickinson said he's often asked about what it's like living in a submarine. "It's like living in an office building. There's always a buzz because of the flouescent lights. Everything's fine as long as you can hear that buzz. You know you're in trouble when it gets dark and quiet.

"Once in a while the sub would be put up in the shipyard in dry dock, and that's always an amazing sight. They are huge. You don't realize how big they are until you walk around them on land."

Being out to sea for three months at a time made life monotonous, Dickinson said. He kept himself busy by studying and qualifying for jobs he wasn't meant to do, beyond his basic job as mechanic. He qualified as throttle man, clock man, and auxiliary electrician.

At the end of his six years, Dickinson said, "I was sure I didn't want to re-enlist. They were offering $60,000 and choice of duty station. Being at sea a lot gave me a lot of time to think about it and plan. I decided to move back with my parents, apply to UCI and use the Montgomery GI Bill."

Greg and his parents.

Dickinson came to Saddleback to finish up some classes, and then enrolled at UCI. "But first I decided to go to Africa." He signed up with an organization in rural Tanzania to build houses for teachers.

"It was very, very basic. No technology. There were no wheelbarrows, no shovels, no hammers. You didn't use hammers to break rocks. You used a big rock to break up smaller rocks."

After working in Tanzania for two months, he visited a great-aunt who was living in Sudan, and later climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Back home again, Dickinson transferred to UCI and began working part-time at Saddleback College. He began as student help in chemistry and currently works in Astronomy. He will graduate in May with a degree in microbiology. He's planning to apply for medical school, figuring that he will be 38 when he's through. 


Monday, April 27, 2009

All the world's a movie theater - Nina Welch

In her spare time, Nina Welch watches movies. Lots of movies.

Welch, Public Information Officer for Saddleback College Fine Arts, has turned her obsession with movies, especially independent films, into a sideline that has led her from Sundance to Slamdance to

On the way, she has watched thousands of feature films, "shorts" and documentaries, living her philosophy of "do what you love."

She grew up in a small, close-knit suburb in Riverside County, with a working mom and a dad who wrote a column for the Riverside Press-Enterprise called Welch Rarebits. There were friendly neighbors, block barbecues and trees to climb.

At Ramona High School, Welch was fun-loving and popular, but had no burning career aspirations. She was engaged as a senior, and married one year later. She got a job as a secretary with the Riverside County Probation Department.

Within five years, Welch gave birth to two boys, Brian and Matt, and the family moved to the tiny seaside town of San Clemente, just a few blocks from the beach.

"We got married with the idea that I would put him through school, and then he would put me through school."

But those plans fell through when the marriage foundered, and Welch was left to raise her two boys, from ages 6 and 8, as a single mom.

"I stayed good friends with my ex so the kids would not feel as if they were from a broken home. I even got along with his new wife - I called her my 'wife-in-law.'

"Once the kids were grown and self-sufficient, then it was my turn."

She moved to Arizona to attend the University of Arizona, majoring in media arts and minoring in English.

"I had a professor who ran a film festival, and he put me on the screening committee. I watched all the films submitted, worked to get film makers to submit their work, and did PR for films and film makers. He took us to Sundance Film Festival for the experience. I did that for three years."

Before she graduated from UA, she won a university-wide poetry contest and also was named Outstanding Student for the Fine Arts Department.

"After I got my degree, I got two part-time jobs - one working for the Arizona International Film Festival, and one at the Tucson Arts District. It was a great way to get into what I learned in school.

"I had taken production classes, and knew I didn't want to make films. I was a script supervisor on a film - learned I didn't want to do that. What I really loved was meeting young film makers and seeing the stories they were telling. I felt bad for them because I thought that nobody was going to see these great films."

Welch moved back to California after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. "I moved in with my son and free-lanced." She worked as a film screener for Sundance Film Festival, whose main office is in Los Angeles. She also screened for the American Cinemateque in Hollywood, for their alternate screen program.

"That first summer I screened 400 shorts and 100 features in three months. You just get into a zone. I watched every one all the way through. That's one thing I learned from that professor. He told us, 'You owe it to them. They put their hearts into it.' "

After her stint as a Sundance screener, she volunteered at the information desk during the festival for five years.

Welch worked at a variety of jobs for the next couple of years, as an event planner for one company, as a temp for UCI, and even commuted to Hollywood to work for a movie studio.

