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July 12, 2008

Wrapping Up a Great Visit With Alums

Portland, Ore. - Anyone who travels in their work knows how wonderful heading home feels. It's also a time to reflect, share, and "empty the notebook" - an old newspaper term.

The ten Wabash men I visited in Oregon, Washington, and Vancouver D.C. come first. I wrote about this several times in my blog from California two years ago but the sense of gratitude is really special.

At each visit I would always thank the Wabash man for his time, fitting me into his busy schedule, and sharing his story. Every time I was told "no, no, no" - 'thank you for coming all the way out here to see me.'

Wabash Magazine has a special place in many alums' hearts. They read it soon as it hits their mailboxes and most said they considered it a privilege to be featured. Well, on this trip the privilege was all mine.

Upon returning  Monday morning Steve Charles will ask me  about my best story. I haven't a clue. And normally I'm not shy about suggesting one over the other. I've never listened to so many great stories in my writing career.

There stories will largely comprise a special Winter 2009 issue of the magazine. Some of the stories will be featured off the website. We probably will occasionally publish some information between now and then teasing the eventual release.

I'm always asked how we select who we visit. First, we always miss some people. Second, it's very difficult to schedule these very successful men on back to back days in the short time period we visit. We look for interesting careers (not difficult), some geographic diversity, and some age diversity.

I was sharing a story via e-mail with Steve Charles this week. I shared a particularly poignant moment with one alum who was reflecting on his career. Steve wrote back and reminded me "we have a pretty good gig."

Steve was wrong - we have a really great gig!

Emptying the notebook:

 - I drove the Columbia River Gorge yesterday with my free time. I took the big loop going down the gorge and then around Mt. Hood. I wish I was the type of writer who could go on and on about the nuance of mother nature, the incredible beauty of the fir trees, the shaping of the gorge by glaciers and water movement thousands of years ago. Then there is the stunning majesty of Mt. Hood, constantly popping out of the surrounding mountains and trees.

I'm a storyteller - not a poet. I found myself fumbling for words talking to myself yesterday.

These few photos will have to do.

 - When Steve and I left California after the magazine release party in March 2007, he wrote asking where California keeps its fat people. Steve, I couldn't find them here either!

The healthy lifestyle is so evident everywhere you go. I don't think I've ever seen as many bicyclists in a major city as I saw in Portland and Seattle.

 - Saturday (this) morning did not start well. There was a power outage at my airport motel. No hot water. Well, you get the idea. Should be a great day for a five-hour plane ride.

 More later or Monday perhaps!

In photos: On home page and lower right, two different shots of Mt. Hood. Top right, the spectacular Multnomah Falls - more than 500 feet tall. Center left, the Columbia River Gorge - this shot was actually near Hood River which means the peaks along the river were smaller than the first 20 miles I drove!

July 11, 2008

'68 Classmates Having a Big Impact

Vancouver, B.C., Canada - Mike Gallagher and Lee Grogg are classmates from 1968. Both have made a career in very different fields, but both have had significant impact in their chosen fields.

Gallagher is the President and Chief Operating Officer for Westport Innovations in Vancouver. The company is doing fascinating research and production in the area of heavy engines. They're working with Cummins to produce large vehicle engines which run on natural gas instead of diesel. The benefits are lower cost and lower emissions.

The company seems to have an unlimited future. They are looking for new ventures all the time. They have a deal now with Kenwood to build trucks to try to increase their fleet. The Cummins partnership even includes offices in the Westport headquarters near the Vancouver airport.

I toured the research lab where they test the engines. It was interesting to see how the natural gas fuels the Cummins engine. The modifications are rather small, but certainly not simple. A†very small amount of diesel is used with the modified trucks to allow the natural gas to fire the engine.

Gallagher's office is simple but with a beautiful view of the river running along the airport and the mountains in the distance. It's decorated with photos of family and pictures of Mike receiving many of the awards Westport has garnered the last few years.

The world is watching Westport's work. China is already a customer. The company wants to increase the size of the fleet to lower production costs, then the future is almost unlimited with large engines.

Grogg spent most of his career in northern Indiana and building a small community health center to a major social service agency in the Portage region.

He's now the Executive Director of the Ryther Child Center on Seattle's north side. The center is a residential†home for children. Many have mental health issues, have been abandoned, or abused.

