Dec. 31, 1999: The last day of the past

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On Dec. 31, 1999, I was a junior news editor at the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, the newest member of a team of about a dozen editors and page designers. Reporters mostly worked during the day writing the stories. Editors like me worked at night editing the stories and assembling and designing the newspaper. So I was shocked and elated when my supervisor told me in late December that I wouldn’t have to work on New Year’s Eve. I was smart enough not to ask why. My then-girlfriend was coming to Corpus Christi to celebrate with me, and I was looking forward to a long, romantic night in a downtown hotel.

But on the morning of the 31st, my supervisor called and apologetically asked me to come in for a few hours that night to help edit the extra-big pile of stories for the first edition of the new year. He assured me that I could leave by 7 or 8 p.m. I agreed, trying to sound gracious and appreciative of his promise of an early release. The promise of extra overtime pay further softened the news. I informed my girlfriend of the minor change in plans, which wouldn’t drastically affect our evening.

I dutifully returned to my desk in the newsroom, and I explained to my puzzled (and relieved) colleagues why I was there. As I settled in, I gradually realized there was nowhere else I wanted to be that night (if only for a few hours).

There were great advantages to sitting in a newsroom that night, if only because of the tremendous access I had to countless news services from around the world. Every news service offers special packages every year that examine, analyze, celebrate, or condemn developments in politics, technology, science, sports, film, and music over the past twelve months, but this year was different. The millennial angle brought rich historical and cultural flavors to the coverage. That year, there were fascinating and thoughtful reflections on the evolution of democracy throughout human history, the torments and treasures technology brought to human civilization, and the great and terrible conflicts and comforts religion brought to every society.

That year’s year-end gaze focused as far on the future as it did on the past, predicting peace for most of the world, except for the inevitable tensions between a resurgent China and the post-Cold War United States. Analysts predicted that an economically healthy world would strengthen even the weakest societies in Africa and the Middle East. Terrorism was mentioned, but only in passing as one of a series of minor dangers the U.S. of the future might have to confront and snuff out. Foreign affairs experts predicted the imminent liberation of (and possible civil war in) Cuba once the Castro brothers died. Some political analysts wondered what an Al Gore presidency would look like.

That night I watched live news coverage of the (symbolic) new millennium dawning on the other side of the world. I cheerily chatted with my new co-workers. I munched on the growing buffet of sandwiches, fruits, and vegetables the newspaper ordered for the staff. I noticed a strange new sensation growing in my body, a warm happiness enveloping my heart and mind. Later I realized that warmth I felt was a deepening love for my new job, specifically for the particular intellectual role I played in the newsroom. There was an energy in the air that night, something I never felt before, and something I would feel for the next ten years, every time the newsroom mobilized to absorb and understand a big news event. I was part of something noble, challenging, and fulfilling. I was part of something that mattered.

There was another important reason why I wanted to be in the newsroom on that night, another important explanation for that tense excitement in the air. For months, the news wires were filled with stories about Y2K, the looming technological disaster everyone feared might take place at midnight. Technology experts, military officials, and others fretted about what might happen when the calendars in software programs and defense systems turned from 12-31-99 to 01-01-00, or some other variation of a date dominated by so many zeroes. Would there be power failures? Would computers everywhere melt down? Would planes fall out of the sky, hospital life-support machines shut down, or satellites spin out of control? Would defense systems accidentally launch missiles at Russia or at the U.S.? Would the symbolic end of the millennium inaugurate an actual Armageddon?

Despite these concerns, no one in the general populace seemed to be seriously concerned about Y2K. Government officials, scientists, and engineers were well aware of the potential problems, and the general consensus was that most of the spots in software, where there might be glitches over those zeros, were fixed. Russian and American military officials teamed up to monitor defense systems in an admirable display of transparency and professionalism. No one really knew what might happen. One of my favorite podcasts, “Witness” from the BBC World Service, recently examined the worries over the “Millennium Bug.”