Eventually, she saw an ad for a publicist at Saddleback College in the Fine Arts Department. "I looked at the job description and said, 'That's everything I do!' I love working here, promoting the arts. I love the idea of bringing people in, especially young people who don't see theatre."

During the time she worked as a screener for Sundance, Welch met Vince Di Pierro, a former Warner Brothers executive and writer for Saturday Night Live and MASH.

"We became good friends. We both had the idea that there are great films that nobody sees. So we got the idea of starting a website dedicated to the works of independent film makers. It's called and started last year in April."

At INDIEROAD, viewers can download independent films or watch them on the internet for a small fee. "It is still in the early stages. We have about 65 films up right now, but we are soliciting and screening new films all the time."

INDIEROAD is now a sponsor of Slamdance, a film festival formed 15 years ago by disgruntled film makers who couldn't make it into Sundance. Independent film makers and their fans grumbled for years that Sundance Film Festival has turned into a mecca for Hollywood celebrity actors and directors. Christopher Nolan, director for the 2005 Batman movie, Batman Begins, had his first film at Slamdance, Welch said.

Recently, Welch helped out on a documentary about a subject close to her heart - her younger son, Matt Archbold, a former world-class surfer. The documentary, Archy, was directed by Bill Ballard and tells the story of Matt's meteoric rise to the top of the surfing world, and his subsequent problems dealing with early freedom, fame, and the surfing establishment.

"Both my sons were very sports minded. We lived so close to the beach, so they spent a lot of time there. Matt would do amazing things in the water. It was like his feet were a part of the surf board. He got a sponsorship at 16 and traveled all over the world. He is still surfing, and living in Hawaii."

Her older son, Brian, is superintendent of greens at a golf course, and lives in Capistrano Beach. "I always told them, 'Do what you love to do,' and they have done that. They are doing well."

It is the same advice that she would give to young film makers who are struggling to succeed.

"To be successful takes passion, believing in their films and themselves. They have to have a good story to tell. With independent films you see really different stories. They are not formulaic like a lot of the big Hollywood movies.

"Work hard and keep believing. That's what you have to do."
Click here to visit indieroad


Monday, April 6, 2009

Erik and the boys

Dana Manley, left, and Erik Austin, at 16, pose with a statue of the Pep Boys. Manley, another Saddleback College staffer, was dating Erik's sister at the time.

The picture is a little grainy, but the face is unmistakably that of Erik Austin - just old enough to carry a driver's license in his wallet - posing with the plaster-cast images of the Pep Boys.

Austin was just 16 back then, unaware that the day would mark the beginning of a life-long interest - make that obsession - with Manny, Moe and Jack.

The 5-foot-high statue was a gift from his uncle, who found it in one of the rooms of a house he purchased in Los Angeles. It had been left behind by the former homeowner, and his uncle brought it by for young Erik.

When Austin moved to Lake Elsinore in 1992, he discovered that the statue took up too much room in his tiny house, and decided to make some extra money by selling it.

"The minute I sold it, I regretted it," Austin said. "I sold it to a guy from Burbank who lived in a castle with a moat around it."

Austin immediately started calling around to try to find a duplicate of the statue. He found a replacement statue and much more.

Today, with his home re-modeled to a roomy size, Austin has devoted an entire room to his Pep Boys collection, with the overflow packed away in boxes in his garage.

He has thousands of collectibles, from cans of Pep Boys products to watches, lighters, clocks and other knick-knacks bearing the familiar image of the three "boys."

He has 32 binders filled with photographs, catalogs and flyers from the year the first Pep Boys store opened in 1921 to today. Many of his photographs are rare and valuable in their own right. He has several panaromic pictures of Pep Boys' staff at their annual picnics, including one dated 1928, featuring Manny and Moe.

Back in the early 1920s, four friends born and raised in South Philadelphia each chipped in $200 to start an auto parts store: Emmanuel "Manny" Rosenfeld, Maurice "Moe" Strauss, Moe Radavitz, and W. Graham "Jack" Jackson.

Manny Rosenfeld, the driving force behind the group, predicted that demand for auto parts would skyrocket as the price of automobiles became more affordable. The cost of car ownership was dropping as a result of Henry's Ford's innovation of bringing assembly line production to the automobile manufacturing industry.

