A Dumb Guide To Making A Smart Home

HomeAutoFeature2

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. 

12-Year-Old Discovers Woolly Mammoth Tooth at Family Reunion

Jackson Hepner with Woolly Mammoth Tooth
(The Inn at Honey Run)

There are few things are less exciting for a 12-year-old than a family reunion. You’re surrounded by your parent’s cousins and other estranged family members you barely know for an entire afternoon. Boorrrrrrrinnnnnnnnng. So you can’t blame Jackson Hepner, who was “taking a break” from pictures at his family reunion in Ohio, for wandering alongside a creek. And he found more than a brief respite from familial chaos — sticking out of the creek bed, Jackson found a woolly mammoth tooth.

It’s not like he a found a “woolly mammoth tooth”, which is just some random rock that a liar of an uncle pretends is legit. He found the real thing, as he had the discovery verified by multiple different university professors who all concluded it appears to be the upper third of a Woolly Mammoth molar.

Granted, when you’re told you’ll be going to a family reunion in Ohio’s Amish Country, you expect you might encounter some ancient history. However, you probably aren’t expecting to find a fossil from a creature that died 10,000 years ago.

Jackson, to his credit, said he wants to get his Woolly Mammoth tooth “back in my hands as soon as possible,” so he can show it to his friends.

Jackson Hepner Woolly Letter
(Facebook/The Inn at Honey Run)

What’s up with kids finding prehistoric teeth lately? Just a few weeks ago a boy found a megalodon shark tooth on the beach.

Should we be worried?!

Father Figures: Best Bros

“My wife and I have been married for 4 years and the day we celebrated our 4 year anniversary, we welcomed our 2nd son, Jack into our lives.

Our first son, Emmett, had just broken his femur four days before Jack was to be born, so needless to say, we were pretty stinkin’ scared and knew we were about to have our hands full.

Being a dad means that I get to serve my family and go to bed every night more tired than I ever have been and more full of joy. That I get to show my sons that their momma is the most important person in the world to me and that they should live to enjoy God and glorify him forever.

These next 2 months will probably be our hardest yet, but I sure looking forward to watching these two dudes grow up to be best bros.”

– Tony Weaver

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

Check out the previous editions of Father Figures here.

Teenager Honors Fallen Army Dad With “Angel Pictures”

Julia with Captain Robert Yllescas
(Snapshots by Suz)

Senior photos often allow students to show off a bit of their personality, but instead of going the traditional route with a band instrument or sports jersey, one Nebraska teenager is using her photoshoot as an opportunity to honor her late father.

Aurora High School senior Julia Yllescas’s father died in 2008 due to injuries sustained from an IED during a combat tour in Afghanistan, and as his daughter’s senior photos approached, she found herself wishing her dad could be included.

So, Julia collaborated with her photographer to create something they’re calling “angel pictures,” and the results are truly something special.

(Snapshots by Suz)

“Why it has hit my heart so hard is that I almost felt when I saw those pictures that he truly was there,” said Yllescas.

The photos she received feature her interacting with a faint shadow of her father in uniform.

Army Captain Robert Yllescas was flown to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland after sustaining injuries overseas, but succumbed to those injuries a month later. He’s now buried in Osceola, Nebraska.

(Snapshots by Suz)

“I was teary-eyed when I was editing them,” said photographer, Susanne Beckmann of Snapshots by Suz. “All I could think in my head is I don’t ever want to have to do this for my own kids,”

Beckmann herself is an active-duty military wife, so the thought of giving someone a gift like this was a true honor. She was eager to provide an exceptional product that Yllescas will be able to cherish forever.

“Just to have that on my wall and be like, no, he is with me, even though I can’t physically see him,” said Yllescas.

(Snapshots by Suz)

 

The Breaking Bad Movie Is Complete, Says Bob Odenkirk

Breaking Bad
(AMC)

For a few months now, we’ve known that a new Breaking Bad movie was coming. We’ve discussed the details, sparse as they are, a few times. There was confusion over who would be in the movie, when it would take place, and what it was about.

