Between DNA's talk at Carnegie-Mellon University, Pittsburgh, USA last April and the excellent Starship Titanic forums it is hard to say just exactly how John the Gardener found his way to h2g2. Needless to say, he found it
and seems to be quite enjoying himself whilst here.
John the Gardener is your typical middle-aged man who is married to a lovely, sweet woman. They reside in an oldish brick house in a city called Brantford in Ontario, Canada with too many books and not enough furniture and their two cats. Oh, and we cannot forget about Sally's (his wife) horse; no, the horse does not live in the house, but is still considered a member of the family, and JTG would be thwarted about the head if he did not mention the horse.
They enjoy a small back garden with loads of stuff packed into it. Several years ago they took up the lawn and replaced it with a hole about two feet deep, so that it's harder for the neighbours to see them. A wall of fieldstones, that his wife and he collected from the surrounding countryside, supports the sides of the hole. There is gravel on the floor, like an aquarium. An interesting side effect of standing in 'our hole', as noted by his clever wife, is that the view of the surrounding plants is the same as if you were a child – or some other small viewer - which he states is more fun than you might imagine. Children and short people would probably wonder what all the fuss is about... but when children or short people stand in a hole, they are especially easy to ignore LOL!
As you can most likely guess by the name, he is employed as a gardener by the town of Oakville, Ontario, which sits (poses really) on the shore of Lake Ontario west of Toronto. He considers himself fortunate enough to work right on the Lake front, which can be very beautiful, especially in the winter, when sunrises over the mist and ice are spectacular. A lot of different waterfowl migrate back and forth along the lake shore; sometimes they find themselves visited by unusual birds that have lost their way and decided to stay for a short visit. In the late summer and autumn, the north shore of lake Ontario funnels migrating monarch butterflies into his gardens, where they hang about until the weather starts to hint seriously of winter. On chilly mornings, he says, they look like Christmas tree ornaments as they bask in the morning sun on the branches of pine trees.
John finds that he spends a good deal of his spare time involved with h2g2, either sub editing (which he usually saves for the weekend, when his brain is the least befuddled), wandering around the forums, or tinkering with something or other of his own. He quite enjoys reading and photography as well. From looking at his h2g2 homepage one can tell that John is quite active in charities and political issues, some of which are giving money to the Red Cross and Amnesty International, both of which do fantastic things for those who desperately need it. John also enjoys badgering his Member of Parliament whenever the news headlines give him an excuse. He tells me that all one really needs is a piece of brain left over from the work week, and two fingers, to become a weekend political activist and make an impression, however humble, on the world.
Something that he feels very strongly about is the Chinese occupation of Tibet. He knows that there are terrible things going on all over the world, but what sets the Tibetan situation apart, in his opinion, is the scale of the injustice there: China, the most populous nation on earth, a nuclear power, has torn apart and virtually destroyed a remote and isolated country with a tiny population who wanted nothing from the outside world but to be left alone. He feels strongly about this because, although the Tibetan people have been suffering for half a century, for most of his life he hardly knew about it. Tibet's misery made little or no impression in John's life because most of the global community chose to look the other way. Powerful countries, who in countless other instances have made a virtue of interfering in other people's business, found it expedient to ignore this flagrant crime.
John is quite saddened about the destruction of a unique way of life. He finds himself sick to his stomach about the horrific cruelty meted out to individuals - like Palden Gyatso, Adhe Tapontsang and many others, who suffered more than a sane person should be able to imagine - for little more than being unable to conceal their unhappiness about having lost everything. You can find quite an assortment of Tibet related stuff on and around John's Homepage.
One of the things you will come across is The Tibetan Greenhouse Dugout. He constructed this (entirely from good intentions and ambiguity) in response to the feeling that what is going on in Tibet is a fundamentally human crisis that transcends the usual political heartache, heartburn and haemorrhoids that addresses the issue of what it actually means to be a human being.
When it comes to h2g2 John finds that the best part is playing a part in what is, after all, the brainchild of Douglas Adams. Not only that, but playing the part of writers and editors... as opposed to playing chimney sweeps and toilet attendants (not that there is anything the least bit shameful about those occupations, he hastens to add) only they are not activities that most people automatically associate with fun... however unjustly. The other best thing he finds about the site is obviously the h2g2 community. John finds that, apart from the odd bit of peevishness, it is remarkable how welcoming the h2g2 community is. Over the past few months, he has met people from all over the world, of every shape, size, age and gender; all of whom seem to fit in on equal terms with everyone else. He states that this shouldn't be anything unusual; but, sadly, it is.
He feels very fortunate, also, that the people who produce and manage the Guide for us choose to give so much of themselves. They are right here amongst us, a part of the community and not hidden away like Mandarins, pulling the strings anonymously. John finds that he greatly enjoys the imagination of the Researchers, including Loonytunes’ The h2g2 Interactive Horoscope and finds that some of the most amazing creations he's ever seen orbit the incredible Finks Drinks which, monumental though it already is, continues to grow and evolve. Occasionally, there's the odd submitted Entry that is so completely insane that he is quite nervous about rejecting it without consulting a shaman!
As for the worst thing he can find about the Guide, John says that it is coming across the occasional Researcher who does not seem to appreciate the value of the last mentioned best things. He feels that the sad thing about that is, although h2g2 time may seem like play, it is really no different from any other aspect of life. In John's opinion, the time one spends here is no less real or important than that spent doing anything else; and nowhere else is it likely to be easier to re-invent oneself as a nice person, capable of making the world (as real here as anywhere) a nicer place.
He views the Guide community as a microcosm of the world outside. It's very important, when a chance such as this presents itself, to do what you can to make the world a good place in which to live. He feels that there is a real opportunity, in venues such as h2g2, to do something concrete and positive about the direction human evolution takes. It's as easy, after all, to post something constructive than something nasty. People tend to under-estimate their own significance and the affect they have on other people's lives.
John does feel that it would be nice to be able to revise or delete Journal postings, but suspects that the whole point is that they are supposed to be replaced by new ones, before they have time to get really irritating. He figures that the fault is really his for not keeping up. Even so John still thinks that it would improve the appearance of our homepages if we were able to open and close the Journal by clicking on a button... or, better yet, a spiffy image of a book (Hint, hint, subtle hint, hint, hint.)
OK, I could not resist asking John about his thumbs and if it was true that all gardeners have green ones; if so, what shade, and if it varied depending on the types of gardens they grew. He responded by telling me about the time that he had the honour of showing his hands to the great English plantsman Christopher Lloyd, who was less interested in the colour of his thumbs than in his calluses, as evidence that he really was a gardener. Having said that, by the end of the summer, his hands are usually the colour of an old teapot. Celandine (Chelidonium majus), a fairly common weed (or wild flower) where he lives, produces a yellow sap, used as a natural dye, that stains your hands and clothes a rust colour. Marigolds (Tagetes) stain your fingers and have a smell that he greatly dislikes. Strangely, Canada geese love marigolds, which gives him an excuse not to grow them. 'Pot Marigold' (Calendula) has a nice buttery fragrance and flowers that gardeners can eat. Yip, he's a gardener. From what I can tell if you want to know anything at all about a specific plant just pop over and he will have an answer for you.
Now you know a little more about John and his interests. So, why not pop over and have a closer look at his page and the links he has placed there? I am sure that you will find it is quite worth the trip.