About Trolling

In my schooldays a little magazine was brought out by Nick Totton (who is now well-known as a therapist and poet – see http://www.nicktotton.net/) and friends called ‘Troll’. I had some things published in it – now all vanished into the dust of time. ‘Troll’ was meant to be a provocative and mischievous publication reacting against the orthodox school magazine and it lasted for at least three copies. I wish I knew where I could find one now. I wonder whether anyone reading this post may know?

In those technologically innocent days we little knew that the word ‘troll’ would come to mean something other than the ugly cave-dwelling creature which was depicted as either a giant or a dwarf and generally wearing a pixie-like hat. Now when ‘troll’ is mentioned it brings out for younger people the experience so many of them have had of having their on-line virtual self attacked by maligners. So many have now been bullied (some have even committed suicide) by trolls who spread discord on the internet by posting malicious comments or starting arguments or just by upsetting people in bizarre psychological variations such as posting messages which are completely off-topic or incendiary. Often these messages are sent using email addresses which may only last as long as the message is sent. Try and reply to them and your reply is returned with the message ‘’unknown address’. These trolls will then continue their action, which can only be described as criminal harassment, by inventing another email address to which, naturally one is unable to answer because it’s already been wiped off.

All of us who write a blog have received spam which by-and-large is filtered off. You know the sort of thing. Here’s a typical example: “Internet site an individual’s content %BT% is very well-accepted currently. How could i find out about information technology to start out my own vlog and as well web resource?”

I don’t quite understand the point of spam. It’s a sort of spamdexing; that is it is the deliberate manipulation of search engine indexes for purposes which may range from simple confusion in searching from terns to downright sabotage, infiltration of mal-ware and even phishing.

Trolling is not spamming. It is not generated against a general community of bloggers but is aimed at upsetting, menacing, harassing and threatening individual bloggers for purposes which are only known to those who indulge in an activity which is essentially internet bullying.

Recently I’ve been a victim of trolling and I think it’s important at this stage to let you know what my experience of it is. Forewarned is forearmed, as they say.

I set out here some examples of trolling which I’ve received. Fortunately, since trollers can change their email addresses so frequently, it’s still possible to block them and never allow their comments to be authorised on the web.

Here are three examples.

The first was received on 2017/03/29 at 6:59 pm from email address Semprealforno turisti_x_sempre@gmail.com and says

Gentile Signora,
Abbiamo letto con interesse il vostro affisso… Ci siamo però chiesto perché mancava la firma.
Se mi vuole per favore confermare che viene da voi possiamo pensare a presentarci il giorno di Pasqua in piazza Le ringrazio’

Translated it means ‘Dear Madam, we have read with interest your notice. We asked ourselves, however, why your signature was missing. Please confirm it comes from you so that we may meet on Easter day in the square. Thanks.

This refers to a notice the troll put up in various places in our village of Longoio and the square is the village’s car park. What is disturbing about this one is that it refers to Easter day which is traditionally supposed to be a day of peace and highly valued as such in a still largely Catholic country like Italy.

The second troll was received on  2017/04/13 at 4:12 pm  again from Semprealforno turisti_x_sempre@gmail.com79.51.91.228.

It reads ‘I Heard IT Was THE last one’

and refers to my post at https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2017/04/06/my-wifes-illustrious-ancestor/

In that post I gave a talk about Giovanni Battista Cipriani, a famous eighteenth century artist, painter of the Royal Coach and ancestor of my wife. I have been giving talks to the University of the Third Age of Bagni di Lucca since 2008. As for being the last talk one there were two more speakers to follow in subsequent weeks. (Am I supposed to get done in before I give my next talk I wonder?)

The third one was received on 2017/04/16 at 4:11 pm from nonceranessunoinpiazzaoggi? (meaning t’here was no one in the square’, presumably referring to the message in the first troll.)

