A Dumb Guide To Making A Smart Home

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Look, some dads are tech masters who are always on top of the latest thing, but I just hadn’t thought about home automation before. I had Alexa, and loved it, but I figured smart lights and everything would mean rewiring the whole house. But then I was part a “favorite things” gift exchange and someone gave me a pack of four smart outlets, and it was a huge “Oh, duh” moment.

To have a smart home, you don’t have to reprogram your whole house’s electricity…you just take remote control of an outlet. I downloaded the Smart Life app, plugged in one of the outlets and held down the button until it blinked.

smartoutlet

With my phone connected to the wifi, they synced up and were good to go. I grew up with frustratingly slow tech, and had to deal with computer virus hell in the 90s, so it’s still crazy to me how intuitive and quick most things can work now! I could plug in anything to this outlet: a lamp, the Christmas tree, a surge protector connected to all devices in the room, and control it all from my phone.

Anakin
(GIphy/)

Now, the next phase of any conquest is delegation. I enabled the Smart Life skill in the Alexa app so I could use it to control the smart outlets. Fun Pro tip: You can reprogram Alexa’s response word to be “Computer.” So for a while I could say “Computer, lights” and the lights would go on or off! It was basically like being a starfleet captain all the time. Word of caution though: you say the word “computer” way more often than you think you do. It’ll hear you, man. It’ll hear you.

Of course once I got started, I became hooked. I wanted to connect full rooms and the outdoor lighting. I wanted to control the thermostat and the garage door. I wanted unlimited power! So, my next step was buying several smart switches.

smartswitch

These work the same way the outlets do, but for the internal stuff, and even the nicer ones only run for about $20. They allow voice, remote and timed control of anything that isn’t plugged in – ceiling lighting and fans and so on. I installed them myself, but it’s a little more complicated so no shame in hiring a professional for this part. It was still way easier than the complete rewiring I’d always imagined, and setup with Smart Life was just as easy as the outlets.

Now I have 6 smart outlets and 4 smart switches on the grid. With Alexa, it’s super easy to create groups for different rooms, like: Family Room, Kitchen, Outside, or larger groups like: Whole House.

Alexa Groups

From here, I was basically set to go. Smart Home: Activate! But I tend to dive…deeper.

There’s a section in the app called “Routines,” and it’s key. With it, I schedule all of my groups to turn on and off depending on day and time. For example, the box fans in all our bedrooms (#whitenoise4lyfe) are programmed to turn off, while the lights all turn on just before alarm time every morning. This is usually enough to wake up my kids without an alarm!


 

Alexa Routines

All of the downstairs lights are on when my wife gets up at an ungodly hour for her workout. My outdoor lights turn on and off at the appropriate times. The customization possibilities are awesome. Routines can also be voice-controlled, and you can make your voice commands whatever you want by typing it in the app.

So when I say “Alexa it’s TV time!” she says, “Heck yeah let’s get this party started” and turns on the Family Room.

AlexaCommand

You can also use these routines to mess with your kids. When I ask “Alexa, who is the best?” she responds with “Joel is the best” and that is an airtight argument from an omnipresent computer controlling our entire lives. 

Now I have a Nest thermostat, a Roomba, and a Chamberlain garage door opener, all controllable through Alexa or by a schedule.


I was really impressed by how simple and easy it was to get all this up and running. The big takeaway for me was realizing that having a smart home wasn’t something that’s just for super rich people living in future homes. I know there’s more that could be done, and as prices on the tech come down, I’ll probably automate more stuff. Eventually, I will achieve the ultimate goal of an automated breakfast machine, like from Back to the Future III.


 

 

The Dad loves cool stuff, and we want to share it with you. We are a part of the Amazon Affiliate Program, so we may earn a fee if you buy stuff from links featured here. But this was a true story, and it happened mostly before that whole arrangement, so no bullshit. 

Music Video Shows People With Down Syndrome Living Their Best Lives [WATCH]

(Facebook/Wouldn't Change A Thing)

World Down Syndrome Day is here!

