Joel Willis or something you find in dirty diaper. We aren't sure.

Joel Willis

Joel is Executive Editor for The Dad. He is a proud and very tired father of two. He enjoys memes, spending time with his family, and making memes about spending time with his family. Follow him on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

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. 

Man With ALS Walks From His Wheelchair To Hug Son

Heartwarming dad moment from Christy Sanchez:

 

“My husband has ALS. Our oldest son just graduated from Airforce Basic Training.
 
We’ve had an extremely difficult few days. The night before graduation my husband ended up in the ER. We were going to miss the ceremony. By the grace of God we made it with about 10 minutes to spare.
 
My husband wanted to get out of his power wheelchair and walk over to our son who has to stand at attention until someone comes to tap him out.
 
It was the most beautiful and memorable event I’ve ever witnessed in my life and I will never forget it as long as I live.”

5 Tips For Living A Long Life, As Told To My Kids At Bedtime

(Joel Willis)

At bedtime last night, the convo with my kids drifted to how to live a long life.

On the spot, I came up with the patent-pending “Joel Willis’ Top 5 Tips For Living A Long Life”. My daughter was so interested she wrote them down in the list pictured here. Or as The Dad Deputy Editor Ally Probst said, “lmao that your casual conversations with your kids involve lists.”

Let me break it down.

—–

5. Make friends with good people.

“You become the people you spend the most time with,” my daughter said right away. We’ve been over this before.

Even if you don’t notice it, you’re influenced by the people you hang out with. If they’re good people, it makes it easier for you to make good decisions. And consistently making good decisions is EVERYTHING.

4. Exercise

Never. Stop. Moving.

3. Eat healthy

You are what you eat. Nobody wants to be Ronald McDonald. He’s extremely creepy.

2. Don’t do drugs (includes smoking)

“Why do drugs exist if they’re so bad?” my son asked.

Most drugs were created to help people. Drugs can be used to reduce pain if you had surgery, for example. But if you misuse drugs when you don’t need them, you can die or become addicted, immediately.

1. Be careful with cars

When my kids are irrationally afraid of something and I want to calm them, I tell them, “Statistically you should be more afraid of texting and driving.” Not as effective as you’d think.

Driving is the most dangerous thing most of us regularly do, but we do it so often we don’t take it as seriously as we should. When you’re driving, pay attention. When you’re a passenger, don’t distract the driver. And never get in the car with someone who is a bad driver or shouldn’t be driving. Take it seriously.

Congratulations Phartmonger, Winner Of The Dad’s 2018 AphuckenbrackEt Challenge

The Dad Executive Editor Joel Willis (left) gives a comically large check to 2018 AphukenbrackEt winner Jeff Schamel (right)

Whether or not you’re into college basketball, you’re probably aware there was a little tournament recently that always happens in March that due to overly sensitive copyright restrictions we aren’t allowed to say the name of but rhymes with Starch Sadness.

Here at The Dad, we put on our own bracket challenge, sponsored by AphukenbrakE, the fake pharmaceutical for anyone suffering from PAR*ENT*ING.

Fake sponsor, real contest… very real prize: $4,000. Or a hot tub full of beer. Up to the winner. And after all the games were played and the point were tallied, that winner was none other than… PHARTMONGER. What a time to be alive.

Phartmonger’s real name is Jeff Schamel. We reached out to Jeff to ask him: do you want $4,000 cash or a hot tub filled with beer. Sadly, he took the cash. Another missed photo op opportunity. As it turns out, Jeff lives only 20 minutes from me. OH HELL YEAH. IT’S HAND-DELIVERY-OF-A-COMICALLY-OVERSIZED-CHECK TIME.

I strapped the check to the hood of my car (not really) and met Jeff at a local park. I was pleased to discover Jeff is a super nice, funny guy. Not at all the Phartmonger that I expected. Like all of us dads, he’s got bills to pay. So the money will be put to good use. Nothing could be better than helping a fellow dad in need. Except, perhaps, a hot tub full of beer. Maybe next year.

Congratulations, Jeff.