Batteries are Draining Me!

Those of you who have being reading this column for a while know that I love to sail.  And of course, those of you who own boats know doing so is a never-ending opportunity to learn “stuff”.  Like you, I really dig the “learning stuff” part and this past week it was about the electrical system and particularly batteries.  There are four of them, along with an alternator and lots of wiring. Then there’s understanding watts, AMPs and voltage – understanding how the batteries charge, recharge and how much power they provide is quite a study subject.   Now I could be wrong, but I think we are all generally frustrated and or baffled by batteries.  Seems to me that the engineers who understand batteries have a hard time explaining things.  Or maybe they just find it amusing, after all, they are engineers!

As I vowed to get a little more insight into the world of batteries, I realized that there is a strong corollary in understanding batteries and wiring and how we humans operate as well. Everything we do is controlled and enabled by electrical signals running through our bodies. It’s why we use terms like, let’s get charged up or we’re hardwired for this and that.  These are great analogies. We do get charged up and we are wired for some things…yet we are malleable, just like electricity can be routed, controlled, built up and used up, the energy we have works the same. Just like we need a steady reliable stream of energy running through the wires in our homes, boats, cars, et al, we need baseline energy to live. Now here’s where the analogies split.  We need spikes and varying spurts of energy (electricity) and equipment doesn’t. We need highs, lows, slower speeds, faster speeds and that sort of variation in equipment is deadly.

It’s all about capacity.  Oh, and when batteries are new, which is a tough thing to ascertain because new to us doesn’t necessarily mean new and certainly doesn’t mean “fresh”, then there’s rules about breaking them in.  Yeah, right.  So I did some research and after scrubbing through what I find to be both boring (read – needless) and confusing (read – intentional) information, I found a couple of tips for the laptop situation.

There are so many similarities with batteries and electricity and how we as humans operate to be our best. If only we came with directions and instructions for use. If only we had little indicator lights or had battery testers to clearly read our capacity levels. If only there were easy to follow instructions to set our calibration.  How great would it be if we had settings that we and those we interact with could read? Or settings for conserving battery power? Just think if we could go into our Power Options control panel and be set to automatically shut down before our batteries fully discharge. If only it were that easy. The point is that while we are way more complicated than the electricity and power that runs our equipment and devices we rely on, we can and should pay attention to the corollaries. Doing so will make us more in tune with ourselves so we can be healthier and more adept with interacting with those around us. People are way more complex than my boat’s wiring and we’re much harder to “read”, but taking the time to understand some of the complexities should go along way by making our personal and professional lives run better.

Oh, and something I learned from my research that is a practical tip, laptop batteries do best with frequent, shallow charges.  That means unlike other batteries where you’re advised to deplete them and do long, full charges, most laptops batteries like to be well fed, which means keeping the battery’s charge near full whenever possible.  Turns out that’s great advice for us humans, especially for our stomachs.  But we’ll save that for another column. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve gotta figure out how to hook up my brain to the generator in case tropical storm Dorian that is headed this way becomes a full-fledged hurricane!