Would you be able to perform this simple household repair?

Between getting ready for Hurricane Irma, which is headed our way in a couple of days and is threatening to become a category 5 storm

Girdin’ for Irma: Hurricane map with the 'ermagehrd' girl in the eye of the storm.

…and doing some “round tuit” household chores (“I’ll do it when I get a round tuit”) on Labor Day Monday…

A round wooden token with the word 'TUIT' on it.

…it was time to gather up the flashlights at home.

Anitra ran to get me one, and came back annoyed.

Our "Light It!" brand 9-led hand lamp, with its packaging.

The flashlight in question.

“I bought this ages ago,” she said, “and it was still in the packaging. The battery compartment’s all screwed up!

“Screwed up how?” I asked.

She opened up the back of the flashlight to show me what she meant. This is what I saw:

You had one job!: The battery terminals of the lamp before Joey fixed them. One battery receptacle has a positive and negative terminal, another has 2 positive terminals, and another has 2 negative terminals.

Click the photo to see it at full size.

In the photo above, the leftmost battery receptacle is set up properly. It has a negative terminal (the one with a spring) and a positive terminal.

The other two terminals are a carnival of half-assery:

  • One of them has two positive terminals, and
  • the other has two negative terminals.

Wow,” I said. “That is screwed up. I should submit this to the You Had One Job Twitter account.”

A diagram of a simple circuit for a light featuring battery, bulb, switch, and the wire connecting them.

From an electric circuit point of view, this isn’t really a problem. As long as the terminals can make contact with the battery, current will flow, and the bulbs will light up.

The problem is more about fit:

  • The battery fit in the receptacle with the two positive terminals is too loose, and the battery won’t make contact with the terminals.
  • The battery won’t fit into the receptacle with the two negative terminals — two springs takes up too much space.

“I can’t even return it!” Anitra said. “I don’t have the invoice anymore.”

“Maybe we won’t have to,” I said, and I took the flashlight to my desk in the home office. I wasn’t going to be beaten by a simple manufacturing defect.

Sign: Keep calm and do it yourself.

I removed the three screws holding the flashlight together and saw that the fix was easy. It would be a simple matter of swapping two terminals, which would result in each receptacle having one positive and one negative terminal. The terminals slide out of the receptacle easily once you bend the metal tab holding them in place:

Inside the lamp: The inside of the lamp that Joey repaired, with positive and negative terminals pointed out.

Click the photo to see it at full size.

However, in the process of swapping the terminals, you need to disconnect at least one of them from the wire. Once you swap them, you have to reestablish the connection. It was time to break out the Christmas present that my in-laws gave me:

Joey's soldering iron and solder

Late last year, they’d asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I suggested that I could use a soldering iron, and they delivered. Then things got crazy, what with suddenly having to search for a job and all the madness that ensued, so this ended up being my first chance to break it out.

I plugged in the iron, let it heat up, and moments later, I unsoldered one of the terminals. I then swapped the terminals, and then reconnected the loose terminal with a proper joint:

A close-up of the fine soldering job Joey did on one of the terminals.

With the repair complete, I screwed the unit back together, and the battery receptacles now looked like this:

The way it should've been: The battery terminals of the lamp after Joey fixed them. All battery receptacles now have 1 positive and 1 negative terminal each.

Click the photo to see it at full size.

I inserted three fresh AAA batteries into the flashlight, closed the battery compartment, flipped it over, and pressed the power button. Here’s what happened:

The fixed lamp, lit.


I brought the flashlight to Anitra, who was impressed with my work. Red Green was right:

Red Green and his nephew Harold: 'If the women don't find you handsome, they should at least find you handy'

am mindful of the fact that I’m fixing only one flashlight at my leisure, in the comfort of the ergonomic chair in my air-conditioned home office, and not hundreds or thousands every day on a barely-maintained assembly line in a non-air-conditioned factory in the Third World for a laughably tiny wage.

