Open Access advocate and 16-year-old Open Scie...

Jack Andraka (Photo credit: Open Science Federation)

Tonight, on 60 Minutes there was a story about a 15-year-old science prodigy who is working on a way to detect early the presence of pancreatic cancer in patients. Most of the time, patients, like myself, discover they have pancreatic cancer after it has already metastasized to another organ in addition to the pancreas.

This young man’s name is Jack Andraka. The story on 60 Minutes focused on how this teenager, who has a long-time love of science, had lost a friend/relative to pancreatic cancer and decided he wanted to develop tools that would help doctors detect pancreatic cancer early before this cancer moved to other organs.

He apparently developed his approach, put it into a proposal and sent it to over 100 cancer research organizations. Only one, MDAnderson in Houston, Texas, decided to give the young man a try.

He has had some remarkable results, which in turn has turned him into a celebrity, of sorts — four times to the White House this year alone. But his approach for early detection is showing some tremendous promise.

If you want to learn more about Jack and how he has proceeded thus far, click on the link below for the story on 60 Minutes Overtime. Congratulations to Jack and his very supportive parents.

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504803_162-57607276-10391709/parenting-a-gifted-child-lessons-from-the-andrakas/

Last week, I went for a couple days down to Houston to visit my mother. Since last June she has been back and forth between hospital and skilled nursing facility.

Well, it’s a little over 240  miles between our place in Dallas and Houston. For Patti, a three-hour drive. For me, four.

Since Patti was staying behind to take care of some things in Dallas, I decided to forego the radio and take my iPod to listen to for the ride down there. Lately, I seem to notice when I see other drivers with their earbuds. Made sense. Rather than change radio stations routinely passing in and out of range during the trip, I could have all my favorite artists playing away while leisurely driving down to the Bayou City.

It was truly a spectacular drive. Along the way, I saw all the usual roadside signs, telling me that McDonalds and Exxon were at the next exit, signs talking about Jesus being the answer, signs suggesting we stop for barbecue at Bubba’s, Rudy’s or various other male proprietors. Apparently, EEOC has not yet received enough complaints from the Trixies, Bettys or Beulahs who would like to name a barbecue place after themselves.

And there were the porn notices, too. For example, just outside Dallas, heading south on I45, there is a “gentleman’s club” called Wispers. Of course, my first thought was, “Dumbass. Whispers has an h.” But as I passed the empty parking lot, I reminded myself that folks who go there probably don’t give a hoot whether the name is spelled right or not. Silly me.

Also, I particularly liked the billboard with the Biblical scripture that extolled people to turn away from pornography. And, that billboard was about 30 yards BEFORE you got to Jim’s Adult Video Emporium.

Bluebonnets along a Texas road

But, in addition to the iPod, there was one thing that made the trip memorable throughout the distance. Texas bluebonnets and other wildflowers, like Indian Paintbrush, were in full bloom. In this state, the bluebonnets bloom in Spring on the embankments and medians of the freeways of Texas roads and highways.

When they bloom, they are truly glorious in their beauty. It’s as if during the Winter, God comes down to Earth and sprinkles the roads with the seeds for these majestic flowers to bloom to everybody’s delight in the Spring. In the past, when I’ve traveled over Texas roads, I have stopped to just watch the bluebonnets sway tenderly in the wind.

There is a place on 290 near Brenham, Texas, between Austin and Houston, which is known to have bluebonnets blooming all around that city. Mostly on weekends, you will see the embankments around Brenham with all sort of “dents” in the wildflowers, where adoring parents have planted their children for pictures in the flowers. Happens all the time in Spring.

In this one particular spot near Brenham, there are several acres of bluebonnets. If you quickly glance at this particular spot while driving by, you would swear that there was a lake in the middle of that field. Do a double take and you realize it is bluebonnets.

Lady Bird and her legacy

Bluebonnets and other Texas wildflowers have been around for ages. However, whatever your thoughts of LBJ as a president, perhaps his greatest gift to America was his wife, Lady Bird. While occupying the White House, Lady Bird made it her mission to plant the wildflowers everywhere and increase the beauty across America they bring year after year.

After leaving the White House, Lady Bird continued her commitment to spread wildflowers wherever possible. Wherever Patti and I have lived, we’ve tried to plant bluebonnets at our homes. In some locations they did well. In others, like Ohio, unfortunately, they did not like the cold.

As I moved further south along I45, past Huntsville, there is a huge statue of Sam Houston, an important Texas history figure. This statue is approximately 100-120 feet high, so it’s no small statue. It’s right beside the freeway. And, there were the bluebonnets cascading across the embankments and median like so many vowels, consonants and syllables spread in beautiful calligraphy across a blank page.

If you have the chance to drive across any of Texas’ main roads during the Spring, you will not miss the bluebonnets and Indian paintbrushes.

Thank you, Lady Bird. What a truly magnificent legacy to have.