The four entrepreneurs named their store Pep Auto Supplies, from the name of one the of the products of the day, Pep Valve Grinding compound. It is said that locals began calling the store Pep Boys because of a policeman at 63rd and Market streets, who used to ticket motorists for driving without lights, advising them to "go see the boys at Pep" for a replacement oil wick (no light bulbs in those days).

The logo Manny, Moe & Jack was inspired by a Los Angeles dress shop called Minnie, Maude and Mabel's. Two of the original owners, Radavitz and Graham, left the company after a few years.

Austin said that Graham, the "Jack" of the trio, was advised by his father to buy out of the group. "Jack's father told him, you'd better get your money out of there, that company is going to fail." However, Jack's name and faced stayed in the logo.

Today, Pep Boys has 563 stores in 36 states, with over 6,000 service bays for auto repair.

And Austin has come to know several current and former officials in the Pep Boys organization. He is recognized by many employees in stores in the Orange County-Los Angeles area, who remember him when they dismantle advertising or holiday displays.

The internet - and eBay, especially, allows him to keep track of what is on the market and which of his pieces are the most rare.

"Although I have had offers to buy up some of my collection, I just can't part with this stuff. The only way I would consider it is if I realized my dream of retiring and moving to Hawaii. I think I could sell it then."


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Field of Dreams - Sheryl Christensen

"I loved the game, but it was never my life. It's just a game," said Sheryl Christensen, IVC counselor and former standout softball pitcher for La Habra High School and University of Arizona.

But she laughed as she added, "Of course, softball gave me a free education, changed my whole world and led to my career."

Christensen first played fastpitch softball in a recreational league at 9 years old, and took up pitching four years later.

"My brother was taking pitching lessons for baseball, and I told my parents I wanted to do it. I wasn't good at pitching, but I could throw hard."

Soon she moved from recreational league to "travel ball," playing during the off-season. Her mom coached a travel ball team for 16-year-olds and Christensen, at 14, joined.

Christensen pitched on the varsity team as a freshman at Lowell High School and also played volleyball. Lowell closed its doors just before her junior year, so Christensen moved to La Habra High School. That year, Christensen helped La Habra win a CIF softball championship, and was named CIF Player of the Year.

The following year, La Habra won first place in the Freeway League and went to CIF finals, but lost in the championship game. However, Christensen was awarded a full-ride softball scholarship to the University of Arizona.

She played all four years of college, including summer ball for the first two years. "By the end of my sophomore year, I was really burned out. In college, you are always playing or practicing. I always wanted other interests, a balance in my life."

Renewing her enthusiasm for the sport was the arrival, at the end of her junior year at UA, of Coach Mike Candrea, who today is considered a legend in fastpitch softball.

"He was amazing. You wanted to play for him, wanted to give him everything you had. Just an amazing coach."

In 1986, Christensen's senior year, Candrea took the team to third place and was named conference co-coach of the year. Since then he has compiled an astonishing list of accomplishments in the Pac 10, one of the nation's top college conferences:

-- 8 national championships
-- 1,100 Division I victories
-- 20 trips to the Women's College World Series in 21 years

He also coached the U.S. Olympic softball team to a gold medal in 2004 and silver in 2008.

But Candrea was just one of many great coaches she played for, Christensen said, beginning with her mom. "She worked with me ever since I was in rec ball. There was no better teacher of the fundamentals. She was just athletic - she did all sports. She knew the game."

After graduating from Arizona as a psychology major, Christensen began working with athletes as a counselor at Cal State University, Fullerton, and then enrolled to work on her master's degree in psychology. She has worked for 15 years as a counselor at Irvine Valley College, specializing in athletes, and also works part-time at Santiago Canyon College, teaching career and academic planning.

When Christensen was still in high school, her mom went to work as an assistant pitching coach, and eventually taught hitting and pitching to about 100 students per week out of her back yard.

"Mom finally decided to retire, but she had built up such a big business that I couldn't see just throwing it away. I took over her students and went out on my own. I give lessons in a park, primarily at night. I am so busy now, that I have cut way back, down to one night a week. But I really enjoy the girls.

"With kids today, you can tell around the age of 12 who are the competitors. Either they will make the transition to competitive ballplayer, or they will drop out at around that age. I love the way softball shapes and molds individuals, and the way it teaches teamwork and work ethic."