The repair I made would be considered laughably simple by an electrician or electronics tech, and I’m willing to bet it would’ve been within the abilities of most of the regulars at Tampa Hackerspace. They might even be amused that I found this incident worthy of writing a whole blog article, complete with photos.

But it is worthy of a blog article. I’m willing to bet that this repair would’ve been beyond most people, who — without a way to return or exchange the flashlight — would’ve simply tossed it in the trash or recycled it. That’s a pity, because in spite of the increasing complexity of our devices, a good number of them are still repairable with a modicum of skill, and as the do-it-yourselfers say, “If you can’t fix it, you don’t really own it.”'s Repair Manifesto poster.

Click the poster to see it at full size.

I’m not going to claim that I can do every kind of repair, but I’m glad that I’ve been able to do a number of them around the house, from this flashlight to the sensor in our washing machine to patching the chip in our granite kitchen counter to replacing the faucet in our kitchen sink.

It may actually be easier to perform a lot of household repairs yourself these days, thanks to the proliferation of YouTube repair videos. I wish I’d thought of recording one while repairing the flashlight. If you find yourself needing to fix something, search YouTube — the odds are goods that there’s a “how to fix it” video.

Another good source of “repair recipes” is iFixit, which is home to tens of thousands of electric and electronic repair guides, and they’re the people behind the Repair Manifesto featured above. I don’t know if they’ll ever come close to their stretch goal — a repair manual for every device in the world — but I applaud them for it.

People making things at Tampa Hackerspace.

And finally, if there’s a hackerspace or makerspace in your area — here in Tampa Bay, we’ve got places like Tampa Hackerspace, The Hive, and others — check it out, join it, support it, learn, and take control of the things you own.

A stopwatch sitting on various denominations of US currency.

There’s a price to be paid for fixing things yourself: time. What you save in money and from the landfill, you pay in the time invested in the repair, and if need be, learning how to do it.

But there’s a payoff — being able to fix things helps build a “can do” mindset. That’s something that you’ll bring with you wherever you go, and it’ll take you far in work, life, and play.

Fix-It Felix: "I can fix it!"



Joey deVilla posing with a throw pillow covered in sequins to form the letter 'J'.

Actually, I didn’t buy it, but who doesn’t want a sequined throw pillow with their initial on it?


Chance Macdonald, the hockey player who assaulted a girl, and Allan Letourneau, the judge who didn’t want it to affect Chance’s chances at success

Side-by-side photos - Chance Macdonald: Assaulted a teenage girl at a house party, and 'Justice' Allan Letourneau: Didn't want the incident to affect Chance's internship and future.

The next time some know-nothing tells you that there’s no such thing as rape culture (such as this former pro hockey player who’s somehow teaching junior players about consent or this podcast with an author of books with some good insights on how boys are being left behind), point them to this latest but of counter-evidence: a judge in Canada delayed the already-downgraded sentence (from sexual assault and forcible confinement down to common assault) of a hockey player so that it wouldn’t affect his internship at Deloitte or his future.

Chance Macdonald is student at Queen’s University, considered to be one of the “Canadian Ivy League” and also my alma mater (I often refer to it a “Crazy Go Nuts University”, a term of endearment from some oddball, fun, colorful academic career there). In Canada, if you’re going after a 6-plus-figure career, Queen’s is one of the schools you go to, especially for their School of Business. Chance also played Junior A hockey (similar to Tier II hockey in the U.S.), which for many aspiring players is only two steps away from their ultimate goal: playing in the NHL. Once again, in Canada, hockey players in school enjoy the same stature as football players in U.S. schools.

Justice Allan Letourneau is a Queen’s grad, and he was also a junior hockey player in his youth. It appears that his abiding loyalty to Queen’s and hockey overtook his obligation to justice when sentencing Chance.

Here’s what Vice reports:

Chance Macdonald, 22, pleaded guilty to common assault in April after he was initially charged with sexual assault and forcible confinement following a 2015 party. Crown attorney Gerard Laarhuis said Macdonald’s victim accepted the lesser plea in part because she didn’t want to face a trial and the possibility of being disbelieved in court.

