Tuesday, June 25, 2013

And tomato plants respond better to women than men, too

From Zay N. Smith's QT column this morning:
News Headline: "Plants capable of solving complex math equations"
And how many times have you, like QT, smiled and said, almost as a boast, "Oh, I'm no good at math"?
Well, a respected journalist like Mr. Smith would never make a headline up -- and a quick search of the Intertubes soon yielded an article duly entitled, "Plants capable of solving complex math equations," in a publication called the International Business Times.

Fiona Keating writes in the article of research showing how plants allocate starch to last through the night, "counting their starch and dividing it by the number of hours left until morning." Researchers from the John Innes Centre in Norwich discovered that Arabidopsis, a small flowering plant in the mustard family, "used their starch at a steady rate throughout the night, so that about 95% of their stock had been used up by dawn each day."

Stranger still, says Ms. Keating, "women gardeners' voices speed up growth of tomato plants much more than men's, according to a Royal Horticultural Study." Men reading to tomato plants actually slowed plant growth in some tests, according to the article, while tomato plants provided with female readers grew two inches taller.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

R.I.P. Fr. Greeley

Fr. Andrew Greeley was buried today from Christ the King Church in Chicago's Beverly neighborhood.

Christ the King -- CK -- was the one parish where Fr. Greeley worked as a regular parish priest. Perhaps Fr. Greeley's most minor accomplishment in the course of that assignment was baptizing me, way back in -- well, the year doesn't matter, does it? This was while he was still going to graduate school, before he became a widely respected and much-published sociologist and long before he scandalized so many of his fellow Catholics, including many of the good people of Christ the King (which, if memory serves, he referred to as "St. Praxides" in several of his novels), with his "dirty books."

Yes, I read most of them. Openly. I enjoyed most of them, too. I don't know that any would qualify as great literature, but they were page-turners. The good guys are very good and they always win; and all the bad guys lose -- except that some of them find redemption instead. In which case, they also win and become good guys, too. What's wrong with that? Cotton candy, maybe, but a little cotton candy is a treat now and then, is it not?

I know I run the risk of raising a few eyebrows among my fellow parishioners (and even among some family members) by admitting that I was a fan of Fr. Greeley's fiction. So this morning I will hide behind Fr. Robert Barron, surely a pillar of orthodoxy (if such a person may be found), who published an article yesterday on Real Clear Religion entitled, "In Defense of Andrew Greeley." It's a touching tribute, and I recommend it.

Unlike Fr. Barron, I can claim no real acquaintance with the late Fr. Greeley, but Fr. Greeley is the reason I am called Jack -- and, brief as it was, Fr. Greeley's involvement in my life threatened to complicate my wedding plans, some 31 years ago.

My given name is Francis John. My father was Francis John, also. Lawyers of a certain age will remember my father as Frank. But Frank was also the name by which my grandfather -- the first Francis John -- was known. When my father was born, my grandfather's plan (or so the family story goes, since my grandfather died in 1946) was to have his son christened John Francis. The priest presiding on that occasion, however, thought a son should be named for his father, and he reversed the order of the names. My grandfather couldn't complain. In those days, parents didn't even attend baptisms; the godparents took the infant over to the church. Besides, my grandfather's brother was the priest. (There may have been an uncomfortable moment or two when my father's uncle dropped over for cake or coffee following the ceremony.)

Thus my father, who was supposed to be John Francis, found himself saddled with the moniker "Junior" throughout his father's lifetime. He didn't like that. When I came along, my father was determined that his son would be named as he wanted. He directed that I be christened Francis John, as he was, but he had it written right on the baptismal certificate that I was to be known as Jack. Fr. Greeley went along -- and because Fr. Greeley went along even the good Sisters of Mercy at Christ the King had to call me Jack as well.

In fact, I was known everywhere as Jack until I passed the bar exam and my first employers insisted on putting "Francis J. Leyhane III" on the firm letterhead. My employers thought "Jack" sounded too young and called undue attention to my youth and inexperience.

(Sadly, though I am still using Francis J. Leyhane III professionally, my youth is no longer an issue.)

I went to get married not too long after my name was revised for purposes of the practice of law.

In order to marry in the Church, Catholics must fill out lots of forms. (We are the Roman Catholic Church for a reason; the Imperial bureaucracy became the Church bureaucracy during the 100 years or so from the time that Constantine legalized the faith and the fall of Imperial Rome. In the best traditions of Ancient Rome, there is a form for everything in the Catholic Church, and a pigeonhole where that form must be filed.)

To fill out their forms, the prospective bride and groom must bring other forms -- proof that we'd been baptized, and that we'd received Communion and Confirmation -- and these forms must be scrutinized for any irregularity.

Well, by early 1982, Fr. Greeley had begun writing those aforementioned "dirty books." And his feud with Cardinal Cody was open and ugly. Greeley had a newspaper column in those days, syndicated around the country, as I understand it -- but nowhere to be found in Chicago. But a college classmate of mine, Catherine O'Connell-Cahill, was working in those days for the Claretians (she still is; she's now a senior editor of U.S. Catholic) and she was kind enough to alert me to a potential obstacle to my pending nuptials.

The parish where I was to be married had recently become the subject of unfavorable mention in a number of Fr. Greeley's newspaper columns. My friend knew about it because (in those pre-Internet days) she had access to those columns when most of us in these parts had none. It seems that the new pastor of the parish had placed the Rectory off limits to teens, angering a close relative of Fr. Greeley's. Fr. Greeley took exception and he named names. And here was Fr. Greeley's now-controversial signature on the baptismal certificate that I needed in order to be wed.

Fortunately, I met with the assistant pastor for my pre-Cana paperwork, not with the pastor himself. Nevertheless, because I'd been warned, I slid my paperwork across the desk with some trepidation. "Does my baptismal certificate count here?" I asked, only half in jest.

The good father studied the paperwork awhile and frowned deeply. "Hmmmm," he said finally. "Well, let's see... Leyhane. Leyhane... are you by any chance related to Fr. Will Leyhane?"

I was indeed, I said (that was my father's uncle, the one who'd changed my father's name at the font). Well, the priest said, he'd been a Deacon at St. Ethelreda's many years ago (my granduncle's last parish); he'd gotten on well with my granduncle. "So I think we can get past this," he said, sliding the paperwork back. I think he was speaking at least half in jest too -- he was smiling -- but I've never been entirely certain.

Farewell, Fr. Greeley. Heaven may be enriched, but we are diminished, by your passing.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

More scenes from the 2013 Norwood Park Memorial Day Parade

This post begins on page one.

Girl Scout group from Congregational Church of Jefferson Park

Garvey School

Onahan School group

Immaculate Conception Cub Scouts

Immaculate Conception Scout group

Bagpipes & Drums of the Emerald Society, Chicago Police Department

There's always a number of businesses that participate.  I find this one particularly amusing.

The world's smallest moving van?

Norwood Park Chamber of Commerce

The band from Smyser Elementary School

The youngest marchers may be the most enthusiastic.

Remember, I said we missed most of the politicians.  We didn't miss them all.

MWRD Commissioner Frank Avila (at right)

The Norwood Park Memorial Day Parade always has a lot of classic cars.  Here are a few representative selections.
This is not the muscle car that upset my photographer's assistant

Some of the "old" cars were newer than this one.  And I didn't think this one was that old....
These two, on the other hand, I can accept as "antiques."

My thanks to my photographer, Brigid Leyhane Olsen.