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Magic sets for kids

I've previously written about good magic books for children, but for many kids a book about magic is, well, a little boring. But a magic set, now we're talking! Many beginner magic sets these days are largely filled with plastic junk, but the sets from the toy company "Melissa & Doug" are really worth considering. They make three separate models, each of which includes good tricks made of sturdy material (such as wood) and non-cheesy design.

While we're on the subject of inculcating little ones with creative and worthwhile hobbies, I spotted an Instant Doorway Puppet Theatre in a catalog. Every kid should stage a puppet show for their peers (and parents) at least once, and this item is surely the Apollo Theatre of the puppet world. Oh, to be a kid again!

Your washing machine talks back

According to an article by Don Hunt, the Internet Home Alliance is launching a pilot program, based in Atlanta, to equip homes with clothes washers and dryers that have the ability to communicate with computers and other devices on a home network. This allows the washer and dryer to communicate status information through TV screens, computer monitors, and cell phones.

The idea is that when a load has finished a message can pop-up on your television letting you know its time to move the clothes to the dryer. Or, if you're surfing the web, the dryer can ask you if you'd like to add an extra "fluff" cycle to the current load.

The article says that the system doesn't use an particularly groundbreaking technology. Indeed, if you'd like to try some of this out for yourself, I've included some pointers below. You won't be able to get your dryer online, but you can have notifications about CallerID and other events of interest. No need to wait for the future, get a taste of it now with just a little elbow grease.

See my previous articles Macintosh Home Monitoring and Growling PhoneValet for the basics of notification systems. If you'd like to have CallerID info sent to your television, look into CID clients such as CIDTrackerX (for Macintosh), CallerID Sentry (for Windows), and YAC (for Windows and TiVo). If you prefer a standalone CID-on-TV solution, then consider the TV Messenger which overlays CID info onto any connected boob tube. With the exception of the TV Messenger, you can use these tools to display other types of messages, too. Have fun experimenting.