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Web offers a break from the out-of-school blues


If you're a parent of a school-age child, the Christmas season means the kids are out of school until the first part of next month.

It's an exciting time for both parents and kids, but even the holidays offer some boring moments. You've got a house full of bored kids, what should you do?

SANTA.COM. Santa.com isn't a cheesy Web site that solely focuses on ol' St. Nick; it's evolved beyond that to become an attractive Web portal and holiday activity center.

Santa.com is packed with activities: You can go shopping at a variety of online stores including Barnes and Noble, eToys, Omaha Steaks, and more; create a Christmas gift wish list; create a family Web site or chat room; print out free greeting cards on your printer; send free animated cards via e-mail; make a variety of kids holiday-theme crafts; play online games or color pictures online; and lastly, you can write that all-important e-mail to Santa Claus.

And if you're a parent who's scoured the toy aisles for an elusive Furby, there's even a "Furby Challenge" where you can win one of those hard-to-find furry toys.

A word of warning: Santa.com can be time consuming! I was showing my six-year-old daughter around Santa.com, and before I knew it, she had me hard at work to help her color every picture, make every craft and play every game.

Dig out that Santa hat and fire up your Web browser for a visit to Santa.com at www.santa.com.

FRANKLIN INSTITUTE. OK, a Santa-theme Web site won't cut the mustard for older kids who have more mature interests. And learning about two inquisitive bicycle mechanics from Ohio certainly wouldn't interest them -- or would it?

Instead of playing video games ad nauseum, you might suggest your kids try something both fun and educational: Visit the Franklin Institute on the Web.

The latest addition to the Franklin Institute Web site is "Flights of Inspiration," marking the 95th anniversary of sustained, powered flight by two Dayton, Ohio brothers, Orville and Wilbur Wright.

The institute received the bulk of the brothers' aeronautical notes, equipment, photos and personal belongings at their request (the

Smithsonian refused to admit their achievement of powered flight, and only changed its tune in 1942. The Franklin Institute recognized their achievement soon after their first flight).

While the institute doesn't have room to display all their Wright brothers' material, they've taken great pains to display it to visitors digitally on their Web site.

The brothers' achievement is truly an amazing and inspiring story -- and one worthy of study.

You can follow the evolution of their early experiments that led to the first flight of the Wright Flyer in 1903, including a 3D look at their homemade wind tunnel.

The "Flights" Web site also highlights the 1919 flight of John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown, two British fliers who were the first to fly non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean.

Find out more by visiting "Flights of Inspiration" at http://sln.fi.edu/flights/.

DON'T PASS GO. The Disney and Infoseek portal collaboration effort that began in June has resulted in a beta site for the soon-to-be-unveiled "GO.com" Web site.

Go.com combines the Infoseek search engine with content from Disney sites like ESPN.com and ABCnews.com. The result is a solid Web portal site, with lots of familiar names and brands -- both of which should appeal to advertisers and consumers.

The beta site is still under testing, and an official launch date hasn't been set -- though Infoseek officials are promising an extensive marketing campaign to help popularize Go.com.

AT&T HIKE. Following the lead of the world's largest Internet provider, AT&T announced it was raising its rate for unlimited Internet access by $2 per month.

AT&T WorldNet Service, the country's second largest Internet service provider, will now charge $21.95 a month for its unlimited access plan.

AT&T originally eliminated its flat-rate all-you-can-surf package back in March, limiting users to 150 hours and charging for use over that amount.

The new rate brings back the unlimited usage plan.

AT&T is also planning some expanded features for its users, which include multiple e-mail accounts, and 30 megabytes of space for personal Web pages.

AT&T also announced the debut of a new instant messaging system, similar to AOL Instant Message feature and the stand-alone AOL Instant Message product.

AT&T WorldNet has about 1.3 million members.

Comments and questions about this column may be sent to jbrooks@myoldkentuckyhome.com, or visit www.myoldkentuckyhome.com on the World Wide Web.

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