According to the Kingston Whig-Standard, Macdonald, then a player on Gananoque Islanders Junior C hockey team, wasn’t sentenced until last week because his lawyer argued a criminal record would ruin his four-month internship, which he needed to continue on as a Queen’s business student. Despite the Crown’s protests that the victim deserved closure, Justice Allan Letourneau sided with the defence and waited until last week to hand down Macdonald’s sentence of 88 days of intermittent jail on weekends and two years of probation.

He said the plea deal was “the right way to go in all respects.” He praised Macdonald on his excellence “in employment, in athletics, and in academics.” He noted, “I played extremely high-end hockey and I know the mob mentality that can exist in that atmosphere.” He told Macdonald he had significant confidence that “you will almost certainly never put yourself in this situation again,” describing the assault as a “fork in the road.”

On the flip side, most of Justice Letourneau’s warnings to Macdonald seemed to focus on how the business student may have ruined his future prospects.

“It all could have come crashing down on you,” he noted. Regarding the lesser assault plea, he said, “Good luck finding any meaningful employment with a sexual conviction on your record.”

Brock Turner's po-face mug shot.

If all this sounds familiar, it’s probably because you’re reminded of the case of Brock Turner, the weaselly judge who oversaw his case and who was more concerned about Turner’s future than that of the person he assaulted, and the horrible things Turner’s friends and family have said in his defense.

This is what we mean by rape culture: the fact that when a man, especially one from a well-off family, commits sexual assault on a woman, there’s a tendency — even in this modern day and age, when we should know better — to focus on how it will affect the man’s future than how it will affect the woman’s. And, in case I have to point it out, that is wrong.

To their credit, Deloitte Canada, where Chance had his internship, made this statement:

No statement has yet been issued by Queen’s University or its Smith School of Business. As an alumnus, I’m waiting…

Hey, Canadian businesspeople: You may want to check Chance’s LinkedIn page — Chance was very enterprising and has over 500 LinkedIn connections (a few people I know are connected via LinkedIn to him). You probably want dissolve that connection; if not for ethical reasons, at least for the pragmatic one of distancing yourself from this walking public relations nightmare. Here’s how you remove a LinkedIn connection.


Josh Frank on Tampa’s future without I-275 at Café con Tampa

Josh Frank addresses the audience at Cafe con Tampa.

Every Friday morning at 8:00 a.m., some of Tampa Bay’s most engaged citizens come to the main room in Oxford Exchange’s Commerce Club to attend Café con Tampa, a weekly gathering where guest speakers talk about issues that the Bay and the world beyond. It’s attended by an interesting audience that’s often a mix of movers and shakers from the worlds of arts, business, academia, and government, and put together by local heroes Del Acosta,President of the Historic Hyde Park Neighborhood Association, and Bill Carlson, President of the communications agency Tucker/Hall.

Josh Frank addresses the audience at Cafe con Tampa.

Click the photo to see it at full size.

Today’s speaker at Café con Tampa was Josh Frank, who has an interesting — and controversial — idea: turning Interstate 275 from a highway into a boulevard like San Francisco’s Embarcadero or Paris’ Champs-Élysées.

Here are my notes:

  • I’m an area native, originally a St. Petersburger, now living in Ybor City
  • So I understand the context of I-275, how people use and see it
  • Spent a year working on the TBX project

TBX is short for Tampa Bay Express, a project that was so unpopular with the people that it’s since been changed and rebranded as Tampa Bay Next. Many people still call it TBX, especially since many believe that it’s just TBX, part two.

  • Sat at tables with various people who would be affected, talking to them about what they liked and didn’t like about their neighborhood
  • At the end of the process, I left feeling dissatisfied
  • Spent next 6 months on my urban community thesis, which focused on people’s interest in community, walkability, safer streets
  • That’s when I came to the conclusion that it’s feasible to turn the stretch of 275 from a highway into a boulevard at grade with transit
  • It allows more cross streets, which you can’t have right now
  • It makes the areas around 275 more walkable
  • Right now, without cross streets, there are certain parts where it can take an hour to cross 275
  • It opens the question “What if you had more transit and light rail?”