It says

?’Ma la donna vestita a stracci faceva parte del gruppo???? (But did the woman dressed in rags form part of the group?)

and refers to my post at https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2017/04/15/easter-pilgrims/

The woman is my wife and she was part of a picture taken with Easter week pilgrims as described in that post. Here is that picture which normal people gave such a favourable response to:

The troller always wants to be found out in the end. It is the crowning moment of self-gratification in his miserable life which is filled with envy and ignorance in equal measure. The fictitious title ‘semprealforno’ has a double significance. It means ‘always at the oven.’ This can refer to the fact that the troller spends much of his time cooking at the barbecue. It can also mean that the troller has a fixation with the death camp ovens of such places as Auschwitz. (I can reveal the troller is German. Being a German is not a condemnation – even if Basil of Fawlty Towers warns us about ‘mentioning the war’ to them. But alluding in jest to the dark past of that nation certainly is).

The troller has in the past poured dirty water over Sandra (true!!) and used bullying tactics with me, especially with his dangerous breed dog. What utterly confirms who he is, however, are his emoticons in at least two posts at the Bagni di Lucca University of the Third Age facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/UniTre-Bagni-di-Lucca-126411907831457/

Every time there is a mention to me or my wife the ‘angry emoticon’ with his name appears.

As someone who graduated in computer systems and as a former lecturer in the subject for close onto twenty five years I have confirmed, if the evidence wasn’t enough, through the I. P. addresses etc. who this person is.

I will not give his name here. It would give this specimen too much importance. You can find it for yourselves on the Unitre page mentioned above since the troll fails to understand that a ‘like’ etc emoticon can only be removed or changed by the person placing it there. (Perhaps this is a shortcoming of ‘facebook’ which admits ‘there is no option available right now to remove negative emoticon or feeling’).

Why should I have to be writing this post?  I could just shrug the whole thing off and think that the trolling guy is a sad sort of fellow who desperately needs to get a life of his own. However, I feel obliged to write this since, for number one, no-one insults or in any way hurts or disturbs my wife of forty years standing, Sandra, with impunity, and number two, for someone who is both a troller and a teacher of young children at a local school, this behaviour is all the more unacceptable, indeed disturbing, and the children’s head and parents should know about it.

(My last lecture?)

Another Galilean in Florence

The Medici dynasty of Florence were not just great art patrons, they were also great science patrons. Nowhere can this be seen better than in one of the city’s most intriguing museums, the Galileo Galilei Museum of science which we revisited on a recent trip to the city.

Before the museum’s entrance there is a delightful gnomon which also includes some astrological signs. Unfortunately, I couldn’t measure its accuracy as it was raining…

Galileo Galilei, who was born in Pisa in 1564 and died at Arcetri, Florence in 1642 (where there is an observatory dedicated to him) holds a supreme position in science corresponding to that of such figures as Michelangelo in art. Leaning on the manufacture of higher precision lenses from Holland, Galileo was able to construct telescopes which revealed such discoveries as mountains on the moon and satellites around Jupiter (which he named the “Medici” planets in honour of Florence’s rulers). Above all, Galileo was the perfector of our modern scientific method of research which he applied not only to astronomy but also to physics, dynamics and mathematics.

The revolution effected by Galileo in kicking out the earth from the centre of the universe and making it revolve around the sun (“e pur si muove” he said under his breath at his “recantation” when the Inquisition showed him the instruments of torture – “and yet it (the earth) moves”) was drummed home to me when I saw the incredibly elaborate model of an armillary sphere by Antonio Sanducci and made around 1590 showing the earth very much in the centre of things.

I’m glad to say that the papacy has now apologised in retrospect to the great scientist for the insult and suffering it inflicted on him. Let’s hope that (if there is an after-life) poor Galileo heard their apology.

However, for anyone sailing during Galilei’s time the earth had to be the centre of the universe since all positions were worked out by reference to the sun, stars and planets surrounding it like concentric globes. This picture of navigation continues well into the modern age.

I visited the museum with a sailing instructor who was able to point out to me the mathematical instruments like sextants and astrolabes used for the calculation of the position at sea for captains and skippers in pre-GPS times. What amazed me was how these scientific instruments were also supreme works of art combining accuracy with elegance.

The section on clocks was also fascinating; it should be remember that, although latitude could be fairly easily computed since mediaeval times, longitude depended on extremely accurate time-measuring equipment not available until Harrison constructed his famous chronometer, gaining him a Royal Society award and now on proud display in the Greenwich maritime museum.

