A Dumb Guide To Making A Smart Home


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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Sign This Petition to Have Danny DeVito Star as Wolverine


Hugh Jackman’s performance as the near-indestructible, clawed mutant, Wolverine, is so long-running and memorable that he will forever be associated with it.

However, true fans of the X-Men comics know that the yellow spandexed superhero doesn’t actually share many of Jackman’s physical features. Yes, the razor-sharp jawline and muscular physique fit the bill, but ol’ Wolvie is traditionally a surprisingly short fella—something 6’2″ Hugh Jackman has difficulty pulling off.

Thankfully, the internet is here to remedy this problem with an online petition asking for someone worthy and short enough to finally pick up the mantle, and it’s none other than Danny DeVito. Yup, Danny DeVito of Twins and It’s Always Sunny in Philidelphia fame.

(Getty/David Livingston)

The petition was started by someone going under the name “Ring Arius,” who wrote:

“The only man able to take the throne after Hugh Jackman. We believe that if Wolverine is to make an appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that the only man able to pull it off is Danny DeVito.”

And, honestly, it kinda makes sense. If I asked 100 people to name an actor who could perfectly portray a tiny ball of muscle and rage (an apt description for the clawed X-Man), I have no doubt at least 90 of them would name DeVito.

As of this writing, the petition has reached 15,000 signatures and doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon. With Disney’s completed merger with Fox, it’s inevitable that the X-Men will be roped into the MCU in some way or another; so, if Disney likes money (and you know they do), maybe they should consider it.

I mean, seriously. . . who wouldn’t pay to see Sabretooth battling it out with DANNY-FUCKING-DEVITO??

Also, interestingly enough, DeVito claimed in an interview with Wired that he was actually in the running against Jackman for the role back in the late-90s. The only thing that held him back? He didn’t have abs.

I’ve never related to anything more.

If you want to add your name to the petition, you can find it here.

Science Says Babysitting Helps Keep Grandparents Alive Longer

Grandparents Who Babysit Live Longer

Next time you and your significant other need a sitter, call your parents and open with this:

“It’s not that we need a break. This is about your health.”

That’s right. According to a study out of Berlin, grandparents who babysit actually tend to live longer.

While most grandparents don’t need another reason to spend time with their grandchildren, the study finds some serious benefits for seniors who help take care of kids and even their adult children later in life.

The Berlin Aging Study confirms a growing sentiment in the scientific community that seniors who act as part-time caregivers can extend their years and even see benefits in areas such as cognitive function and general wellbeing.

Researchers found grandparent babysitters had a 37% lower mortality risk than seniors of the same age who had no caregiving responsibilities.

While the exact correlation is still being investigated, researchers believe spending time with grandchildren is a good way for older people to have a sense of purpose, while also keeping them physically and mentally active.

The study further suggests that even childless participants who helped others during their senior years may see similar benefits. According to the National Health Service, acts of giving and kindness, small and large, are associated with positive mental wellbeing.

NHS gives a few examples:

  • Giving to others and co-operating with them can stimulate the reward areas in the brain, creating positive feelings.
  • Helping and working with others can also give us a sense of purpose and feelings of self-worth.
  • Giving our time to others in a constructive way helps us strengthen our relationships and build new ones.
    Relationships with others also help mental wellbeing.

Although the results of the recent study are promising, researchers only followed around 500 participants – all hailing from one region in Germany. While that sample size is relatively small, it still provides some real evidence that a link exists between health and giving back.

So what are you waiting for?

Drop those kids off at mom and dad’s house. Plan a little trip. Go see the new Avengers.

After all, it’s not just about you – it’s for your parent’s health!

Dad and Son Plan 48 State Road Trip in Corvette For Autism Awareness


A Nebraska man and his 15-year-old son are about to set off on a 10,000-mile journey that will take them across the United States. The trip, a bonding experience that the pair will also turn into an opportunity to promote further understanding of Autism.

Mike Straub and his son, Adam, will hit the road in Mike’s Corvette on May 29th to traverse the country and take in the sights, all while raising money and awareness for an important cause.

Adam has Asperger’s Syndrome, a high functioning form of autism. The developmental disorder can often affect an individuals ability to communicate non-verbally and can present difficulties when it comes to social interactions.

While much about Asperger’s still remains a mystery, medical professionals and organizations around the world are working to not only understand the disorder but to educate the public on inclusivity and acceptance.

“Every person is different in some way,” Adam told ABC affiliate KETV in Omaha.

Diagnosed at age three, Adam had behavior and communication issues, however, his mom, Jolene Straub, says each person on the autism spectrum has their own abilities and struggles.