Lee gave me a walking tour of the small campus. They deal with younger children mostly, with the exception of one program for teen boys.

He visits a cottage a month to hear directly from the residents and hear their concerns. He instituted programs to give the kids a chance at plenty of physical activity.

The center was started over 100 years ago by a women's group as an orphanage. Today they are serving Seattle's children with Lee's compassionate leadership making a difference in many lives.

Last Day on The Road in Great Northwest

I like datelines, but this one could be Vancouver, Seattle, or Portland! My original plan was to stop near Seattle Thursday night and drive to Portland Friday before my Saturday flight.

Instead I took the tough route and drove the distance today — it proved to be worth it.

The real highlight was getting to see Mount St. Helens! I was approaching the area about an hour north of Portland and saw a huge snow covered mountain, missing its top of course and realized that was it.

Had I ever seen it before I'd have known Sunday there was no way it was going to be visible from the observation area. I didn't drive back up today because it was too late. But I did stop at the visitor's center where they have a great area to take pics.

That's where I shot both of these.

I knew the mountain was a sizeable one — 9,677 feet before eruption. But after seeing the wide swatch of destruction Sunday, then the size of the mountain today it all made a lot more sense. The volcano lost more than 1,300 feet in height in the May, 1980 explosion.

The side facing I-5 shown here, doesn't give you the full impact. The other side of the mountain is where the force of the volcano blasted a major chunk of the mountain into the surrounding area.

I really wish I had not been tired and it was earlier so I could have driven back up to the observation area where you can look into the mountain.

For anyone who's never been up in this area, it's just incredible to see the power of mother nature.

The other good thing was that it was a beautiful clear day. So, I saw Mt. Ranier passing Seattle, then Mount St. Helens, and even Mt. Hood when I arrived early evening in Portland.

I now have Friday for a little recovery before flying home Saturday morning. I'm thinking of taking the Columbia River drive which I'm told is incredibly beautiful.

July 10, 2008

O Canada, a Day in British Columbia

Richmond, British Columbia, Canada - I drove up here from Seattle Wednesday. This morning I will see Mike Gallagher '68 and get a tour of Westport Innovations. Wesport is doing fascinating work in alternative and eco-friendly energy.

Later today I'll be back to Seattle and visit with Lee Grogg '68 who has had a remarkable career in the mental health field.

Today is my final day visiting alums. It will be back to Portland tomorrow and a flight home Saturday morning. I'll post tonight after today's two visits.

A couple of notes

 - The road is getting to me, I think. I posted an entry two days ago that I had not edited very carefully. Apologies!

 - And, I referred to the mountains in a couple Seattle pictures as the Cascades. That was based on what one of the guys had told me. I posted comments this morning noting those are the Olympics, not the Cascades. Both mountain ranges can be seen from the city, just depends on what direction you point the camera!

 - Crossing into Canada was interesting. Visitors must have a passport now and there is often a delay. Electronic signs warned me of about a 30-minute stop and it was accurate. I had heard that two hours is not unusual. Basically, they check your passport. They ask about your reason to enter the country, where you are going, spending the night, and questions of that nature.

 - I spent the night in Richmond B.C., very close to Vancouver airport. This is a stop over for many people flying in and out of the city. It has a large Chinese minority population. And like the entire Northwest  it's beautiful with large mountains and plenty of water.

July 08, 2008

The Market, Avery '68, & The HIll

The Hill

My last full day in Seattle ended with a great evening on Capitol Hill — a hip, eclectic area filled with restaurants, bars, live music clubs, coffee shops, and young people!

Greg Fulmer '05, a University of Washington student pursuing a doctorate, was my tour guide. I've erroneously referred to Greg as a pre-med student in previous blogs and that's incorrect. He's getting his doctorate in chemistry. He hopes to work in industry when he finishes in about another two years.

Greg, a native of New Palestine, Indiana, lives up near the Capitol Hill area and made a great tour guide. We visited a couple of coffee spots, a classic old bar, several great night spots, and enjoyed dinner at Coastal Kitchen.

We went with calamari and crab cakes as a small plates approach to dinner. This was a really cool restaurant that often changes its menu and decor — or essentially re-invents itself every few months.