We learned it was going to follow Aaron Paul’s Jesse, Walt’s meth-making partner, and protege, as he makes his way in the world after the events of the series. The official logline stated that the movie “will follow the escape of a kidnapped man and his quest for freedom.” We eventually learned that a lot of familiar faces from the show would be turning up, including several who didn’t survive, Jesse’s girlfriend played by Krysten Ritter, even Mike, who currently features on Better Call Saul.


Then, a little while ago, at the exact same time, original stars Cranston and Paul tweeted out images of a pair of donkeys and the word “Soon,” leading fans to speculate that Cranston was indeed in the movie and that it would be out soon.


Now, Bob Odenkirk, aka the show’s sketchy lawyer Saul Goodman and the lead of the acclaimed spin-off, “Better Call Saul,” seemed to indicated that the movie, which is set to air on Netflix and AMC next year, is in the can.

“I don’t know what people know and don’t know. I find it hard to believe you don’t know it was shot. They did it. You know what I mean? How is that a secret? But it is. They’ve done an amazing job of keeping it a secret,” he told The Hollywood Reporter while discussing the forthcoming season of his show.

The actor also expressed his own enthusiasm for the movie.

“I’ve heard so many different things about it, but I am excited about the Breaking Bad movie. I can’t wait to see it.”

We all do! We know almost nothing, which is nearly unheard of in this age of social media. I for one am glad to go into the movie unspoiled, so here’s hoping the project stays as hidden as Gus’s meth lab under the laundromat.

Stan Lee’s Daughter Has Sony’s Back in Spider-Man Rift

JC Lee Backs Sony in Spidey-Dispute
(Getty/Alberto E. Rodriguez)

Yesterday’s news that Spider-Man was leaving the MCU due to a breakdown in negotiations between Disney (which owns Marvel Studio) and Sony (which owns the Spider-man character) reverberated across Hollywood and fandom.

All sorts of people had opinions, from movie fans who don’t want to see yet another take on the Spider-Man origin story (Leave Uncle Ben alone!) to celebrities like Ryan Reynolds, aka Deadpool, and Jeremy Renner, aka Hawkeye, who have their own reasons for weighing in.

Well, someone new just chirped up, and she has an even bigger connection to Peter Parker. Her dad created him.

JC Lee, Stan Lee’s daughter, gave an interview with TMZ – something she has done in the past – in which she threw some shade at Marvel Studios, and presumably its head, Kevin Fiege, for only caring about profits and not the character.

“Marvel and Disney seeking total control of my father’s creations must be checked and balanced by others who, while still seeking to profit, have genuine respect for Stan Lee and his legacy,” Lee said.

Which seems odd to me, especially since almost everyone agrees that the MCU’s Spider-Man, as inhabited by Tom Holland, is the best, most comic-accurate – certainly the most age-accurate – cinematic take on the character yet. And I don’t know how you can walk out of Endgame and feel like Marvel Studios doesn’t respect the characters. That movie is dripping with reverence for the Avengers and their entire comic book universe.

JC has personal reasons for siding with Sony that go beyond the treatment of the character. They’re about how Disney and Marvel treated her father.

“When my father died, no one from Marvel or Disney reached out to me. From day one, they have commoditized my father’s work and never shown him or his legacy any respect or decency,” Lee told TMZ, before saying, “In the end, no one could have treated my father worse than Marvel and Disney’s executives.”

Obviously, there are some hard feelings there, and far be it from us to tell JC she’s wrong to want to protect her father’s creation and legacy from people she feels treated him poorly. We just hope this situation can get resolved in a way that keeps the best possible version of Spidey on our screens.

Mysterious “TV DUDE” Leaves Old TVs on Dozens of Porches

TV Dude Leaves TV on Porch
(YouTube/Inside Edition)

TV dude has struck the Virginia area, again, which is a sentence that makes absolutely no sense but hey, it’s 2019, and this is actually a news story. Surveillance videos from doorbell cameras show a man wearing a TV on his head who calmy drops off old television sets on porches.

“TV dude,” as he was dubbed by Inside Edition, has struck more than 60 houses this summer.

The police think more than one person is involved and say something similar happened in a nearby neighborhood last year. They’re only remotely interested in the case, possibly because no crime is being committed.