Click the photo to see it at full size.

  • Of all the traffic on 275, only 35% is “regional” — people from Wesley Chapel and other areas outside the city
    • The other 65% is local
  • DOT is studying alternatives, and replacing 275 with a boulevard is one of 7
  • By 2019, they will conclude the study and start the decision-making
  • I totally get the frustration of seeing this area flounder when it comes to choosing a solution
  • DOT would have us study other cities, I would rather have other cities study us!
  • We have the opportunity to be leaders in urban design
  • We’re going to spend billions on TBX
  • Think of this way: what can we do given those funds?
  • I don’t want to see that money wasted on a project that at its end, “fills up”, and then requires another project to address its shortcomings
    • That’s what will happen to TBX

Click the photo to see it at full size.

  • The boulevard would increase the economic potential of those areas around it
  • It’s an opportunity to lift people out of depressed economic situations
  • Take away the interstate, you get 37 acres of developable land
  • In those areas around 275, the people who live there spend 33% of income spent on transport
    • Compare that with people in similar economic circumstances in Boston: they spend only 18% of their income on transport
    • Imagine what they could do with 15% of their income freed up


Click the photo to see it at full size.

Did your studies include health-related data?

  • Yes
  • Studied fine air particulates and air quality around 275
  • If you can’t walk from your house in Tampa Heights to a couple of blocks away in Ybor because of 275, you’ll walk significantly less — you’ll always opt for the car, even for traveling walkable distances

A page from the documents that Josh passed around. Click the photo to see it at full size.

Would there be an elevated expressway for fast-moving cars?

  • In the boulevard design, there’s a median in the middle, which you can use for all sorts of things, including transit, or an elevated expressway
  • Why not just have all the fast-moving traffic using 75?
    • It parallels 275, and is close enough to 75 that travel time between the two is negligible
    • There’s less environmental and property value impact
  • My design tries to solve as many problems as possible
  • Other uses for that median:
    • A large storm drain to help control flooding
    • Municipal fiber / Google fiber
    • It’s a big blank slate that’s ripe for creative ideas

Photo: Embarcadero in 1989 and 2015.

The Embarcadero, San Francisco, before and after.

Where else have they done a conversion of a highway into a boulevard?

You may want to check out Congress for the New Urbanism’s Highways to Boulevards pages, which cover highway-to-boulevard conversions in Boston, Chattanooga, Madrid, Milwaukee, Paris, Portland, San Francisco, Seoul, and Vancouver.

Aerial photo of Tampa's 'Malfunction Junction', the I-275/i-4 interchange.

Tampas “Malfunction Junction”, the I-275/i-4 interchange.

With the boulevard, what happens to Malfunction Junction?

  • With 275 turned into a boulevard, Malfunction Junction goes away
  • You remove the knot, which removes the congestion and increases efficiency
  • It also frees up a ton of land for neighborhoods to develop
  • You don’t get 37 acres in a prime area opening up very often
  • It’s an opportunity for us to think about the bigger picture

A page from the documents that Josh passed around. Click the photo to see it at full size.

What impact would a downtown baseball stadium have on your project?

  • Any stadium that gets brought into downtown needs to be strongly transit-oriented
  • Simply adding more roads will lead to what I call the “Fat guy, bigger pants” problem: the guy buys bigger pants while trying to lose weight, and never sheds pounds

Will the boulevard project be completed in my lifetime? I’m 59 now.

  • I’m 28, I’d love to see it completed before I’m 40
  • The problem is that here in Tampa Bay, we don’t work so well together
  • There are so many organizations involved, and each wants a specific thing
  • In San Francisco, a project like this would be done in 10 years
  • In order to succeed, it would require so many agencies to work together on a scale that hasn’t been done before
  • It would take:
    • One person with enough sway
    • Or one group with enough interest
    • Or a large enough group of people to agree to work together

A page from the documents that Josh passed around. Click the photo to see it at full size.

