Geek Week, or How I Learned to Love the Smart Plug (and Why Tech Matters)

Merry Christmas. (Credit: Bob Hoge)
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With all the creepy news in the headlines these days, I really wish there was a better term for this device, but a smart plug is what it is.

I’ve written about my love for Amazon Alexa, similar home “assistant” devices, and artificial intelligence before. Sure, sometimes it’s creepy, and yes, there are privacy issues galore, but I’ve fallen for a new, non-invasive device this holiday season: the smart plug. (And don’t worry, there’s a conservative angle to this; it’s coming at the end.)

As a dad for a few years running now, I’ve become Holiday Man. I used to go all out for Halloween, and make my house the spookiest on the street, but my kids are past trick-or-treating age and I’ve kind of lost that mojo. But Christmas is still Christmas, and although I’m no Clark Griswold, I like to make an effort.

And it doesn’t matter if you celebrate Christmas or Hannukah or another holiday, smart plugs are pretty cool. Here’s the deal:

You plug in your holiday decorations (or anything else) to these little contraptions, wherever they are in the house. You make a group; you set an on/off time in the app. Presto: no more wandering around at midnight unplugging the lights here, the Christmas tree there, the little cute spinning carousel that grandma gave you years ago over in the corner. Nope, now they all turn off at once either by the time I set earlier or via a simple voice command.

Smart plug phone app. (Credit: Bob Hoge)

One of my good tech-loving buddies once explained to me how he had bought all these smart lightbulbs for his house—at great expense, mind you—and could now say, “Assistant, go to movie mode” and certain lights would dim. I thought to myself, dude, why don’t you just get off your fat b**t and dim them yourself; is that so hard?

I’ve seen others go to great lengths to “smarten” their houses, with WIFI-connected thermostats and water meters which certainly tell the powers that be exactly how much power and water you’re using. No thanks. I already get enough letters from the DWP—I have four offspring and a wife, my water usage is high; sue me. (Actually, they don’t have to, they just blast me with astronomical “high-tier” fees.)

But something about smart plugs intrigued me. I love the thought of my Christmas lights coming on when I want them to, and turning off without me thinking about it, and now I’ve got it. (And frankly, I don’t give a rat’s a** if Gavin Newsom and the DOJ know when my tree turns on.) But here’s the surprise: it was inexpensive—Amazon charges $24-something a plug, but I found a different company that sold me four for the same price. Yes, it took me a minute to figure out the programming for the first one, but after that, it was smooth sailing.

As of tonight, my Christmas tree will light up on schedule, my dining room holiday lights will pop on at the requested hour, and they will all turn off without me worrying about them. I know, I sound like a child—and I admit I am wide-eyed when it comes to tech and computing. Even the great Rush Limbaugh used to go on like a kid in the candy store about Apple products (no, Lloyd Bentsen, I’m not comparing myself to Rush Limbaugh; I just think it’s cool how much he liked tech.) After all, most people alive today have witnessed more advances in technology in their own lifetimes than have happened in the entire history of humanity. I do get excited about the incredible changes we’re witnessing.

I don’t consider myself old, but I am advanced enough to remember when answering machines were considered a revolution. The fax machine was an utter revelation. Do you realize the iPhone was introduced only 15 years ago? Yet modern life is inconceivable without such an invention.

I am not a smart home salesman, and unfortunately will not make a penny if anyone decides to follow in my footsteps, but I think there’s some really cool stuff out there. I also think it’s important for those who are no longer in their 30s to pay attention and to try to keep current. Shutting our eyes to what’s developing keeps us behind the curve, and in my opinion, we have to be at least as tech-savvy as our juniors if we are to keep up with them.

And since this is a political site, I will also add that conservatives need to stay as—or more—tech-savvy than our opponents, if we are to have a fighting chance in future elections. No, smart plugs won’t win any upcoming contests, but a “get off my lawn” strategy toward technology won’t either. If they‘re going to game the system with all this mail-in-voting garbage and ballot harvesting, we need to understand the contest and beat them at it.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all, and I will go to bed happy knowing that our cheerful little Christmas tree will turn its lights off all by itself.

Smart plugs won’t stop this from happening though:


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