We hit up a couple of local coffee shops. We played a couple of terrible games of billiards at a big time hot spot called Garage. The place is a former auto repair shop that now hosts two bowling alleys, about 20 pool tables, and a bar. And, it's expanding. One of it's owners is a member of one of Seattle's best known bands!

I realized when I got back to the hotel tonight that I didn't shoot a single photo of Greg. But I did shoot a bunch of video we'll use at some point to help promote our Great Northwest issue of Wabash Magazine — probably Spring 2009. Maybe we'll roll out some of it earlier. Greg did a great job playing host.

I drive Wednesday to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, to visit Mike Gallagher. He's had a fascinated career in energy and is working in a real cutting edge industry trying to make a difference moving large vehicles away from diesel fuel to eco-friendly natural gas.

After visiting with Gallagher '68 Thursday morning, I'll see Lee Grogg '68 later in the day on Seattle's north side. That will be my last alumni visit before heading toward Portland and my Saturday return to Indianapolis.

Dr. David Avery '68

Tuesday afternoon I visited Dr. David Avery '68 who is one of the country's top experts on Seasonal Affecteive Disorder. I visited the massive Harborview Medical Center to chat about his years of research on how the lack of sunshine can affect your mood.

Dr. Avery showed me the equipment used to provide electric or magnetic stimulus to patients suffering from depression. After admitting my own less-than-positive experience with electric shock a few years ago for some nerve damage in my arm, he convinced me to try the magnet stimulation. Indeed, he placed the paddle on my arm up near the elbow and my fingers twitched in response  each time he activated the device. And I didn't feel a thing.

He also reflected briefly on returning to campus for Big Bash in June and how much fun it was to see old friends from his college days. And as you might suspect, he studied the personalities informally to see who was the same and who had changed.

While talking about SAD he also suggested that anyone can benefit by getting outdoors into natural light as quickly as possible after getting out of bed. It will help put a positive spin on your day, he suggested.

The Market

This morning I didn't have an appointment so I did the one thing you just have to do if you come to this incredible city — I visited the Pike St. Market and I drank coffee!

The market is an energetic place with a mixture of tourists,and locals, and really friendly and fun vendors. Here is a photo album with comment.

July 07, 2008

Alums '08 to '65 Make for Diverse Day

Seattle, Wa. — Seattle is a city that's alive with energy and activity. It goes beyond beautiful with snow-capped Mt. Ranier on the horizon and the Puget Sound on its western border.

The people here are energized, or at least they were Monday, by the natural beauty that surrounds them.

My day started with Andrew Naugle '98 who is a principal for Milliman Inc. as a healthcare management consultant. Andrew came to Wabash thinking he'd be an attorney but an internship helped steer his life and career to healthcare management.

He jokes that no one thinks healthcare management could be interesting and that his job is to help insurance companies make more money, which in part it is. But he became animated talking about the analysis, writing, and work he does traveling the country helping companies determine best practices and new ways of doing business.

His office looks out over the Sound from the 38th floor of the Ranier Building downtown. He talks about his hectic life and how working in the consulting business has made him more successful and happier than he ever could have been as a lawyer.

And he's reached back to Wabash to hire a recent graduate. John Kasey '08 joined Milliman just four weeks ago. Naugle wanted to hire a Wabash man when his firm had an opening. Kasey is busy finding his way around Seattle as a newcomer.

Dr. Bob Witherspoon is a delightful man who has made a significant, truly life-altering, impact on hundreds of lives. The northern Indiana native is the Medical Director for the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center's transplant clinic.

He's been honored by his peers for his kind and straight-forward approach with patients. He worked with the legendary Nobel Prize winner Dr. Don Thomas who showed leukemia could be cured by bone marrow transplant surgery. He's helped train hundreds of physicians.

But like so many Wabash men there are many sides to Bob Witherspoon. He has an interest in aviation, language, sailing and a passion for music. He plays the French horn in a small orchestra and sees music as a big part of his life when he retires.

Tomorrow I'll visit the city's best known tourist spot — the Pike Street Market. In the afternoon, I'll spend some time with Dr. David Avery who is Director of Inpatient Psychiatry and Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Washington.

Greg Fulmer '05, a medical student at UW, is going to help me Tuesday night with a special project for this trip. He and I have the tough assignment of checking out Capitol Hill — a very popular area for college students.