Today is the day when those with Down Syndrome, as well as those who live and work with them, come together to raise public awareness and create a single global voice, advocating for the right, inclusion and well being of those with Down Syndrome.

The parent-led Down Syndrome awareness organization “Wouldn’t Change a Thing” is focused on creating a world where negative and inaccurate perceptions of Down Syndrome are a thing of the past.

This year, the organization created a video to the tune of Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” to highlight the ways in which people with Down Syndrome of all ages enjoy and achieve in life.


“This video project lets the fulfilling lives of young people with Down Syndrome do the talking,” they wrote in the description. “It holds up a mirror to society and dares the viewer to challenge everything they thought they knew about Down Syndrome, and to think again.”

Want to show the organization your support? Check out their Facebook page and don’t forget to use #wouldntchangeathing

Bill & Ted Face The Music as Middle Aged Dads in 2020 [WATCH]

Bill & Ted Teaser Announcement
(Twitter/BillandTed3)

You know those guys you knew in high school or college who you could never imagine having kids? Maybe they were burnouts or jelly butts, or maybe they just didn’t seem like they’ ever grow up? We all knew guys like that, and wouldn’t you know it, as unlikely as it seemed at the time, they ended up getting older too!

In related news, Bill S. Preston, Esquire and Ted “Theodore” Logan – Bill and Ted – are coming back in a new movie, and in it, they’re middle-aged dads. And we are all officially old men.

That’s right, a third Bill and Ted movie is coming soon to a theater near you, written by the screenwriters of the first two flicks, with original stars Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves reprising their famous roles. But things are a little different this time because while Wyld Stallyns remain together, they’re now – wait for it – middle-aged dads! And you thought they went through hell in BOGUS JOURNEY!

Strange things are afoot at the Circle K.

Seeing those two as parents is going to be something. Especially without the guidance of the late great George Carlin as Rufus! Here’s hoping they’re not quite as airheaded as they used to be.

Today, the duo went on Twitter to thank fans and officially announce that the film – Bill and Ted Face the Music – will be released on August 21st, 2020.

In the short video, Winter says the film is a result of all the fan support: “It is all because of you guys, so we owe you a huge debt of gratitude and we want to say thank you.”


The official synopsis, from the press release:

Yet to fulfill their rock’n’roll destiny, the now middle-aged best friends set out on a new adventure, when a visitor from the future warns them that only their song can save life as we know it and bring harmony to the universe. Along the way, they will be helped by their families, old friends and a few music legends.

Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time In Hollywood Trailer Is Here [WATCH]

Once Upon a Time In Hollywood
(YouTube/Sony Pictures Entertainment)

A new Quentin Tarantino movie is always an occasion. A new Leonardo DiCaprio movie is too. A new Quentin Tarantino/Leonardo DiCaprio collaboration that also stars Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie, takes place in late 60s Hollywood, and features a story-line that somehow includes Bruce Lee and Charles Manson?

I’ve already bought my tickets.

ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD is Tarantino’s 9th flick and his first since THE HATEFUL EIGHT in 2015. A lot has happened since then. Tarantino’s benefactor and friend, Harvey Weinstein was outed as ground zero for the #metoo movement and his studio was shuttered. The director himself ran into some trouble regarding past statements defending Roman Polanski and PULP FICTION star Uma Thurman’s airing of grievances over the abusive treatment she received on the set of KILL BILL.

But today Tarantino is back in the news for his work, as the sun-dappled first trailer for his new movie landed on YouTube and looks to be a heck of a good time. The teaser trailer even makes it look a little like it might be the writer/director’s first comedy, the many hilarious moments and quotable lines from his previous films notwithstanding.

Then again, Charles Manson (played by Damon Herriman, aka the affable idiot Dewey on Justified) shows up, and Margot Robbie is portraying Sharon Tate, the young starlet who was infamously murdered by Manson and his acolytes. So maybe “comedy” is a bit too strong a word.

Here’s the official plot synopsis:

A faded TV actor (Leo) and his stunt double (Brad) strive to achieve fame and success in the film industry during the final years of Hollywood’s Golden Age in 1969 Los Angeles.

One thing’s for sure – everyone in the cast seems to be having a great time, and we didn’t even catch a glimpse of co-stars Al Pacino (his first QT joint!), Kurt Russell, the late Luke Perry, and typical Tarantino stalwarts Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, and more.

I can’t wait to see this thing. It hits theaters on July 26th.

Watch the fun teaser trailer:

Stranger Things 3 Trailer: Being A Teenager Sucks With/Without Monsters

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(YouTube)

It’s tough being a teen, no doubt about it.

Hormones, first jobs, mind-flaying monsters from another universe, homework. It’s no wonder kids can be so moody.

The full trailer for Stranger Things Season 3 has dropped, and boy howdy do those Hawkins kids not know how to stay out of inter-dimensional trouble. From this new trailer we can see that Eleven, Mike, Lucas, Dustin and Will are spending their 1985 summer coping with some feelings we saw begin to develop at the end of last season that anyone familiar with high schoolers will recognize. Primarily: Angst. Deep, unrelenting angst. But the Upside Down isn’t done with our heroes just yet, and they’ll have to band together to save the universe during the #BestSummerEver

Max is still a part of the gang, sharing slumber party dance parties with Eleven, because no evil force in the universe can stand against the unbridled emotion of a teenager’s slumber party, while her jerk brother seems to have gotten the ultimate jerk brother summer job as a lifeguard. (Editor’s Note: The Dad doesn’t believe life guards are jerks. It’s just a thing in movies and shows for some reason.)

The highlight of the trailer is world’s greatest honorary dad Steve Harrington sword fighting and fist bumping with Dustin at his mall job. Steve gets an eye roll from his coworker, but how dare you judge a man for showing his adoptive son affection, lady?

This season is set during 1985, meaning Back To The Future is a strong contender for a pop cultural touchstone, the way Ghostbusters was in season 2. The Duffer brothers have also commented that Chevy Chase’s classic P.I. farce, Fletch played a heavy role in influencing this season. Could that suggest a lighter tone in Hawkins this time around?

Whatever happens, the shot of the kids putting up a radio tower to the beat of an 80’s Baba O’Riley, plus the season’s tagline make it abundantly clear this season is a summer vacation adventure. We can’t wait for July 4th.

Mom Vents About Son’s Hilarious School Photos, Ends Up Going Viral

(Facebook/Stronajai Miles)

Despite how thoroughly you iron their shirt or perfectly part their hair, there is simply too much time between when your kid leaves for school and when they sit down for their school photos. Any number of things could happen to jeopardize your little angel’s perfect picture—a ketchup stain from lunch, tousled hair during gym, or, in this very specific case, a magnificent roar.

When Stronajai Miles came across Andrew’s school photos while going through his backpack, she was less than thrilled to discover her kindergartener’s fierce as hell pose.

“I saw the photos and I was like, ‘Oh my God, Drew!’ It was a blood-curdling scream that ran through the house. Like what is this?” Stronajai said.

Obviously annoyed, Stonaraji’s logged in to Facebook to share the photos along with a mini vent session against Lifetouch School Photography, the company who took Andrew’s photo that day.

What she did not expect was for the photos to start going viral almost immediately.

After her conversations with representatives from Lifetouch, Stronajai wrote a follow-up post voicing her appreciation for both her son’s wonderful personality and all the positive feedback that helped open her eyes to how everything doesn’t need to be “cookie cutter” perfect when you have kids.


As for Andrew, he still loves his school photos and thinks all the love he’s been getting, as a result, is just icing on the cake.

And he does not have plans to stop roaring any time soon.

(Facebook/Stronajai Miles)

Father Figures: Heart Deceleration

“I’ve always wanted to be a dad.

Back in 1st grade, when they ask you what you want to be when you grow up, my answer was a dad. To me, dads are superheroes. Super strength, lightning speed, endless wisdom hidden under puns, a being so powerful the scariest monsters under the bed wouldn’t dare to mess with him. I wanted that.

In July of 2015, I got my wish.