Nevertheless, Times Square in New York City filled up with its usual crowds of bundled-up revelers with their strange eyeglasses, hats, and signs. Peter Jennings anchored ABC News coverage from New York, smiling to himself as he tried to speak to increasingly inebriated correspondents from Asian and European capitals, where the skies exploded with fireworks, church bells pealed, and the streets filled with millions of people, all dancing, kissing, and cheering. I imagined myself in Paris with my girlfriend, holding hands on the riverbank, sharing a deep kiss, the Eiffel Tower’s searchlight sweeping across the cloudy sky above us, the twinkle of distant fireworks sparkling in her dark eyes. Someday, I told myself, I’ll take her there.

Eventually, the newsroom’s clock struck 8 p.m., and my supervisor thanked me for helping edit the extra-big pile of stories for tomorrow’s edition. I smiled, shook his hand, and wished him and and my envious co-workers a happy New Year. I strolled out of the newsroom, glancing one last time at the TV. Peter Jennings smiled as he reviewed the growing crowd in Times Square. It was a smile I never forgot. I spent the rest of the night as I hoped I would. My girlfriend and I had a romantic and relaxing evening — the perfect end to the year, the century, and the millennium.

In the morning, we learned the world did not end. Instead, the first day of the new millennium was bright, breezy, and warm. We had breakfast and then drove to Padre Island. Amazingly, the beach was empty. She and I walked together through the frothy waves hissing across the yellow sand. I stared out across the water, shielding my tired eyes from the sunshine. A new year, I thought to myself. I felt a greater sense of hope, determination, and ambition at that moment than ever before. I felt fortunate, safe, and content. I asked myself, would I ever feel like this again?

I glanced at my girlfriend, radiant in the morning light, slowly dancing her way down the beach, watching the water flow around her legs, her gleaming black hair streaming down her shoulders, her arms outstretched to catch the breeze. She smiled at me. I took her hand in mine. It was time to move on. The future awaited.

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Trump’s inaugural lineup / Familiar faces in ‘Rogue One’ / How to cover a terrorist attack / David Bowie’s final year / Christmas and Confederate widows

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This week: Trump’s inaugural lineup / Familiar faces in ‘Rogue One’ / How to cover a terrorist attack / David Bowie’s final year / Christmas and Confederate widows

Most of these great items come from my social media networks. Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and Facebook for more fascinating videos, photos, articles, essays, and criticism.

1. Trump’s inaugural parade lineup announced
By Nolan D. McCaskill | Forty Five :: Politico | Dec. 30
“The Jan. 20 parade will follow the swearing-in ceremony of [President-elect Donald] Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence. The committee characterized the list as an ‘initial’ version of groups that have accepted an invitation thus far.”

2. How ‘Rogue One’ Brought Back Familiar Faces
By David Itzkoff | The New York Times | Dec. 27
“Warning: This article contains spoilers about ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.’ ”

3. DC restaurant won’t put Trump in presidential mural
By Nikita Vladimirov | The Briefing Room :: The Hill | Dec. 29
“The mural features the founder of the restaurant, ‘Mama’ Ayesha Abraham, standing alongside 11 presidents, from Dwight D. Eisenhower to Barack Obama.”

4. Covering a potential terrorist attack? Keep these things in mind
By Nausicaa Renner | Columbia Journalism Report | September 2016
“Terrorism relies on the spread of fear, so any publicity — from journalists or otherwise — threatens to play into its aims. The ability of terrorists to disseminate information and recruit has only gotten more powerful with the rise of social media. [T]he Tow Center for Digital Journalism [recently] published three reports on how journalism should cover terrorism.”

5. 5 ways to make the populist-Republican coalition government work
By Richard V. Reeves | The Brookings Institution :: Forbes | Dec. 19
“Trump does not have the same political agenda as the Republican Party in Congress, to the extent, that is, that he has an agenda at all. He won the party’s nomination, but is almost entirely independent of the party’s machine, history and personal networks. Trump didn’t climb up the party floor by floor. He simply took the penthouse suite.”

6. David Bowie’s Final, Imaginative, Awesome Year
By Bruce Handy | The Hollywood Reporter | Dec. 20
“As the anniversary of his death approaches, collaborators on the music icon’s off-Broadway show ‘Lazarus’ share accounts of a cancer-stricken artist productive and engaged until the end.”

7. Syria Will Stain Obama’s Legacy Forever
By David Greenberg | Foreign Policy | Dec. 29
“The arc of history is long, but it won’t ever judge the president’s Syria policy kindly.”

8. A reflection on Barack Obama’s presidency
The Economist | Dec. 24
“From the ruins of Syria to the barricades in Congress and America’s oldest wounds, sometimes nothing has been the best he could do. Sometimes it was all he could do. The possibilities seem shrunken. After its collision with history, so might hope itself.”

9. Christmas Mourning, Confederate Widows, and the Aftermath of the Civil War
By Angela Esco | Muster :: Journal of the Civil War Era | Dec. 20
“Approximately 750,000 men died in the war. We know this number, know that it earns the distinction of being the bloodiest American war, but often we do not think about what this number meant, in terms of families changed, sons killed, women wearing black, buildings draped in crepe.”

10. Harry Truman, Five-Card Stud and the Cold War
By Michael Beschloss | HistorySource :: The New York Times | September 2014
“Harry Truman was the president most publicly identified with poker, which seemed natural for a product of the Kansas City political machine led by the back-room Democratic boss Tom Pendergast.”

Confluence of Culture: Documenting the 1960s and 70s Chicano Art Movement

Such beautiful artwork

The Top Shelf

This post covers a recent addition to the Jacinto Quirarte Papers and is written by former archives student assistant, Marissa Del Toro.

Slides of artwork by Tony Ortega Slides of artwork by Tony Ortega, 1989-1990.

Did you ever have that moment when everything you have been working on comes full circle? I had one of those moments earlier in May, when I serendipitously met Mrs. Sara Quirarte. She is the wife of the late Dr. Jacinto Quirarte, who was professor emeritus of Art History. While working in Special Collections this past year, I have helped process additions to the Jacinto Quirarte Papers. As a student who studies Latino and Latin American Art, and after becoming immersed in Quirarte’s collection, I have grown fond of the acclaimed art historian.

Dr. Jacinto Quirarte was a leading expert of pre-Columbian, Latin American, and Chicano art history. Born in 1931 in the small mining town of Jerome, Arizona, Quirarte lived…

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Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: George Michael dies / 2016’s best science stories / Texas and Planned Parenthood / What men should know by 22 / Plantations and public history

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This week: George Michael dies / 2016’s best science stories / Texas and Planned Parenthood / What men should know by 22 / Plantations and public history

Most of these great items come from my social media networks. Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and Facebook for more fascinating videos, photos, articles, essays, and criticism.

1. Ex-Wham singer George Michael dies
BBC News | Dec. 25
“The star … is said to have ‘passed away peacefully at home.’ … Police say there were no suspicious circumstances.”

2. Ordered Deported, Berlin Suspect Slipped Through Germany’s Fingers
By Alison Smale, Carlotta Gall, and Gaia Pianigiani | The New York Times | Dec. 22
“Amri’s life and odyssey underscore a vexing problem, common in Europe: how to handle hundreds of thousands of virtually stateless wanderers who are either unwilling or unable to return home.”

3. ‘Life disappeared before my eyes’: photographer describes killing of Russian ambassador
By Burhan Ozbilici | The Guardian | Dec. 19
“Associated Press photographer Burhan Ozbilici went to view an exhibition in Ankara but instead witnessed the assassination of Andrei Karlov”
Also, from the Associated Press: A look at the most significant attacks in Turkey in 2016

4. The Most Popular Science Stories of 2016
By Andrea Gawrylewski | Scientific American | Dec. 19
“The presidential election took center stage, but our readers were also fascinated by everything from particle physics and rage disorder to autism in girls and the polar vortex”

5. The Best TV Performances of 2016
By Tim Goodman and Daniel Fienberg | The Hollywood Reporter | Dec. 20
Sadness, fear, strength, vulnerability — 2016 had an incredible array of acting achievements.

