Smart Home

Our 110 year-old house has been getting smarter over the last couple years. It started when we got a Google Home for Christmas 2017 and we could ask it questions, set timers, remind us about things, add events to our calendar, etc. Google added Spotify so we used it to play music and I added Chromecasts to play music over the home audio system. We added smart devices every so often as new things came out that worked with Google Assistant.

Two years later and we have 10 Google Home Minis, one original Google Home and a Google Home Hub scattered around the house. There’s hardly any place in the house we can’t talk to one. Most of them I either got free or discounted as Google aggressively marketed them to compete with Alexa.

The kids are woken up for school by the Mini in their rooms. Music can be played in any room simply by asking Google to do it. We can turn many lights on, off or dimmed with our voice. Some lights are programmed to go on and off automatically — the heat lamps for Lemon, Eva’s leopard gecko, for example. Our basement door is automatically locked (and openable without a key). We can read and set the thermostats in each area of the house. Our doorbell alerts us when someone comes to the door, even announcing who it is if it recognizes them, and can show us a video of the door so we know if it’s a solicitor we don’t want to interact with, a delivery person dropping off a package and leaving or someone we do want to see before we bother going to the door. Our garage doors can be opened and closed by voice so they’re opened before we get to the garage and we get notified if they are open too long. We can turn the TVs on off. When I go to bed I say goodnight to Google and it runs its routine to turn most lights off and dims others, make sure the basement door is locked, turns on the security system, tells me tomorrow’s weather and what is on my calendar tomorrow and asks me what time to set the alarm to wake me in the morning. In the morning, I can ask it to show me the news and I get a few news broadcasts about the news of the day. And everything can be controlled by our iPhones too, of course, if either we don’t want to talk or want to control things when not at home.

It keeps getting better… today I replaced 6 normal Lutron dimmers with smart Lutron RadioRA2 dimmers to control more lights.

Google Assistant isn’t without its problems but Google has steadily improved it and fixed most annoyances. All in all, I feel like I’m living in the future!

Beoplay A9

The Beoplay A9 was delivered today! A single speaker fills the room with sound (and can get loud!), sounds amazing, warm and bright, and looks like a piece of furniture in our living room.

It has an amplifier built-in and music is streamed over WiFi so the only wire it needs is an electrical plug and can be placed anywhere.

Trekz Aftershokz Air 🎧

I’ve used and ruined several sports headphones over the years because headphones, even ones marketed as sports headphones, can’t resist sweat for very long. These Trekz Aftershokz Air headphones have lasted the longest by far – 18 months so far of at least 5 days a week of use – for me and I like them so much that I just bought (and received today) a second pair as a backup in case I forget to charge them one day or when they eventually do fail since nothing lasts forever. I don’t want to discover that I can’t use them when I need them.

What makes them special is that they are bone conduction headphones – they don’t go in your ears, they go around your ears and transmit sound through your cheek bones to your eardrum. They’re marketed as a more safe pair of headphones because they don’t block your hearing so you can still hear outside sounds when you’re running or biking or brewing beer. But to me, the big benefit is that they don’t get as sweaty as in-ear headphones. They’re also more comfortable to me – I have never liked wearing in-ear headphones for very long and I sometimes forget I’m wearing these and leave the gym with them still on.

It seems like they wouldn’t sound good but they sound every bit as good as a headphone in your ear. The human ear is quite amazing, I guess. They’re not audiophile quality, of course, but they do sound good.

However, the first pair I had did fail after just a couple months. The company suggested that I had plugged them in to charge while they were still wet and caused a short or malfunction. Maybe. They replaced them under warranty and the replacement has been perfect. I now wait for them to dry before charging them and haven’t had a problem since. And now with a second pair I don’t have to worry if I didn’t charge them.

Snow day

Anticipating a couple days without school and childcare, Edie (Fiona’s mom) organized an impromptu group of activities. All the kids went to one house and did crafts this morning, then they all came to our house for foosball, ping pong, trampoline, snow cone-making and a movie.

Fiona, Eva and Iris:

It continued to snow all afternoon, the view from my office:

We lost power for about 15 seconds which may be foreshadowing a longer outage if the coming rain turns into freezing rain.

By 4pm the snow seems to be about done. 13 inches/33cm. This is the most snow I’ve experienced in my 22 years in Seattle.

5:47pm: It’s official, Seattle Schools are closed tomorrow.