Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Toy Company That Roks

I love toys. I mean as an adult, I really love cool toys. I mean kids toys really, not adult toys. I mean I love adult toys too (no, not those kind of adult toys)... like cool phones or i-prefixed digital thing-a-ma-bobs... but this is about kids toys.

One toy in particular - Rokenbok - has so captured my attention from the moment I saw it practically 8 years ago, that it has literally been blamed (or thanked, actually) for convincing me to have kids, as the only sane justification for me to buy this toy ;)

So, now I have kids, the boys are old enough, and we own this incredible toy.

Rokenbok is a creative building toy and a multi-vehicle, remote control construction site toy. You build a site which becomes the playground for the trucks. The building is just as much fun as driving the trucks once you're done. Each truck has a purpose, just like on a real construction site, and... well... I'll stop there, 'cause that's not why I'm writing this post (or I would have wrote it a year ago).

I'm not writing this post to thank Rokenbok for the incredibly responsive service I've gotten when I've emailed them about issues ("hey, this bulldozer won't go!"; response: "Give us the code from the bottom and we'll get a new one in the mail today" - and they did).

I'm writing this post to praise Rokenbok as a product company, particularly for their focus on kids and safety. They recently posted a new page on their website which describes their safety testing process - to re-assure parents in the wake of this horrendous rash of lead-ridden toys coming out of manufacturing plants in China. If you have a kid with a red Thomas-Train half in her mouth, you'll understand why this is such a big deal (or you should read other articles).

Rokenbok is not just re-assuring parents as a defensive measure, I think they truly have a strong, DNA-level commitment to the importance of safety in the products that they put in kids' hands - and they deserve credit for that.

Rokenbok has remained focused on they end user over all else. That was clear when we dropped (ok, drove) our first truck off a high ledge on an early site we built - and discovered that it was clearly built to withstand much more abuse than a normal toy... but the safety focus - from design to manufacturing - that's proof of their commitment. One example, besides that they don't dip their toys in vats of chippable lead paint, is the design of their admittedly choking-hazard-sized "Roks" (the balls scooped and dumped by the trucks). They designed them with "vents" so that "if one were accidentally inhaled, a child would still be able to breathe through the vents until professional help could arrive". If only all companies had such a focus on great products as a priority over cheap delivery.

I've heard that Rokenbok recently had a significant change in management - let's hope they maintain the same values.... Thanks Rokenbok!

Friday, November 2, 2007

22 years ago, dinosaurs (and my friends) roamed the earth

Seriously – 22 years is very long time... I recently hooked up with a close school friend whom I haven't seen in 22 years... a lifetime. By “close”, I mean that’s what we were then, but I haven’t seen her since. And while I feel like practically the same person, the world around me is pretty much a different planet. Country boundaries changed, some wars finished, new wars began, and technology changed a bit (!) and, well, my friend from 22 years ago turns out to still be a good friend :)

We looked at old pictures and new pictures of people we knew - people we know... and it really made it clear how much time has passed. I started to think of the things lost and the things gained in those years... so let's start two lists:

What we have today that we didn’t have 22 years ago:
  • Google, Yahoo, Facebook, MySpace.
  • WikiPedia, Technorati, Techcrunch.
  • Firefox, Safari, YouTube.
  • The web.
  • Laptops, iPods, flash drives, USB, 250gb hard drives the size of a British cucumber sandwich.
  • Digital Cameras (?).
  • Cell Phones (well... there was one I saw the size of a microwave oven).
  • Windows Vista, XP, NT, 3.1, 2.0.
  • Fear of Interns in the Whitehouse.
  • Fear of Republicans in the Whitehouse.
  • Azerbaijan and many other countries.
  • This blog, any blog, the word “blog” (and so many other words!)
  • Avaya, Agere, T-Mobile, Netflix
  • Brittney, Paris, Lindsay.
  • Virgin (Records or Atlantic)
  • K-Fed, J-Lo.
  • The criminal O.J. Simpson.
  • Shoes off at the airport security gate.
  • My kids.

What we had 22 years ago that we don’t have anymore:
  • The Soviet Union.
  • The big 8 accounting firms (Ernst & Whinney, Arthur Young, Arthur Anderson, Peat Marwick Mitchell, Price Waterhouse, Coopers & Lybrand, Delloite Haskins Sells, Touche Ross)
  • Wang Laboratories, Typwriters (I'm assuming they're extinct)
  • The artist Michael Jackson
  • The ex-Football Player OJ Simpson... Nicole Brown, Ronald Goldman
  • The artist known as Prince
  • Phil Hartman, John Candy, John Belushi, Chris Farley
  • Manufacturers Hanover Trust, Chemical Bank, ,
  • Floppy drives
  • DOS, Windows 1.0 (just barely)
  • Almost 3,000 innocent people lost on September 11, 2001, including some friends.
  • My Dad.

I could probably go on with this for a while..... but, I gotta get busy with the next 22 years...