6. Texas officially kicking Planned Parenthood out of Medicaid
By Alexa Ura | The Texas Tribune | Dec. 20
“Planned Parenthood had previously received $3.1 million in Medicaid funding, but those dollars will be nixed in 30 days …”

7. 22 Things Men Should Know By Age 22
By Todd Brison | Medium | Dec. 15
“Most of the people in your life now will not be there in 5 years. Tell them how much they matter to you today.”

8. The Plantation Tour Disaster: Teaching Slavery, Memory, and Public History
By Niels Eichhorn | Muster :: Journal of the Civil War Era | Dec. 5
“Regardless whether a plantation does or does not cover slavery, they provide an interesting mechanism to teach about the institutions of the Old South, collective memory, and public history.”

9. Mexico: The Cauldron of Modernism
By J. Hoberman | NYR Daily :: The New York Review of Books | Dec. 12
“To a degree, ‘Paint the Revolution’ is the story of the three star muralists, Diego Rivera, David Siqueiros, and José Clemente Orozco, who along with the posthumously canonized Frida Kahlo, defined the new Mexican art.”

10. From White Knight to Thief
By Michael Beschloss | HistorySource :: The New York Times | September 2014
“At the start of the terrifying market plunge of October 1929, he had bravely helped shore up the market by parading around the exchange floor, placing bids for shares of U.S. Steel, as well as other blue-chip holdings.”

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: The truth of ‘Westworld’ / U.S. interference with other democracies / Einstein’s first wife / A new era of Reconstruction / James Buchanan’s presidential transition

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This week: The truth of ‘Westworld’ / U.S. interference with other democracies / Einstein’s first wife / A new era of Reconstruction / James Buchanan’s presidential transition

Most of these great items come from my social media networks. Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and Facebook for more fascinating videos, photos, articles, essays, and criticism.

1. Trump names Conway counselor to president
By Brooke Seipel | The Hill | Dec. 22
“Conway will continue her role as a close adviser to Trump, working with senior leadership to further the his administration’s goals.”

2. Does ‘Westworld’ tell a truer story than a novel can?
By Stuart Kelly | The Guardian | Dec. 20
“The conventions of prose fiction are bound up with an understanding of life that feels more and more outdated — not so with this box-set drama”

3. The U.S. has a long history of hacking other democracies
By Mariya Y. Omelicheva, Ryan Beasley and Christian Crandall | Monkey Cage :: The Washington Post | Dec. 20
“We examined unclassified Central Intelligence Agency documents and historical academic research on U.S. interventions to identify 27 U.S. clandestine operations carried out between 1949 and 2000. Most U.S. ‘secret wars’ were against other democratic states.”

4. Russia Missing from Trump’s Top Defense Priorities, According to DoD Memo
By John Hudson, Paul McLeary, and Dan De Luce | Foreign Policy | Dec. 20
“Besides placing an emphasis on budgetary issues, ‘force strength,’ and counterterrorism in Iraq and Syria, the memo noted other briefings between the Defense Department and the Trump transition team on China and North Korea. But Russia was not mentioned.”

5. We are witnessing the birth pangs of a Third Reconstruction
By the Rev. William J. Barber II | ThinkProgress | Dec. 15
“We need a moral movement to revive the heart of American democracy and build a Third Reconstruction for our time. This work is not easy, and it will not be completed quickly. But we know what is required to move forward together.”

6. Harmony Amidst Division: The Cabinet of James Buchanan
By Rick Allen | Muster :: Journal of the Civil War Era | Dec. 17
“History never specifically repeats itself, but there are parallels between 1856, 1860, and 2016. As we, like Buchanan and Lincoln, transition from one era in our national history to another, let us remember the only way to achieve true success requires the inclusiveness of both people and ideas.”

7. Analysis: On transgender Texans and bathrooms, a call to stay calm
By Ross Ramsey | The Texas Tribune | Dec. 19
“Some Texas lawmakers were in a hurry to require transgender Texans to use the restrooms that match the genders listed on their birth certificates. But the policy and politics are complicated enough to prompt the governor to tap the brakes.”