Christensen says that some of her best friends today are former teammates from high school, college and travel ball teams. "There is a real bond of friendship that forms as you are sprinting your last sprint, when you are dog tired, and you look over and there is your friend, fighting just as hard to take that last step for the team."

Christensen works with student athletes every day in her job, and thinks that athletes need to maintain an emphasis on academics.

"Teachers, coaches and parents are pushing the athletes harder on the field and not in the classroom; we need to keep the perspective on students first and athletes second."

To learn more about fastpitch softball and how important pitchers are to the game, see the post below, "Is it harder to hit a softball or a baseball?"


Saturday, March 21, 2009

Is it harder to hit a softball or a baseball?

In 2003, USA Today proclaimed that hitting a baseball was the hardest thing to do in sports.

But is it harder to hit a softball or a baseball?

The answer may surprise you.

USA Today used science to demonstrate why hitting a baseball is so difficult, quoting from the book The Physics of Baseball by former Yale University professor Robert Adair.

Adair says that a fastball thrown 95 mph reaches home plate in about 0.4 seconds (the pitching rubber is 60 feet, 6 inches from home plate). Adair analyzes the batter's task this way: the batter has about 0.1 seconds to look at the ball and decide whether to swing. He has another 0.1 to .25 seconds to decide where the ball is going. Swinging the bat takes about .15 seconds.

Many people think of fastpitch softball as baseball lite, with softball played on a smaller diamond (60 feet between bases, instead of 90), using a larger ball (12" versus 9"), and shorter distance between pitcher and batter (43 feet compared to 60 feet 6 inches.)

The shorter distance from pitcher to batter in softball, combined with the underhand pitching motion in softball makes softball a pitcher's game. The best softball pitchers can throw 68 to 70 miles per hour, the equivalent of a 95 mph pitch in baseball (a speed consistently achieved by a small percentage of major league pitchers).

The overhand throwing motion used by baseball pitchers is not a natural movement for the human anatomy. Pitchers are the most frequently injured players in baseball (arm, elbow, shoulder injuries) and starting pitchers usually rest four days between starts. Today's baseball pitchers rarely pitch all nine innings.

Softball pitchers, who pitch underhand, usually are pulled from a game only when their pitches are no longer working, and can pitch consecutive days without undue strain on their arms. Softball teams can get by with two top-notch pitchers.

In the 2000 Olympics, the U.S. softball team allowed only seven runs and 24 hits in 10 games. That is not so surprising, considering that the Americans were considered the best in the world. However, in six games against their top competitors - China, Japan and Australia - the U.S. team scored only six runs.

For an entertaining look at why a softball is so hard to hit, watch the FSN Sport Science video, Sports Myths. The video claims to answer the question "Is it harder to hit a softball or a baseball?" You may quarrel with the science, but the video does a good job of demonstrating the differences between baseball and softball pitching.


Monday, February 16, 2009

Rollin' with the derby: Elizabeth Arreaga

Photos by Megan Irwin.(Click to enlarge.)

Start out with fishnet stockings, old-fashioned roller skates and a punk-rock attitude. Add athleticism, aggressiveness and a bit of camp, and you have the modern-day version of roller derby.

Wildly popular in the 1950s, roller derby's fortunes had waned as the sixties came to an end. But the dawn of the 21st century brought new converts to the sport. Today's roller derby teams are made up primarily of women competing as amateurs, who combine athletic power with theater.

Elizabeth Arreaga, Saddleback sociology instructor, spent about two years skating for the Orange County Roller Girls, a four-team, flat-track roller derby league based in Garden Grove.

"I wasn't very good at it, but it was a lot of fun," Arreaga said.

Arreaga learned about roller derby after striking up a conversation with a derby skater she met at a rock concert. "She invited me to join, said I didn't need any experience. I looked it up online, and it looked scary but fun."

Arreaga was not new to sports. In high school, she played water polo, swam and was a cheerleader at Gahr High School. But her skating experience was limited to trips to the roller rink as a youngster.

"Roller derby will take anybody, and teach them the basic skills - skating forward and backward, how to fall, how to transition from forward to backward, how to dodge other skaters." New skaters are called "fresh meat" by veteran skaters.