Is there an adequate amount of visionary leadership to support this?

  • I wish there was
  • Any urban solution takes a champion
  • Some people would say Jeff Vinik is that champion, but he’s not a publicly elected person — he’s serving his commercial interest and those of his investors
  • We wouldn’t have built 275 today the way we did 40 years ago

A page from the documents that Josh passed around.

Did you include hurricane evacuation routes? The 275 intersections at Nebraska, Florida, Busch are all failed intersections, and in a hurricane, the intersection at Waters would be submerged.

  • Have not been able to cover all the angles in my plan
  • Turning 275 into a boulevard would allow for managing those intersections, which you can’t do right now
  • Evacuation isn’t always the solution, either: more people died as a result of the Hurricane Rita evacuation rather than from
  • If you design the boulevard as an economic development engine, developers will want to come in and build their units around it, and not Wesley Chapel or South Hillsborough
  • Bringing people into dense mixed-use developments is as important as hurricane evacuation

A driverless shuttle bus under consideration by HART (Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority). Click the photo to find out more.

What about the autonomous vehicle argument?

  • Autonomous vehicles are brought up a lot in the planning profession
  • I think autonomous vehicles have a purpose, especially for the “first mile” and “last mile”
  • I don’t see Jeff Vinik building Channelside around autonomous vehicles
  • Instead, he’s building around streetcars to aid in density
  • I think autonomous vehicles are fascinating and have plenty to offer for future transport
  • We don’t have to do autonomous vehicles all at once, but phased in
  • We could have country’s first autonomous bus pilot program

A page from the documents that Josh passed around. Click the photo to see it at full size.

Why wasn’t transit included as part of the Crosstown Expressway plan?

  • It was planned by a DOT of a different era
  • The DOT is different today
  • It takes a lot of time before transit gets implemented in a city
  • As far as transit in concerned, Tampa’s in that “awkward teenager” phase, a growth phase
  • We can either come out of it with a transit plan like that cities like Charlotte have, or we end up in car-centric gridlocks like Atlanta and LA

Minneapolis has same problem that we have: 2 cities, and many counties. Yet they managed to build an independent body to handle transit. Is there something like what they have brewing here?

  • I haven’t heard of anything like that here
  • Keep in mind that unlike Minneapolis/St. Paul, there’s a huge body of water separating our cities, so our situation’s not quite the same
  • I’d love to have the ferry as a transit option
  • In the end, our transit problem will require not just one, but a bunch of solutions
  • “There is no silver bullet, but there is silver buckshot”

Other discussion

  • FDOT is rolling out a variety of things, including a regional transit study next year
  • There are local groups, like Citizens’ Acedemy, who are working on webinars explaining transit planning and its terminology to laypeople, so they know what city planners are talking about
  • We have an opportunity: What other ways can we adopt a better conversation? How else do we engage in the conversation and engage citizens? How do we get people involved?
  • I lament a lot about how there isn’t much citizen representation at these meetings
  • There are great initiatives:
    • People uniting to ride the bus more often
    • There are a lot of community design session where you can give feedback on transportation and walkability
    • We have to start valuing this as business owners and entrepreneurs
  • I could easily pack up and move to Denver or Portland, but I want to stay here

  • If you’re building a building, consider how the building affects the public realm before the bottom line
  • If you hire architects and engineers, consider best practices

Photo by Chris Vela, Sunshine Citizens.
Click the photo to see it at full size.