My wife said, “It’s time to go.” We rushed into the car and a block away from the hospital I see the red and blue police lights behind me. I stop and yell back to the cop “My wife is in labor! If you’re gonna give me a ticket then do what you gotta do but give it to me a block up the road, I gotta go!” I hit the gas thinking he was gonna think I’m fleeing but he turned his lights off and turned around.

We get up to the room and are listening to the endless beep of my son’s heart monitor on my wife’s belly. All of a sudden the room goes silent….

“Did he move?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well, turn on your side or something.”
“Hunny, you should go get the nurse.”

I open the door and immediately got trampled by 12 nurses and doctors rushing in. Everyone starts calling out medical jargon, hooking up tubes, giving my wife oxygen, and most importantly: IGNORING MY QUESTIONS.

I yell “What’s going on?!” And the doctor says “Your son’s heart has stopped. It’s called a Heart Deceleration.”

The next 4 minutes felt like 40 years, and at that moment, I knew what it felt like to be a dad. To immediately be willing to trade places with my child, no matter the circumstances. To feel like I would go through anyone, even God himself, to protect my child. To this day I can’t even type out this story without breaking down into tears. It was the scariest moment of my life.

The doctors are able to get my son’s heart back pumping and it turns out the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck three times, which is what caused the Decel.

My son Ryan was born at 10:46pm on July 15th.”

– Jacob Hord

Want to share a story about fatherhood? Email fatherfigures@thedad.com

Mario Kart Mobile Game Announced So You Can Pwn Your Kids on the Go

(Nintendo)

Grab your banana peels and variously-colored turtle shells—Mario Kart is coming to your mobile phone!

Nintendo made the announcement on Twitter in late January and ‘Kart’ fans everywhere are buzzing.

The game company tweeted:

The checkered flag has been raised and the finish line is near. A new mobile application is now in development: Mario Kart Tour! Releasing in the fiscal year ending in March 2019.

Unfortunately, the company recently delayed the game for a summer 2019 release “in order to improve quality of the application and expand the content offerings after launch,” but it is still most definitely on its way.

So far, Nintendo’s foray into the mobile gaming scene has been pretty hit-or-miss.

Its first mobile Mario title, Super Mario Run, launched in December 2016 and broke serious records with over 200 million downloads; however, according to analytics company App Annie, the very few paid the $10 it cost to access to the full game.

Other mobile Nintendo titles include Fire Emblem Heroes (2017), Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp (2017), and Dragalia Lost (2018), and an upcoming Dr. Mario title is expected to release for iOS and Android devices by mid-2019, just in case destroying them in virtual kart races isn’t enough.

Imagine pwning your kids at Mario Kart on mobile while inside a Mario World theme park? I can’t wait for the future!

The Gang Is Back for One Last Adventure in Toy Story 4 [WATCH TRAILER]

Toy Story 4 Trailer
(YouTube/Diney Pixar)

It’s hard to remember now, but there was a time when Pixar wasn’t a thing. There was a time when there wasn’t a new animated blockbuster emanating from the computer-animation studio every year or so to delight kids, impress adults, and basically make everyone cry. Nowadays, Pixar’s movies are among the most anticipated releases every summer, and this summer is no different.

Almost 25 years after their debut, Woody, Buzz and the gang are back for their final adventure in Toy Story 4.

The first Toy Story kicked off Pixar’s unprecedented run of animated blockbusters, which went on to include beloved flicks like Monsters Inc., Up, Inside Out, and the two Incredibles movies. And now the original cast of characters is back!

Last time around, the toys said goodbye to their beloved Andy, who grew up and went to college in Toy Story 3. The crew narrowly avoided a sinister daycare and a terrifying incinerator and safely landed in little Bonnie’s room. But the new movie finds them separated and embark on a road trip to reunite.

But does Woody want to?

Spurred on by Bonnie’s new toy, an arts and crafts creation/abomination named Forky, Woody ends up in an amusement park, loaded with rides, games, and countless kids every single day. And this time, tempted by old friend Little Bo Peep, Woody might not want to leave. But Buzz and friends are determined to bring their pal back.

Check out the full-length trailer, and try not to cry: