[Review] CitiBlocs: Building Blocks with Unexpected Precision

Update (16/1): As of 11.59pm, We’ve closed up submissions for the Citiblocs giveaway!

Here’s a list of the happy participants (in no particular order. And those are colour preferences indicated with the names, and not necessarily indicators of whether these participants are very good looking or nice to hang out with. Submissions without colour preferences are indicated — rather tongue-in-cheek, so please eskew hor — with the phrase “chin cai”):

  • Amie Chen (hot)
  • Ian Cornelius Lai (chin cai lah)
  • Eddie Yii (hot)
  • Jingxian Liang (hot)
  • Viola Tan (hot)
  • Bena Chan (can be hot, can be cool)
  • Isaiah Kuan (also chin cai)
  • Cheryl Siew (hot)
  • Syafiq Samsudin (hot brudder, cool boyfriend)
  • Elsie Thng (I would like a plate of chin cai please)
  • Chuyan Kwek (hot)
  • Winnie Lam (chin cai with scallops and abalone sauce)
  • Hillary Chan (chin cai for many hours)
  • The Wacky Duo (cool)
  • Sheron Moey (chin cai: the movie)
  • Boon Hean Low (hot)
  • Regina Soejanto-Moo (okay, this one is self-proclaimed hot in every sense)

Thanks to everyone for participating, and keep an eye out for a Winner’s post coming very very shortly (as soon as the guest of honour wakes up and before he goes to school).

Let’s start the first post of the year with a bang. Read on to the end for a little surprise.

Over the Christmas season, I visited fellow friend and blogger Pamela of Tan Family Chronicles and owner of board game retailer My First Games, primarily to fix up an IKEA table I sold her whilst spring cleaning my house.

As I finished setting up the table with the man of the house (her husband Mr Tan), Pam very nicely offered me a bag filled with children’s books and 2 boxes of CitiBlocs, to thank me for making the trip. I’ve heard of the wooden building blocks from a number of other mom bloggers, and being the modest, humble Blogfather I am, I politely handed back the 2 plain sets of CitiBlocs Pam offered me, then looked at her with much gratitude and said to her:

“Can I have the coloured ones instead?”

A few days after Christmas, after Xander and his mother had gone through the plethora of toys Xander had received as Xmas/birthday presents (the Mother of Xander was primarily involved in building all the LEGO sets and polybags we received so Xan could admire them, and is now a newly-converted LEGO fan), we finally got round to trying out the CitiBlocs.

At first, I was skeptical. They looked exactly like Jenga blocks. I wondered how a bunch of wooden blocks, all the same length, width and height, would provide hours of healthy architectural entertainment to my boy.

The package came with an illustrated instruction booklet, and as my wife and I started flipping through the various creations that could be fashioned from each 50-block set, our eyes started to blur.

And then came the actual building. Xander took some of the sticks and started off on his own little building project, while his mother and I dabbled with duplicating what was presented in the instruction manual.

We found out what made these blocks so special: , they were all the EXACT same length, width and height, cut to such precision that once one block was in place, it is near impossible to remove without dismantling the entire creation.

Our little afternoon of trialing a product eventually lasted a good 2 1/2 hours of precision building, hand-eye co-ordination training for child and adults alike (once I start, it’s hard to put down) and a much greater appreciation of the quality woodwork and dedication that can and should go into making early learning toys such as this.

Pamela also mentions that these CitiBlocs are great for gatherings with friends with children in tow; while the adults mingle, the children will build. But it takes quite a bit of engagement before you can get a group of kids suitably hooked, so the trick here is to master one of the more visually stimulating builds to show he kids first, and then tell them, “Now you guys try.”

There’s more to this story, though. Courtesy of My First Games, The Blogfather now has a 100-piece set of CitiBlocs to give away (your choice of hot or cool colours)!

All I am asking for is 4 Facebook likes (if you haven’t already; seriously, you’ll really like all of them, too): one for me, one for Dear Xander, one for Mother of Xander, and of course, My First Games as well. Then come back to this blog post, drop a comment below with the Facebook account you used to like all them pages and we’ll pick out a winner right here! (You need to have a Singapore mailing address though.) Closing date for the contest is Wednesday, 16 January 2013, and we’ll announce the winner here and on FB the next day!

This will be my first ever giveaway contest, so do have a go! It’ll be fun! You have The Blogfather’s word on that.

My First Games is also giving The Blogfather readers an exclusive 10% off your purchase of their CitiBlocs range! To redeem, just use the discount code “BLGFTHRS” when you check out your purchase!

I’m Playing Dad to the Trend Family! – an Internet Safety Community Initiative

I know it’s been pretty quiet here lately, primarily because I just made a career switch into full-time writing at The Asian Parent, but also because I’ve been making preparations for Trend Micro’s latest family cyber-security awareness campaign.

It’s not the norm for Blogfathers! to endorse brands, and neither is the site into the advertising game (notice there are no more ads; I was going through a phase back then). But Trend Micro approached me with a very interesting proposition: there are no products to push, no services to promote, just a community cause to bring Internet safety awareness to families (so no, I’m not getting paid to do this – as usual).

Why I’m Paying Attention

Blogfathers! is primarily a community cause too; I’m basically a dad trying to help dads too, and learning from other dads in the process. Having been involved in tech for a number of years, I also know exactly where Trend Micro is coming from with this initiative. That’s why I said yes.

20120802-221648.jpgI’ve run and managed a number of websites throughout my working life, and have both seen and experienced identity theft and hacking first-hand. It’s not a nice feeling when you go to your blog and find a black screen with a dimly-lit red skull proudly proclaiming your`website has been compromised by r4nd0mh4ck37, complete with shoutouts to all of r4nd0mh4ck37’s friends with similarly L337 monikers.

Then there’s the cleanup; if the attack was malicious (files get deleted and databases get wiped) and you don’t have a recent enough backup of your website, it really is game over for the most part.

The worst part of all this is, it can be completely random; hackers don’t necessarily pick targets because of government affiliations or controversial values. They just find sites and servers that are the easiest to get into, and have a party with your work, at your expense. And when it’s happened to me, I’m extremely aware of what my website’s readers and users must be feeling and thinking about me or my company when they see that red skull smiling back at them.

Why You Should Pay Attention, Too

Sharing your family life through social media and blogging comes with a similarly sinister danger, as I previously mentioned here. It is ridiculously easy to find personal information given the popularity of social networking – personal information that you might use as passwords, or to verify forgotten passwords, or to authenticate bank and credit card accounts over phone banking.

Any hardworking novice hacker may be able to find out where you are (e.g. by tracking your FourSquare check-in) or where you’re going next (when you update on Twitter), and tail you just so he can peep over your shoulder when you’re making a credit card payment, and with all this information at hand (including your Facebook history or LinkedIn profile), he can just as easily pass off as you whilst speaking with your bank’s customer service officer (all it takes is a phone).

So keep an eye out for new stuff over the following months, where I’ll be sharing experiences, research and tips on keeping you and your family safe in this increasingly online world. I’m happy and honoured to be a part of the Trend Family, and I do expect I’ll be learning as much as I’ll be sharing through this initiative.