8. The Making of an American Terrorist
By Amanda Robb | New Republic | Dec. 15
“Robert Dear shot up a Planned Parenthood clinic and killed three people. Did the right-wing media help turn a disturbed loner into a mass murderer?”

9. The Forgotten Life of Einstein’s First Wife
By Pauline Gagnon | Scientific American | Dec. 19
“She was a physicist, too — and there is evidence that she contributed significantly to his groundbreaking science”

10. The President Attends the World Series
By Michael Beschloss | HistorySource :: The New York Times | October 2014
“Herbert Hoover’s surprise appearance at Game 5 of the Philadelphia Athletics vs. the Cubs in Philadelphia, in October 1929, was one of the last happy moments of his presidency, occurring two weeks before the stock market collapse that ushered in the Great Depression.”

Have a rum cake

This is a recipe for the Dan Mudd Rum Cake, one of my all-time favorite desserts, named after a former colleague from the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.

This is a recipe for the Dan Mudd Rum Cake, one of my all-time favorite desserts, named after a former colleague from the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.

I made one this morning. It gets better and better every year.

Enjoy.

The cake:
— 1 cup pecans, halved or coarsely chopped
— 1 package of yellow cake mix, any brand but not a pudding mix
— 1 package of instant vanilla pudding mix
— 4 medium or large eggs (not extra-large or jumbo)
— 1/4 cup cold water
— 1/2 cup vegetable oil
— 1/2 cup of rum (any kind of rum, but do not use a Jamaican-type of rum)

Directions
— Preheat oven to 325F degrees
— Grease and flour 10-inch tube (angel-food type) pan
— Sprinkle nuts over bottom of pan
— Mix all cake ingredients
— Pour batter over nuts
— Bake for about 40 minutes
— Cool for about 30 minutes
— Make glaze while cake is cooling
— Prick deeply all over the top of the cake with a toothpick or thin knife
— Drizzle and smooth glaze evenly over top and sides, allowing glaze to soak into cake
— Keep spooning the glaze over cake until all glaze has been absorbed
— After all has cooled at room temperature, run knife along edge of cake and along center tube, and remove cake from pan

The glaze (make while cake is cooling)
— 1/2 cup of butter or 1/2 cup stick oleo (do not use tub or watered-down soft spread)
— 1/4 cup of water
— 1 cup of sugar
— 1/4 cup of rum

Directions
— Melt butter or oleo in a medium-sized saucepan
— Stir in water and sugar
— Boil for five minutes, stirring constantly
— Remove from heat and cool slightly
— Stir in rum slowly
— While warm, spoon over cake

SVREP Collection : Looking Back at 2016

An incredible collection

The Top Shelf

The month of December marked my six month anniversary here at UTSA working with the Southwest Voter Registration Project. Since then, I have met so many wonderful people that had once worked with Willie or had a lasting impact in his life. It has been an amazing adventure organizing and looking through the documents, and yet our team has so much left to discover as we continue processing the collection. We are proud that we have accomplished so much in a short amount of time, especially the video that was completed and posted last month. If you missed it, here is the link:

UTSA Libraries | History Irreplaceable

Also, if you haven’t already please watch the amazing documentary that aired on PBS earlier this year!

Willie Velasquez Your Vote is Your Voice

This month is also bittersweet as we say congratulations and goodbye to out student worker, Karina Franco. Karina…

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Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Impeachment right out of the gate / Saving Houston from hurricanes / Turkey won’t spark WWIII / The Twitter essay / Pregnancy changes the brain

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This week: Impeachment right out of the gate / Saving Houston from hurricanes / Turkey won’t spark WWIII / The Twitter essay / Pregnancy changes the brain

Most of these great items come from my social media networks. Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and Facebook for more fascinating videos, photos, articles, essays, and criticism.

1. The Case for Donald Trump’s Impeachability
By Jesse Singal | Daily Intelligencer :: New York Magazine | Dec. 20
“Republicans control Congress now. … But [should] Trump’s popularity slip low enough, or should some new scandal engulf him, maybe the political calculus will change, too.”

2. Hell and High Water
By Neena Satija, Kiah Collier, Al Shaw, and Jeff Larson | The Texas Tribune, Reveal, and ProPublica | March 2016
“Houston is the fourth-largest city in the country. It’s home to the nation’s largest refining and petrochemical complex, where billions of gallons of oil and dangerous chemicals are stored. And it’s a sitting duck for the next big hurricane. Learn why Texas isn’t ready.”
December 2016 update: Obama signs bill that may boost Texas hurricane protection study

3. This Isn’t 1914, and the Russian Ambassador to Turkey Isn’t Franz Ferdinand
By Joshua Keating | Slate | Dec. 19
“What appears to be an attack by an extremist against a Russian diplomat on Turkish soil will provide a pretext for closer cooperation rather than conflict.”

4. In Defense of the Twitter Essay
By Jeet Heer | New Republic | Dec. 19
“Some find it obnoxious, but threading tweets is a unique writing form that creates vibrant, democratic conversations.”

5. Sigourney Weaver: ‘I’m asked to play awful people all the time’
By Emma Brockes | The Guardian | Dec. 17
“Her parents thought she was an unlikely star, but decades after Alien, Sigourney Weaver is still in the spotlight, with more monster-wrestling on the way”

6. Pregnancy Causes Lasting Changes in a Woman’s Brain
By Catherine Caruso | Scientific American | Dec. 19
“New mothers showed evidence of neural remodeling up to two years after giving birth”

7. Scanning reveals what pregnancy does to a mother’s brain
The Economist | Dec. 19
“New mothers experience reduction in the volume of grey matter in their brains”

8. The Man Behind the Most Important Chart of 2016
By James Watkins | Ozy.com | Dec. 19
“Because he can explain the appeal of Trump, Bernie, Brexit and all the rest of it in one chart.”

9. A perfect storm: Margaret Atwood on rewriting Shakespeare’s Tempest
By Margaret Atwood | The Guardian | September 2016
“How do you update a play about a castaway sorcerer, a malevolent creature and an air spirit?”

10. Locations of Presidential TV Speeches Can Give Signals
By Michael Beschloss | HistorySource :: The New York Times | September 2014
“Truman began a tradition in which presidents have been inclined to deliver some of their most important addresses into the TV camera from [the Oval Office] — most memorably, John Kennedy on Oct. 22, 1962, revealing that there were Soviet missiles in Cuba and describing his response, and Richard Nixon on Aug. 8, 1974, resigning the presidency.”

Day of Infamy

Some incredible details about that day.

Forward with Roosevelt

By Paul M. Sparrow, FDR Library Director

It was the worst day of his presidency, the worst day of his life – and the worst military defeat in American history. President Franklin Roosevelt’s beloved Navy lay in smoking ruins in Pearl Harbor, as the Japanese Empire launched well-coordinated attacks across a 4,000 mile front. The Nazis controlled Europe and North Africa. Britain and Russia were on the verge of collapse.

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But as the smoke cleared from the mangled wreckage, it revealed a truly great leader. Franklin Roosevelt took the weight of the free world on his paralyzed legs and carried America into the future – away from our isolationist past and into the age of the global superpower.

At the worst moment of his life he rose to the occasion, providing desperately needed vision and confidence to a staggered nation. Within hours of the attack he dictated the first draft…

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SVREP Update: Promoting the Collection

A sneak peek into the intellectual and physical efforts to fully appreciate a priceless historical collection.

The Top Shelf

As our team continues to process the SVREP collection, next year our focus will be geared towards completing the finding aid and promoting the collection. Luckily, we have had a head start by working with the communications team here at UTSA to be featured in a video segment that highlights the SVREP Collection. This video will be featured on the USTA website sometime in the near future in order for students, faculty and the community to have an inside look into our process for archiving the collection, and why SVREP and the work of Willie Velasquez are worth preserving.

Working exclusively with UTSA’s Sombrilla Magazine under the direction of Michelle Mondo, senior editor and Vanessa Davila, associate editor and videographer, we collaborated for over 3 months to obtain the necessary footage. Michelle and Vanessa shadowed and interviewed Jennifer, Karina, and myself processing material, completing daily tasks, and documenting our map…

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