Besides learning how to skate, the roller derby athlete must create a skating persona - both a name and a costume. "It's part of the fun, creating your alter ego," Arreaga said. "Some of the names are very clever." Some such monikers include Ivanna Cocktail, Punkahontas, Jacquelyn Hyde, Janis Choplin, Eva Destruction and Juana Beat'n.

Arreaga's name: Betsy Bitch-Slap Her.

The majority of roller-derby leagues nationwide compete on flat, oval tracks, though some, as in the Los Angeles and San Diego leagues, use traditional banked tracks.

Games are called bouts and consist of three 20-minute periods or two 30-minute periods. Each team puts five skaters on the track, four blockers and one jammer. To score, the jammer must get through the other team's blockers as many times as possible during a two-minute jam. Body blocking is allowed, but not elbowing, hitting or tripping. Bouts are fast-paced, full-contact affairs.

Banked-track bouts are faster, with top skaters reaching speeds of over 30 mph, but flat-track aficionados say the flat track requires more skill and power, without a sloping surface to provide momentum.

"There is a lot of strategy and footwork," Arreaga said. "It is amazing how some of the women can move their feet in skates. The most difficult part is you have to be in condition. You skate in a squat to lower your center of gravity and keep your balance. It is hard on the thighs, physically demanding. But part of the fun is to try something that is very challenging."

Derby skaters use only roller skates, never inline (Rollerblade-type) skates. "Quads are heavier and harder to skate in than inline skates. That's why it is so amazing to watch how skillful the derby skaters are."

When she was on a derby team, she went to practice three days a week, and also hit the gym every week to build strength and endurance.

Although roller derby might seem like a blue-collar sport, Arreaga said most of the skaters have bachelor's degrees, and half, like Arreaga, have master's degrees.

At the end of last year, Arreaga dropped out of derby, partly because of time constraints. She is teaching six classes at three colleges (Saddleback, Long Beach City College, and Coastline Community College), is married with two young children, and is working on her Ph.d.

She was able to use her derby experience in her sociology classes. "Derby is a subculture, so it's easy to relate it to sociology. Students who go to watch bouts can study the differences in the feminization of women in derby and outside derby. Plus, not a lot of people know about derby, and it's fun to expose them to something they've never seen."

For more information about roller derby, visit these websites:

Click here to visit Orange County Roller Girls website.
Click here to visit Los Angeles or San Diego Derby Dolls websites.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Father-daughter musical theatre...Dave Anderson

Dave Anderson and his 13-year-old daughter, Maddie, will appear together in the musical "Annie" at the Musical Theatre Village in Irvine. Annie will run Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays Feb. 13 through Mar. 22. Maddie will play Cookie, one of the orphans, while Anderson will play Rooster, the bad guy.

Anderson, Director of Extended Education for Irvine Valley College, said performing together allows for a little extra father-daughter bonding time. Annie is the third show they have done together.

"The first was Jungle Book in 2005. I was Baloo the Bear and she played multiple roles, including a bratty gold digger and a monkey. In 2007, we were in Charlie Brown. She played one of the Peanuts gang and I played an adult version of Pig Pen."

Maddie, an 8th grader at Newhart Middle School in Mission Viejo, has done several productions at her school, including Seussical the Musical last year. The Jungle Book was her first production.

Anderson has been in numerous shows since the 1980's, including Jesus Christ Superstar, Grease, A Chorus Line, A Time For Christmas, Four Tickets to Christmas and The Rocky Horror Show. The theaters he has appeared in include Orange Coast College, Golden West College, Santa Ana College and the Buena Park Civic Theater, among others.

Anderson has some $12 discount tickets for the following shows: Saturday, Feb. 21 at 7:30 PM; Sunday, Mar. 1 at 2 PM; and Sunday, Mar. 8 at 2 PM. Call him at 949-633-9432 if you would like to purchase tickets. The father-daughter Andersons will appear as Cookie and Rooster in these performances, as well as the 2 PM show on Feb. 14.

The two will appear in other roles in the following shows: Feb. 22, 2 PM; Feb. 28, 2 PM; Mar. 7, 7:30 PM; Mar. 14, 7:30 PM; Mar. 21, 2 PM.

Tickets will also be available by calling the Musical Theatre Village at 949-753-1996. Regular ticket prices are $16 for adults and $14 for children and seniors.

Anderson was profiled in this blog in June 2008.

Click here to visit Musical Theatre Village's website.