My own interest in calculating machines and computers was aroused when I saw an English development of Leibnitz’s original machine beautifully carried by Samuel Knibb in 1664. I wish my laptop could look so elegant!

02052015 248

The field of electricity and thunder flashing inducing equipment produced at the turn of the romantic era turned my imagination to Frankenstein’s laboratory in the lonely tower and the galvanization of his monster. Indeed, science became a popular entertainment and, just as ladies would entertain at the piano, so gentlemen would show off their latest scientific toy. Amateur science was born and moved out of the exclusiveness of aristocratic enclaves.

There was an amusing section on optical illusion apparatus:

and another on anatomical wax models for instructional purposes (using corpses was not considered ethical and, besides, they would tend to stink):

The Galileo Galilei museum, which is just at the back of the Uffizi gallery, is yet another of Florence’s museums which have been expertly revalued and present their wares as they should be presented – with clear and informative displays both in Italian and English. Kids of all ages from 4 to 100 should also enjoy experimenting with the museum’s hands-on section which illustrates various physics laws and clock mechanism.

Florence’s Science museum’s web site at http://www.museogalileo.it/ is a supreme example of how it should be done. One can actually visit the museum without having to go to it by experiencing its “virtual museum”. I think however, that the virtual museum serves a double purpose, the second being that of preparing one for a visit to the museum and deciding what to concentrate on there.

Semantic Spoons from Mozzanella

Computer programming has come a long way since the days when the major programming languages were machine code and assembler 360 and programmers wore leather caps, goggles and white coats.

images (4)

Already in the 1980’s, in the pioneering programme “The Mighty Micro”, Chris Evans of the BBC introduced the public to a second generation of programming languages and, in particular, to Basic. Those, of course, were the days before the Internet, digital photography and MP3 files – in short before today’s exploding multimedia computing age.


As an I. T. lecturer in London I introduced people of all ages to HTML, (hypertext mark-up language) which helped them to build their own web sites. Today, things have gone far beyond that; the Semantic web, organized by the world wide web consortium, otherwise known as W3C, aims at providing common data formats on the web with the use of semantic content in web pages. This will eventually provide a unified structure facilitating the interchange of documents and data which once were unable to communicate with each other. Clearly, HTML in this situation has its limitations and a whole spectrum of new programming languages have been developed and are for ever in course of development including RDF, OWL (web ontology language), XML and SPARQL.

If anyone reading this thinks all this is beyond their ken it’s beyond mine too and beyond most people’s on this globe except for those gifted with the highest minds. Rigorous logic and creativity combine in these super-brains to lead us into the ever-expanding fields of knowledge and relationships which enrich any positive use of the web.

One person able to comprehend the implications of the semantic web and contribute significantly to its development happens to be one of my oldest friends in this part of the world. Danny Ayers, who lives in the charming village (or hamlet even?) of Mozzanella in the central Serchio valley near Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, has been a major figure in this field for some years and has a significant number of volumes he has collaborated in lining his shelves.

Teleworking is, of course ideal for this kind of programming occupation and the contrast between a community which, until relatively  recently, knew no television or even phones, where agriculture and pastoralism remain a major feature, and the state-of –the-art activities of Danny are all the more startling.

Apart from programming, Danny is well into music-making using both digital and analogue instruments In addition to synthesisers he has six guitars, other plucked instruments, a drum kit and keyboards arranged in an impressive array and making an even more impressive sound.

The impetus for getting all this stuff together and working is Danny’s recently completed move to a new house in Mozzanella. As he states, “the fact that the new house has a lot more sunshine seeping through its windows than the old and that the views from it are absolutely superb makes a great deal of difference to the creative spirit.”

Just because one is a wizard at programming the semantic web doesn’t mean that simple rural crafts are neglected. In the afternoon that I visited Danny he completed a wooden spoon most useful for dealing with scrambled eggs and presented it to me complete with my initial on it.

I’ve just realised that I’m writing all this on Danny’s birthday and that he has reached one of those birthdays which end with a zero on the age (plus a one, I’m informed.).

So Buon Compleanno Danny and long may you thrive on the semantic web and in carving both spoons and axe handles!

01132015 079