It's the summer, the boss is away, the office half-staffed, and your workplace is as quiet as a morgue.

What better time, then, to start goofing off? Here are some handy devices to help you waste copious amounts of time in the office.

The toy

:

Touchscreen Portable Video Poker Machine

from Hammacher Schlemmer via SkyMall.

Price

: $119.95.

What it does:

Deals a hand of poker onto an electronic touchscreen. Players bet first, then deal a hand before getting a chance to hold some or all of the cards. Finally, new cards are drawn, and a win or lose is declared.

The screen is bright and responsive to finger touches. The table on the back showing the odds of different hands taking place will help hone card-playing skills.

Problems:

The images of the cards sometimes fail to materialize fully, and the noises the machine produces are irritating (especially to coworkers). Luckily the speaker can easily be turned off and most of the time the images can be deciphered without too much trouble.

Overall:

This toy is easily the most addictive of the bunch. Even though it sounds mundane to play hand after hand of cards when no money is at stake, you'll find yourself playing the game "just one more time" more times than you can count.

The toy:

Isis Puzzle

available from

Harrods

in London.

Price:

139 British pounds, around $280.

What it does:

It's a beautiful, if infuriating, puzzle made in the shape of an aluminum globe, slightly smaller than a baseball. The puzzle has rotating bands with Egyptian-style symbols.

It comes with a leaflet containing 10 clues written in what can only be described as mumbo jumbo. Decryption keys are available online for those wishing to pay more. The idea is to get the ball open, get the key inside that will open one of many hidden pyramids located in the United Kingdom, which themselves contain coins made of gold and silver. (Really -- at least, that's

what the company says

.)

Problems:

Unfortunately, for those like me without a flair for verbal or mathematical problem solving, this puzzle may do little more than annoy the puzzle-solver in increasingly shorter bursts.

Overall:

It's beautiful as a desk ornament and worth keeping for that purpose, but still totally baffling.

The toy

:

The Marshmallow Shooter

, from Hammacher Schlemmer via SkyMall.

Price:

$24.95

What it does:

Shoots mini-marshmallows through the air. In fact, for an indoor toy, it shoots them really far and with dramatic effect.

The "ammunition" is loaded into a clear plastic magazine atop the body of the gun and the handle is pumped to build up air pressure. When air pressure is achieved, a firm push of the handle shoots the tiny white candies around 20 feet with a loud "pop."

Not only will you likely spend hours propelling mini marshmallows over cube tops and through office doors, but you'll also spend a fair amount of time scurrying around picking up the tiny white projectiles as you try to clean up afterward. (Make sure your office isn't prone to ant or rodent infestations.)

Problems

: Learning to ready the gun for firing takes some getting used to. The problem with marshmallows is that they are soft, and hence deform easily.

Tip

: What's really needed is perfectly formed "rounds" that will block the airflow just enough to let pressure build up.

Overall

: This toy was easily the best value.

The toy:

Hovering Target Shooting Game

from Hammacher Schlemmer via Sky Mall.

Price:

$39.95

What it does:

Five white Styrofoam spheres float atop air jets on a target structure ready to be knocked off their invisible perches by projectiles fired from an orange nerf-gun.

This toy really ends up being multiple toys in one package. Watching the balls float on the air jets is mesmerizing on its own and shooting the gun is a blast, but it's not necessary to shoot at the designated target to have fun.

Problems:

Cocking the Nerf gun can be an ordeal, requiring a hefty pull to "load." Some colleagues found the loading reloading tricky at first. The power and accuracy of the gun are extremely poor. Shooting the gun produces a great "clunk" sound, but little to follow through with actual action. Don't plan on hitting anything further than six or eight feet away -- and then without a thud.

Still, that does mean it's safe to shoot your coworkers at point-blank range without risk of injury.

Tip

: Keep track of the Nerfs. The toy came with no replacement ammo.

Overall:

The Nerf gun is a keeper, for shooting at your colleagues and their computer screens, or simply as a prop to be carried for dramatic effect. The floating ball air-jet machine may be worth keeping, if only to impress visitors to your workspace.