July 06, 2008

Volcano's Impact Immeasurable, but Frustrating Day

Mount St. Helen's — I drove from south of Portland to Seattle today for the second leg of my trip visiting Wabash alumni in the Pacific Northwest.

I decided since I had all day to do a side trip to Mount St. Helen's which you'll remember erupted May 16, 2000. It's a very long drive up to the Johnson Ridge Observatory. From I-5, it took me about an hour and a half to climb the 4,000 feet above sea level distance to get to the ridge.

The temperature dropped nearly 20 degrees from bottom to top — and there was thick fog in brief spots. Unfortunately, there was very thick fog at the top, too. The hundreds of visitors, and your's truly, watched the film and waited and waited. But by 1 p.m. the fog had not rolled out so I headed back down the mountain.

From the observatory you can look right into the crater of the volcano just a few miles away. But Sunday's fog limited visibility to just a few hundred yards at times. I never saw the outline of the mountain while up there.

While that was very disappointing it was still a moving and interesting experience. I remember the first time I saw the Grand Canyon — from the north ridge on a chilly morning. This trip up the mountain reminded me of that. The power of mother nature is beyond any weapon a man can make. The devastated ecosystem is still a long way from recovering.

A park ranger, giving one of those standard talks they do every few hours, noted that most people see the gray pumice throughout the gorges and ask why it's still there and why nothing has grown. She notes they're correct in that it can be a rich soil — after 200 years or more. But Mount St. Helen's erupted just 28 years ago.

I've attached a photo album with comment. The photos all look a little cloudy — or foggy I guess. I'd love to see this area on a clear day, but it was still worth the time.

Tomorrow it's back to work with a full day. I will see Andrew Naugle '98 at Milliman Inc., Robert Witherspoon '65 at the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center, and John Kasey '08 who just joined Naugle here in Seattle.

July 05, 2008

Finding Best Words Similar to Search for Best Wine

Newberg, Ore. — A couple of personal days off in the middle of my trip to Portland and Seattle gives me a time to pursue my wine passion. I hesitated some in California and again this morning to write about that because it's not directly related to visiting Wabash alumni in this particular case. In California, we had two alumni in the wine business.

But I did have lots of feedback in the weeks after the 2006 California trip about the wine entries. And, I think it gives you a little sense of place whether you're into wine or not. The people stories are amazing.

I had planned to visit Willamette Valley early on but really became interested when the bookstore's Lana Burnau loaned me Brian Doyle's The Grail, which chronicles one year in a vineyard following the cycle of grapes to wine. (The embedded link will take you to a sampe of his essays.) Doyle is magazine editor for the University of Portland.

Steve Charles has met Doyle at a conference and Jim Amidon was familiar with his work. He writes in a most interesting style. He even talks about his approach to writing late in the book. He ambles through long sentences that make an old editor cringe. Yet, they are readable and contain nuggets of information. He often uses that trick to pack in a lot of information without wordiness. In other words, he'll write a long sentence to list many examples. He also has a very nice off-the-wall wit.

He writes in an essay style. All books have chapters, usually of a continuing story. Doyle writes each chapter more like a short essay.

He spent his year at Lange Winery. Lange sits atop one of the highest peaks of the Dundee Hills area. It's signature red soil and steep slopes are perfect for what some say is the best Pinot Noir in the world, outside of Burgundy, France.

So, I started my Saturday journey going up to Lange. It takes an effort to get there. The last couple of miles are steep, bumpy, gravel roads. I had hoped to catch Don or Jesse Lange around to sign Lana's book, but neither were around. Instead the tasting room workers were very gracious and helpful.

The Lange Pinot is widely praised as one of the area's best. And Doyle even dubbed Lange "The Grail" — the best Pinot in the world. I'm not sure I agree with that after doing the tasting, but it is a sophisticated, well-structured Pinot Noir that is going to be put away for a couple of years so I can enjoy it at its best.

The rest of the day was visiting wineries in the area. I've attached a photo album with some comment about some of the spots I visited. I'll add to the album after my visits today. In California, I tasted a lot of great wine, and some not-so-great. The stunning thing about Friday was I didn't taste a single bad Pinot Noir. Not one!

