We live adjacent to a large field that is planted in either corn or soy beans each summer. I don’t know who owns the ground, nor who does the planting and harvesting, but they sure have access to some very large machinery. At the end of November we got an inch of rain over Thanksgiving, which came on top of already very wet and soggy conditions, and it seemed like the corn might have to stand all Winter, or at least well into the Winter until the ground froze enough to let the get on it. But on 30 November a monstrous combine harvester on very large rubber tracks turned up to harvest this corn. And it needed all of that support and drive that the huge rubber tracks and large rear drive wheels could offer to get around the field. It was accompanied by an equally large IH Case tractor with 8 drive wheels pulling a large bin that was on rubber tracks to take the corn from the combine out to waiting semi-truck and trailer that was beside the road.

Here’s one picture, and a gallery shows if you open this post.

John Deere 9770 STS

John Deere 9770 STS

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On 25th November Lisa and I took her Mum down to the Toledo Museum of Art to see the exhibit of Dale Chihuly glass works “Chihuly Toledo!

We had been to the Toledo Museum of Art during the Summer to spend a day there looking at displays, including a fascinating glass blowing exhibition in The Glass Pavillion and learned of their upcoming Chihuly display. So the day before Thanksgiving we headed off there to take a look.

In the Chihuly exhibit room I didn’t see any signs saying “No Photography” as I walked in, so took a couple of pictures before I got scolded. Turns out the only sign was in such a place that you’d see it only as you exited the room. So here they are…


I had occasion recently to try and figure out how to use the Firewall built into Mac OS X to prevent a very bad mannered “bot” from hitting one of my sites – at times at the rate of 10 hits per second, and 2 seconds later another 8-10 hits!!! So I needed to be able to block certain IP numbers, or ranges of IP numbers. Mac OS X comes with the FreeBSD firewall programme called IPFW. This is a very powerful feature that can be accessed from Terminal.

Some Googling later I came up with several helpful sites that got me up and running with this.

First, using the Apache server logs identify the IP number, or range of IP numbers you want to block. I used TextWrangler to open the log file and do some preliminary editing, and then imported that into FileMaker Pro to get only the log lines applicable to PiplBot (BAD ROBOT!!!!). Over the course of about 5 hours it used 84 different IP numbers as it hit away at one of my sites over 19,000 times.

So once I had a list of these numbers, I was able to break them down into a number of shorter lists that had the first 2 or 3 octets of the IP number the same. With this done, this site http://www.mikero.com/misc/ipcalc/ provides a VERY handy calculator that will take the starting and ending IP numbers in a range, and convert it to a range in the CIDR notation (very technical explanation here) which takes a range of numbers like,,,

which potentially covers 14 different numbers and converts it to which represents 16 numbers without the need to list them all out. And simlarly the range from to covers 2,572 addresses, and is represented by – a range of 16,384 addresses.

So, armed with this knowledge and ability, I’m now able to understand the instructions on this page http://www.dancatts.com/articles/dealing-with-bad-bots-at-the-firewall-level.php and this page http://www.ibiblio.org/macsupport/ipfw/ which in their simplest form are saying that you can use Terminal with this instruction

sudo /sbin/ipfw add 02010 deny ip from to any in

to add a block into the Firewall for the range of numbers You can see the current status of your ipfw with this Terminal command

sudo /sbin/ipfw list

which will return a list in this form

02010 deny ip from to any in
02020 deny ip from to any in
02030 deny ip from to any in
02040 deny ip from to any in
02050 deny ip from to any in
65535 allow ip from any to any

Changes made by Terminal only last as long as your Macintosh is running – they are not saved to be used on a Restart unless you write a startup script to do this. This site http://www.ibiblio.org/macsupport/ipfw/ provide details on this, including a number of sample scripts, but frankly this was way over my head, so I turned to MacUpdate to see if there was an application that would do this via a GUI (Graphical User Interface). I found several, and settled on WaterRoof by Hany El Imam. This allows you to define the rules you want to implement, and then takes care of creating the script that will activate these rules each time your Macintosh is started up.

WaterRoof Screen Shot

WaterRoof Screen Shot

This seems much easier to deal with 🙂

So for now PiplBot is banned, even though they seem to be honouring their statement that they would remove all of my sites from their list of sites to crawl.

I hope this helps someone else – I’ve written it partly to help me remember what I did, but also to help others.


Saturday 20 November was the “Smart Move Regional LEGO League Qualifying Tournament” of “FIRST Lego® League” at Grandville Middle School, Grandville, Michigan.

The Team from Byron Center is Team <default>. The ended up finishing 6th at this tournament, including 1st place in Research, so are off to the State Finals in Flint on 12 December. Congratulations Guys and Girls!!!

Here are a few photos taken by Uncle Roger.


Halloween 2009 was at Kurt and Ann’s house again. Everybody got into the spirit, and a great time was had by all. Even Balto the Brittany reluctantly got into his costume – a glow in the dark set of ribs and skull cap.

As usual there was lots of good food, and even the pavlova I made got into it by having black (or very dark purple) filling and orange whipped cream on it. It looked a bit odd, but tasted just like it should.

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