No one is quite sure what TV dude is up to. Some assumed nefarious intent, opening the TVs to ensure nothing dangerous was inside. Others see him as a hero and are enjoying their new-to-them TV. Most people are just…confused.

“He’s committed to his trade. He wants to be known as the TV Santa Claus. I don’t know,” said one man, who found an old CRT TV on his doorstep, “I can’t think of any technology or political point that would be valid here. It’s just a senseless prank,” he told WTVR-TV.

Maybe. Or maybe not! Maybe there’s more to this story. The world may never know until TV dude reveals himself, or is apprehended.

Kid Delivering Newspapers Must Be Time Traveler From 1980s

Time Traveling Paperboy
(Getty/Image Source)

SYRACUSE, NY – In what many neighborhood residents described as an utterly surreal sight, 9-year-old Mikey Davis was seen delivering newspapers door to door earlier this morning, suggesting he must be a time traveler from the 1980s since it’s not like anyone reads the paper anymore.

“I thought time traveling was just something you see in movies, but I saw that kid with my own two eyes,” claimed local dad Tyler Meadows, who noted that digital media has all but killed the print market, and that there’s no way a Gen Z child would consider newspaper delivery a financially viable summer job.

As residents of the cul-de-sac watched curiously from their windows, one man emerged from his home and asked the boy what year it was only to be met with a confused stare that offered no answers, which makes sense since a kid from any decade would have the same look on their face if asked such a dumb question.

“If he were delivering iPads or Kindles door to door then I would understand. But newspapers? This kid is either a time traveler or from another planet,” stated Tyler, who told his family to close the blinds and hide just in case this was the first sign of an alien invasion.

While many townsfolk were initially fascinated with Mikey’s presence, their attention quickly turned to a man who was seen delivering milk to a nearby house. Many residents became convinced that the man was a time traveler from the 1950s, though in reality he just worked for Amazon.

This Just In…is The Dad Faking News. Despite being completely plausible to parents, it’s satire and intended for entertainment purposes only. For more stories like this one click here.

Kind Restaurant Server Uses Lunch Break to Sit With 91-Yr-Old Man

Dylan at the Eat’n Park Restaurant
(Facebook/Lisa Meilander)

It only takes a minute to be kind.

It’s a simple enough idea, but all too often, kindness takes a back seat to our busy schedules and hectic lives. So when a Pennsylvania woman recently witnessed one such act, she knew she had to share it with others.

Lisa Meilander was out to eat with her family at Eat’n Park restaurant in Belle Vernon, PA, when she noticed their server speaking to an elderly gentleman at a booth located nearby. Due to their proximity, Lisa and her family could hear the conversation taking place. The man told their server he was 91-years-old and had trouble hearing. Their server, Dylan, kneeled down to get closer, giving the solo diner his complete attention. After chatting for several minutes, the man apologized for talking so long. “I’m alone now,” he said, “and I don’t often have someone to talk to.” Dylan smiled and said he enjoyed listening.

After a few more minutes of conversation, Dylan helped the man decide what to order and returned to the kitchen. Inspired by the gesture, Lisa wanted to pay for the elderly man’s meal, however by the time Dylan returned l, he told Lisa that “Someone’s already taken care of it.” Lisa sharing in a Facebook post “I guess we weren’t the only ones eavesdropping on the conversation.”

Shortly after, Dylan returned with the food, telling the man he was now on break and asking if he could join him while he ate. The elderly diner happily accepted the company, and the two continued their conversation. Patrons around the restaurant had taken notice and were all smiles as they enjoyed their meals.

Lisa took a photo and shared her story, adding that even as they left the restaurant, the two were still seated and enjoying one another’s company.


“With all of the negative stories about our youth today this was a breath of fresh air.”

Dylan’s small gesture has now been shared over 67,000 times and Lisa’s post now has hundreds of thousands of positive reactions. While he likely made the elderly man’s evening, Dylan’s act has now touched so many more lives. It’s proof that kindness is contagious, and that sharing a few moments of your time is all it takes to make a difference in someone else’s life.

Dad Gets Stuck On Playground Slide