I'm writing this at 7 a.m. Saturday with some disappointment. I had scheduled one of those once-in-a-lifetime, "you must do before you die" kind of things today. I bought a ticket for a 6 a.m. hot air balloon ride. It started raining at about 5:15 a.m., a light mist — and it clouded up, so they had to cancel today's flights. I'm hoping to get rescheduled for tomorrow morning.

Today, it's back into wine country and maybe stop by a hazelnut farm. Hazelnuts are second only to the wine industry in these parts. I'm off to Seattle tomorrow, after either the hot air balloon ride or a side trip to Mt. Hood. I keep hearing it's over there, but in four days haven't seen it yet!

July 03, 2008

Nate Clark '03 Finding His Way as Young Artist, Muscian

Portland, Ore. - Nathan Clark '03 is an artist, musician, waiter, and has been a substitute teacher at times.

But the young artist is happy with the stage he's reached in his career. He is showing some 20 paintings currently at one of Portland's hottest new brewpubs - Hopworks. On Portland's east side just across the Willamette River, Hopworks is bringing in big crowds who get a chance to see Clark's works.

He knows as a 27-year-old artist that commercial success is probably a few years away, but he expresses satisfaction for where he is with his career. He has had regular showings exposing his art within circles of many 20-something year-old friends in the edgy Portland art and music scene.

The Illinois native often waits tables and has been working nearly full time of late as a musician. He plays the bass and upright bass in five different groups. He finds himself touring the Portland and Seattle areas playing everything from straight forward pop to folk and even music with a country flavor.

He credits Greg Huebner and Doug Calisch for giving him direction after he came to Wabash "knowing nothing," he said. He was also impacted by visiting artists during his four years at Wabash.

I'm off for the weekend to learn a little more about the area, one special adventure, and to drink some of the United States' best Pinot Noir. I'll probably post about some of that over the weekend. Then Sunday I'll drive to Seattle for a very full schedule next week.

Oh, you've seen all of those beautiful pictures of this city for years with Mt. Hood looming over the horizon - I haven't seen it YET! It's been humid and hazy here. Some locals saying it's partially from the Northern California wildfires. Still, I hear how unusual this weather is for Oregon. I hope to maybe get that breathtaking view when out on some of the highest peaks of the Willamette Valley this weekend.

Portland's Culture Knows No Bounds

Portland, Ore. - Galleries, fine restaurants, high-end clothing stores, old and new brewpubs, breweries, wine shops, clubs all pale in comparison to what makes this city unique.

It's cupcakes! The Rose city's Saint Cupcake shop is a one-of-a-kind, ok - two-of-a-kind because they have two locations, bakery unique to Portland. They have cupcakes of all imaginable flavors with butter cream icing! And some other's too, but true cupcake afficianados understand cupcakes must have butter cream - right?

Yea, yea they have the cream cheese icing but Mom never would have made them with that stuff! And they have vegan cupcakes - yikes!

I had the classic white cake with vanilla butter cream icing, with sprinkles! Oh man, Amidon was right - good coffee, good wine, and now cupcakes. I may never come back!

I took the afternoon to walk more of the city before trying to catch up tonight with Nathan Clark '03, a young artist trying to make his way in Portland. We're scheduled to meet at one of the city's most talked about new spots, Hopworks - which bills itself as Portland's first eco-brewery. Nate has about a dozen of his paintings on display in the pub.

But take a moment to join me in a brief afternoon walk around town - here's a photo album from my journey. Oh, and if you get a chance go to the Saint Cupcake site linked above - read their blog!

Nike, Intel, and Digimarc - Great Way to See Portland

Portland, Or. - I opened this trip with one of my busiest days of the entire two weeks. Dan Schenk '95 of Nike Golf, Michael Wells '93 of Intel, and Bob Chamness '75 of Digimarc have great stories to tell.

Portland has long been known as the home of Nike, the little shoe company that has grown to become the second most recognizable brand name in the world — only behind Coca-Cola!

Schenk, a Wabash philosophy major, guides the marketing and interactive services for Nike Golf. He works with Tiger Woods on marketing new Nike products. His employer is widely recognized as one of the 'coolest' work places in America.

Indeed, as I approached the sprawling Nike campus at the Portland suburb of Beaverton, the streets were crawling with cyclists, joggers, and a very young-looking workforce. I found Dan's building and a young man came bounding down the stairs with skateboard firmly in hand. One young worker was at the desk telling another about a wooden racquet tennis tournament for employees. During a noontime stroll with Dan there were 20-30 employees sweating, huffing and puffing on a full-size soccer field.