“For us, it’s social and learning challenges, but for someone else, it’s a completely different picture.”

Thanks to support from various organizations over the past 13 years, Adam and his dad are now looking forward to giving back.

“I feel like now is a good time to do something for the community. Adam’s leaned on different organizations over the years for help,” said Mike.

They will share their adventure and promote Autism Action Partnership, a group that works with individuals to get them the resources and support they need. The non-profit organization that in part funds the “Circle of Friends”, an inclusive program that teaches friendship and acceptance in 240 schools.

The long-distance road trip, a tradition Mike started with his older son Eric, will take the duo to many places across the US, all while giving them the most important thing of all: a whole lot of father-son bonding.

“This is just undiluted time that he gets to spend with the boys. And the memories he’s made on these trips, there’s nothing to compare to that,” said Mike’s wife, Jolene.

The two will begin their 17-day journey at Millard West High School where Adam is a student. An entourage of other Corvette owners will join them as they set out on their motoring mission.

To follow them and support the work of Autism Action, visit their Facebook page or follow them on Twitter: @48State.

Seinfeld Actor Addresses Game of Thrones Finale Criticism

Jason Alexander on GoT
(Twitter/IJasonAlexander HBO)

Unless you’ve been living under Casterly rock, you’re no doubt aware that Game of Thrones has finally ended, airing its highly anticipated series finale this past weekend.

After 8 seasons, thousands of deaths, and a slew of unusual new baby names that will now forever be part of our society, the HBO show that launched 1,000 memes wrapped up with an 80-minute long episode on Sunday night.

However, like many long-running shows that have come before, fans are now expressing their displeasure with how GoT’s writers finally brought everything to a close.

It’s no easy task – building a series and developing a massive fan base – so when such a monumental and highly acclaimed show finally decides to call it quits, you can bet fans will react.

Luckily, one actor who is all too familiar with the blowback has shared some kind words for those involved in the series conclusion.


Actor Jason Alexander tweeted out a brief note to the cast and crew:

Alexander played George Costanza on Seinfeld, another massive success whose finale left fans of the show… less than impressed.


The two-part Seinfeld finale that aired back in 1998 faced serious backlash from fans who regularly tuned in each week to watch a show about nothing.

A parade of past guest stars all showed up as 76 million viewers were glued to their tv sets to watch Jerry, George, Kramer, and Elaine stand trial for not stepping in when an overweight man is carjacked. The foursome instead cracked jokes about the man all while Kramer filmed, violating a newly instituted law that required bystanders to help out in such a situation.

Fan favorites from the show’s nine seasons all came to Latham, Massachusetts, to testify against the group – the prosecution’s strategy to show a pattern of “lascivious behavior”.

While everyone enjoyed seeing old characters such as Babu Bhatt one more time, fans ultimately felt let down by the show’s final scene where the gang sat in a prison cell as the camera slowly pans out.


While fans of the show didn’t have social media outlets as they do now, office watercolors were abuzz for weeks with both cheers and jeers for the character’s final sendoff.

However, Alexander and most of the Seinfeld cast still stand by the finale:

Fans of the show also stepped in with voices of reason:

As for Game of Thrones, many involved with the hit show have come out in support of the ending, including George R.R. Martin, author of the books that inspired the epic series.

Several of the show’s actors have publicly defended the finale as well – or at least tried the best they could:

That said, If you’re one of the fans who felt passionately enough to sign the petition calling for HBO to fully remake the last season, perhaps stop analyzing tv shows and start writing your own.

I’m sure with 8 or 9 seasons under your belt you’ll totally nail the landing!

HBO Wanted More Episodes of “Game of Thrones”

HBO Wanted more GoT
(Getty/Jeff Kravitz)

After 8 seasons, 73 episodes, nearly 10 years, and who knows how much money, Game of Thrones is all over but the crying. And boy has there been crying.

It’s no secret that a large number of fans of the HBO fantasy juggernaut were not happy with the way the final season of the show played out. Over a million disgruntled viewers signed a petition in an attempt to get the cable network to completely redo the last string of episodes. Complaints have ranged from anger over the resolution of certain storylines, or the lack of resolution to others, the motivations, and actions of beloved characters, and, perhaps the most valid reason, the seemingly rushed pacing.

Which will make this news all the more frustrating for many fans: HBO wanted more episodes.

This probably shouldn’t come as a complete shock, being that Game of Thrones is one of the most popular and successful TV shows of all time. Of course, HBO wants to keep the golden goose. Hence the multiple prequel series in development. But it’s got to be a bitter pill to swallow for those fans who felt the show’s once-paramount character development and painstakingly incremental storytelling was shortchanged this last season or two.