I-275 lowers property value

  • The City of Tampa is funded primarily via property tax
  • Lowered property values mean lowered tax revenues
  • Any high capacity roadway lowers property values
    • A study of realtors’ outcomes and the effects of noise pollution showed that for ever decibel over 55 (about the same level of noise as in a restaurant or office), you lose $1800 off property value
    • The 275 corridor’s average noise level is 85db, which means 275 lowers property values by $54,000
    • That means that 11 miles of property is depressed
  • At the same time, property values increase around transit stations
  • The boulevard’s combination of noise reduction and transit could bring surrounding property up from depressed to market value to above market value
  • Maybe that’s how you fund HART or extend the streetcar
  • 275 is a massive anchor

More about Café con Tampa and Oxford Exchange

Café con Tampa takes place in the wonderful setting of Oxford Exchange,  a combination of restaurant, book store, gift shop, co-working space, design studio, event venue, and one of the best “third places” I’ve ever set foot in. Every Friday between 8 and 9 a.m., Café con Tampa features not only interesting guest speakers, but an interesting audience that’s often a mix of movers and shakers from the worlds of arts, business, academia, and government. If you want to have interesting conversations with some of the area’s movers, shakers, and idea-makers (and enjoy Oxford Exchange’s delicious breakfast spread), you should come to Café con Tampa.

My favorite seat at Café con Tampa: big, comfortable, and near a window with the view of University of Tampa’s Henry B. Plant Museum.

Café con Tampa speakers whom I’ve covered in this blog include:


Office scene of the day: Sourcetoad’s “Purple Passion Pit”

Photo: Sourcetoad's 'Purple Passion Pit' - a small room with a white table, 4 purple chairs, and a purple wall with a monitor. On the table are a purple dry-erase marker and a Macbook Pro with an image of Prince on its monitor.
Click the photo to see it in its full purple majesty.

Sourcetoad — that’s where I work — has a number of small “huddle rooms” for smaller meetings or conference calls. I was on a conference call this afternoon in the purple huddle room (the company colors are purple and green), which I call the “purple passion pit”. I thought that the room called for me to update my desktop picture to something suitable.

The name — which isn’t used by anyone at Sourcetoad other than me, comes from the name of a reading room at the library at my alma mater, Crazy Go Nuts University.

Having switched back to going to an office after eight years of working remotely from home, I’m pretty pleased to be in interesting surroundings.


That “Guy, girlfriend, other woman” meme that’s been going around

If you regularly peruse Twitter, you’ve likely seen a lot of memes based on this stock photo of a guy walking with his girlfriend, who’s appalled that he’s checking out another woman, and so blatantly to boot:

The original 'Guy, girlfriend, other woman' stock photo featuring a pretty woman on the left walking toward the camera, and a guy and his girlfriend walking away from the camera. The guy has turned his head to check out the woman walking toward the camera and looks impressed, with a facial expression to suggest he's wolf whistling. His girlfriend is looking at him, appalled.

Here’s a popular one:

'Guy, girlfriend, other woman' stock photo from above, with these labels -- Guy: Me. Girlfriend: The unread, untouched books I have sitting at home. Other woman: New books at the bookstore.

This one’s for the console gamers:

'Guy, girlfriend, other woman' stock photo from above, with these labels -- Guy: Me. Girlfriend: PS4. Other woman: Switch.

Here’s one that made the rounds a couple of weeks ago:

'Guy, girlfriend, other woman' stock photo from above, with these labels -- Guy: Me. Girlfriend: Scientific evidence supporting the dangers of staring at the sun. Other woman: Solar eclipse.

Of course, someone made some political ones:

'Guy, girlfriend, other woman' stock photo from above, with these labels -- Guy: Top 0.1%. Girlfriend: American Dream. Other woman: Income inequality.

'Guy, girlfriend, other woman' stock photo from above, with these labels -- Guy: Trump. Girlfriend: Governing the country. Other woman: Next outrageous tweet.

My favorite observation about the women in the meme is about how similar they look:

And finally, here’s my favorite improvement to the meme:

'Guy, girlfriend, other woman' stock photo from above, but horizontally flipped so that it reads from left to right, with these labels -- Guy: Me. Girlfriend: Traditional meme template. Other woman: The increased structural clarity of reading the meme from left to right.