Say hello to Ugly River

Browsing the NZ Gazette, the government’s official newspaper, I came across a parcel of new official geographic names being approved and one or two discontinued.

This happens fairly often and this Land Information New Zealand page is a good place to get a heads-up.  There’s also plenty of detail  on the naming process, including a checklist and forms for proposing a name and description of the consultative process.

All the names of all the New Zealand places (as in mountains and lakes but not as in street names) are held in the New Zealand Gazetteer of Official Geographic Names.

Official names are approved, discontinued or altered by the New Zealand Geographic Board Ngā Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa (NZGB).

Among the 66 freshly approved geographic names announced in the gazette when I wrote this post were:

Burial Point
Ligar Bay
Limestone Bay
Tata Islands
Deception Creek
Blue Shirt Creek
Bluffy Creek
Deception Creek
Gunner River
Heaphy Bluff
Horrible Creek

Last but not least was Ugly River, a stream near Nelson. Welcome, Ugly River!

Ugly River Screengrab


Any member of the public can make a submission either in support of, or objecting to, name change proposals.

Submissions can be made in writing to the Secretary for the New Zealand Geographic Board, via the online forms, or to

“If you can’t protect it, don’t collect it”

The  theft of the personal data of 4.5 million patients of a US hospital chain prompted Bloomberg to look at the Top 10 Data Breaches of all time. In their story, they wrote:

“The recent attack has gained notoriety for its methods, rather than its size — the hacking group has been prolific in attacking U.S. medical-device companies and drug makers. The chart below shows how the Chinese breach compares with others.

“The ranking provides little solace if you’re one of the people whose personal information was stolen and used for identity theft. Yet, with security-software maker Symantec calling this the era of the “mega-breach” and some attacks hitting the nine digits, it’s worth remembering that hackers have many, many other ways to obtain personal information.”

Bloomberg included an interactive graphic showing the top 10 data breaches and who did the breaching, which is worth a look. The top three offenders are Malicious Outsider, Accidental Data Loss, and Physical Loss.

Daniel Solove, Professor of Law at George Washington University Law School and founder of TeachPrivacy, pulled together a few takeaways from the story including:

  • The leading causes of data breaches often involve the workforce mistakes Malicious outsiders often get in because they trick people through phishing and social engineering
  • Organizations are collecting and using data faster than they are able to keep it secure
  • Educate the workforce! Train them once, train them twice, train them thrice. Repeat, repeat, repeat

The point that most struck home for me was this one:

“If you can’t protect it, don’t collect it.”

Here in New Zealand, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner has released a guide for app developers designed to help developers think about what personal details they really need to capture from their users.

The office says:

“When apps don’t convey basic information about what the business is collecting personal information for, it’s hard for people to feel confident that their information is being looked after. But when an app developer finds a way to be clear about what is happening, people notice. It’s a way to convey to users that you’re trustworthy, that you know the value of their information and you’ll treat it with respect.”

There’s a downloadable pdf of the NEED TO KNOW OR NICE TO HAVE guide, or you can get the gist from the topic page on

Why you shouldn’t drink seawater (even if you’re shipwrecked)


Shipwrecked figures signaling to a distant sailing ship, by Gideon Jacques Denny
Shipwrecked figures signaling to a distant sailing ship, by Gideon Jacques Denny


I feel like I’ve always ‘known’ that it’s bad to drink seawater but I can’t remember ever learning why. This excerpt from Rose George’s excellent ‘90% of Everything: Inside Shipping‘ gives a fair idea:

In a lecture to the Royal College of Physicians in 1942, MacDonald Critchley, a physician who had studied survival at sea, said that “seawater poisoning must be accounted, after cold, the commonest cause of death in shipwrecked sailors.”

At first, it wouldn’t seem so: seawater is liquid and it quenches. The relief would be immediate. But seawater has an average salt content of 3 percent. This increases thirst dramatically so that more seawater is drunk, and more, and salt levels go ever more haywire, until the body tries to regulate it by urination, and you expel a quart of urine for every quart of seawater drunk, making matters worse. There are also complicated and intricate effects of seawater on cells, blood, and tissue, but in essence, too much seawater can fry your brain.

Then this happens, in the words of Critchley:

“The victim becomes silent and apathetic, with a peculiar fixed and glassy expression in the eyes. The condition of the lips, mouth, and tongue worsens, and a peculiarly offensive odor has been described in the breath. Within an hour or two, delirium sets in, quiet at first but later violent and unrestrained; consciousness is gradually lost; the color of the face changes and froth appears at the corners of the lips. Death may take place quietly: more often it is a noisy termination, and not infrequently the victim goes over the side in his delirium and is lost.”

What the sound of a dial-up modem looks like

This is a spectogram of a dial-up modem handshake sound.  Via FlowingData. When I plugged in my first modem for the first time I heard this sound sequence and thought something was broken. Took me a few goes to figure out it was supposed to sound like this. Finally got connected and discovered bulletin boards. #waybackwhen

And Oona Raisanen has shared this image explaining what all those sounds are.

Dialup Modem Visualised


Desktop vs mobile content visualised as cereal

I’m liking these simple (but clever) illustrations from visual and interaction designer Ed Lea.

The first gives a visual explanation of how content differs on desktop, tablet and mobile.


The second illustrates the difference between UX (User Experience) and UI (User Interface).

Ed Lea is on Medium and on Twitter @ed_lea.


On being careful with browser extensions

From a Mike O’Donnell column on, some sage advice on being careful with browser add-ons and extensions:

1. If you start seeing weird or inappropriate ads on websites there’s a fair chance you’ve been targeted. You should go to your “options” menu in Internet Explorer (or “extensions” in Chrome) and disable recent extensions.


2. If you get an email inviting you to install a browser extension or a new Flash player, be wary.

You should Google the title text from the request to find out if it is associated with a scam before proceeding.

3. You should only install browser extensions from known companies like Google and Mozilla – this means going to the vendor’s website and installing directly from there (and reading reviews first).

4. There is a bunch of good free PC check-up programmes you can run your lappie or desktop computer through – Bellguard Internet Security and Microsoft Security Essentials are a good place to start.

Read more about some of the scams and the rest of Mike’s column here.

How to draw on a blackboard: beautiful tips from 1909

A lovely book “by Massachusetts based artist and teacher Frederik Whitney (1858-1949) on the lost art of blackboard drawing”.

“Ability to draw easily and well on the blackboard is a power which every teacher of children covets. Such drawing is a language which never fails to hold attention and awaken delighted interest”.

Via Public Domain Review . See more at:



Top-watched online videos in 2013: comedy, educational, and how-tos

One in four US adult internet users has uploaded a video online, according to the Online Video 2013 report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. One in five has posted a video that they created themselves.

The top-watched categories are Comedy, Educational and How-to videos, followed by Music.

Forty one per cent of mobile users shoot video on their phone, 40 per cent watch videos on their phone, and 21 per cent use their phone to post videos online.

Over the past four years, the percent of American adult internet users who upload or post videos online has doubled from 14% in 2009 to 31% today. That includes 18% of adult internet users who post videos they have created or recorded themselves—many of whom hope their creations go viral. The share of online adults who watch or download videos has also grown from 69% of internet users in 2009 to 78% today, and mobile phones have become a key part of the video viewing and creating experience.

Find out more about the survey and download the full report on the Pew site.