Dan and many of the employees wore shorts Tuesday — as well as sandals. It's a different work culture than many of us have ever experienced!

All of our visits will culminate with a special issue of Wabash Magazine next spring. But in the next couple of weeks look for a story on how Nike will continue it's marketing with Tiger Woods despite his season-ending knee injury just a month ago.

Wells works just five miles away in Aloha, Oregon, for Intel. He will be profiled as one of our 39 UNDER 39 features in the coming months.

Wells lives on top of a very large hill or small mountain overlooking the older Intel campus. His home is on the edge of the famed Williamatte Valley wine country. A bit of a wine enthusiast, he offered up suggestions on where a visitor should taste the state's great Pinot Noir.

Bob Chamness '75, a Parke County native, has had a remarkable career. He was involved in one of the biggest court decisions ever to affect the banking industry. He's worked as an attorney with a speciality in finance in Washington D.C. and San Francisco.

He helped build a company into a powerhouse and then retired at age 47. But he didn't stay retired long, just 13 months to be exact. He's been helping build and direct Digimarc in Beaverton for the past several years.

As a vice president and chief counsel he assists with the growth of the country's largest maker of drivers' licenses. But the real future of Digimarc is digital water marking technology that is opening up all types of services, security, and new ways of doing business.

The day ended with a long drive up to the highest point in Portland where Bob has built a home for his family. Dinner with Bob and his gracious wife Sandy, and daughter Kate was a combination of Wabash stories, Kate's freshman year at Butler, and fabulous hospitality.

July 01, 2008

A City of Great Hospitality

Portland, OR. - After a day on a couple of airplanes I was knocked over by the hospitality here in the Rose city.

My connecting flight was delayed about an hour and a half in Minneapolis because the scheduled aircraft was "broke." No kidding, that's how they announced it on the P.A. system.

This is our second roadtrip and one of the things we try to do is give you a sense of place. Much like my trip two years ago to the California Bay area, I have never been to Portland and Seattle. I got in mid afternoon and haven't had much chance to explore before a very busy day Tuesday visiting Wabash alums.

But I did have an incredible evening. I checked into my hotel - Hotel deLux - an historic building refurbished just two years ago with a movie theme throughout. In the lobby is a huge digital picture frame which rotates scenes from famous black and white movies of the 40s, 50s, and 60s. Heck, there is a picture of John Wayne and another of Humphrey Bogart in my room!

The hotel is similar to other places I've stayed. A very old hotel building with rooms that are quite small, but refurbished in recent years.

I took the advice of much of the hotel staff and went to dinner at Andina. The restaurant is in the Pearl District, well-known as one of the great dining, club, and shopping areas in the west.

Andina's serves Peruvian food. For anyone who followed along with my California blog, you know I'm a wine geek. I'm just a "foodie" in training in comparison. But this place was unbelievable. I decided to go the tapas or small plates route since I wasn't real hungry and have lunch and dinner appointments with alums Tuesday.

My appetizer has a nice hard bread with three dipping sauces. One was a peanut sauce with a very light kick at the end. The second was a passion fruit and brown sugar sauce with a spicy finish. The third, which I did not touch, was jalepeno based. They were awesome - incredible sweet and spicy combinations.

I had two "plates." One was fabulous grilled asparagus. The other was prawns with a mild peanut based dipping sauce. A waitress brought me a gift from the chef - a crustini with lima bean humus, goat cheese, and a roasted red pepper. Incredible.

But now to the point. I was paying the bill and the same waitress brought me a small glass of ruby port and this marvelous little cookie dessert with rich, but non-sweet, caramel. It turns out it was a gift from the desk staff at my hotel which recommended Andina's! Wow! I was  stunned.

Here is another interesting part for the foodies. I had one glass of wine, two small plates. The total cost was $24 before tips. And I listened to a fabulous acoustic guitar player the whole time. Andina is one of the city's top restaurants. It was easy to see why.

Tuesday I will see Dan Schenck '97 at Nike Golf, Michael Wells '98 at Intel, and Bob Chamness '75 at Digimarc. It should be a really great day!