Back in April, on the eve of the season premiere, David Benioff and Dan Weiss gave an interview to Entertainment Weekly in which Benioff discussed the show’s final season, and let slip how eager HBO was to keep things going.

“HBO would have been happy for the show to keep going, to have more episodes in the final season. We always believed it was about 73 hours, and it will be roughly that. As much as they wanted more, they understood that this is where the story ends.”

Let that stew for a bit. Would this season have been better if it were ten episodes? Would the show have ended better if there had been two more seasons with which to work? Maybe. It’s hard to say, no matter how invested you are in that petition.

The fact is, we got the show the creators wanted to give us, and it’s over. Maybe in another decade or so Netflix or Apple TV or the brand new Game of Thrones channel will give the series another shot. I find it hard to believe that they’ll be able to top some of the performances and much of the writing this series gave us, which isn’t to say the show is flawless. Perhaps those flaws might have been lessened with more tie.

We’ll never know. Well, Bran might know. But without a few extra episodes to explain exactly what Bran was seeing every time he hitched a ride on a crow, we never will.

Broadcaster Does a Play-by-Play on Himself Catching a Foul Ball

Broadcaster Commentates His Foul Ball Catch

Some of the best calls in broadcasting history involve an announcer memorably recounting a play made by a professional athlete. It’s far more rare for the play to involve an athletic feat made the broadcaster himself, which was the case for minor league baseball broadcaster Marc Schwartz.

I worked in sports talk radio and in play-by-play for years, and I encountered very few people with any discernible athletic talent. Not only was his catch terrific, but he didn’t even break stride in his description of the play. It takes a lot of focus to catch a foul ball, and even more to do it while continuing to do your job.

You can’t get much smoother than this: “…swings and fouls it off, towards the broadcast booth, and I make the catch on the foul ball! I am very proud of myself!”

And he should be, with an early contender for catch of the year.

Father Figures: Still Can’t Believe

Adam Cole Father Figures

“I was at Home Depot when I got the call. From the look on my face, the friend I was with immediately knew what I had heard over the phone.

Months later we were in the hospital, my wife was being induced the day before my son’s due date. A few hours passed and the next thing I know I’m cutting the cord and staring at this beautiful cone headed son of mine. Tears welled in my eyes as I thought of the future before us.

4.5 years and a second son later, I still can’t believe I’m a dad.

Each day brings their ups and downs but I wouldn’t change it for the world. There is nothing that matches watching the changes your own children go through day after day. I feel like it was just yesterday that I held this small (not really, 9 pounds!) baby boy in my arms, but next year he’ll be going to school, and the other is catching up quick.

I don’t even remember what it was like to have a house that wasn’t overrun with Hot Wheels cars and “Paw Patrol” toys. Time flies, It’ll surprise you, but don’t let it pass you by. Take advantage of every day you have because they’ll never be this age again.”

– Adam Cole

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

Check out the previous editions of Father Figures here.

New Toy Story 4 Trailer Brings Keanu Reeves Into the Fold

Toy Story 4 Trailer

Keanu Reeves is having quite the run.

His third John Wick movie just knocked Avengers: Endgame off its perch, a fourth Wick movie was immediately announced, he recently announced a brand new Bill and Ted movie due out next year, and now he’s been brought into the Pixar fold with a role in the new Toy Story movie hitting theaters this summer.

We learned from the last trailer that Toy Story 4 sees Woody stranded inside an amusement park, attempting to track down new friend Forky and meeting up with old friend Bo Peep, who has the run of the place, which has a lot more to offer than a little girl’s bedroom.

Reeves is playing Duke Caboom, “Canada’s greatest stuntman,” who is enlisted to help Woody and the gang track Forky down, and in the meantime pull some impressive poses on his signature bicycle. The 54-year-old (I know, right?!) action star really seems to be enjoying himself, putting on a bit of a voice to play the fearless daredevil.

The good news is it’s probably safe to assume that Reeves’s character won’t be shooting hundreds of toys in the head at close range – although this is Toy Story and things have taken some dark turns before… (and I suddenly need to see a Toy Story/John Wick crossover)! Instead, Reeves is lending his voice talents to the role of Duke Caboom, a Canadian toy seemingly modeled on Evel Knievel.

The bad news is Pixar couldn’t find a way to work the action icon’s signature “whoa!” into the trailer. Something tells me the full movie won’t escape so easily.

Check it out: