Powerless

I’m pretty sure I already covered this topic. Such is the nature of modern existence, it is likely to keep getting repeated.

batteries 1219

The battery on this laptop may not be long for this world. At best, it is good for an hour, when I would like it to last double, if not triple, that. I keep seeing commercials for something — a Chromebook, perhaps? — touting battery life up to 12 hours. That was never even close to what I got from this, even on its best days back when it was new in 2017.

I like to look on computers as investments rather than consumables, so this does not seem like it should have been so long ago. But many people, including computer-company executives, like to think of them as disposable, and 2017 was probably 400 iterations of computers ago.

But it is not just computers, as I was reminded everywhere I turned yesterday. I put eight AA batteries in our recycling box, and after trying to use my reading light this morning, I feel quite certain some unspecified number more are bound that same way.

The first project — and it was a project — involved our fireplace. I was sure I had broken it, but really, it was a matter of batteries, in the most convoluted place possible.

Two nights ago, I pushed the “flame” button on our fireplace remote. This isn’t “flame” as in internet flaming, or obvious gayness, or anything other than flame as in the fireplace sense. This button controls how high or low the gas flame goes. And really, it’s about all the remote is good for, despite having lots of other buttons holding promises not kept by our particular model of fireplace.

But as I pushed the “flame up” button, I inadvertently pushed the “setting” button right above it at the same time — and the flame went out completely. Broken.

The setting button gives you the option of allowing to use your fireplace on a thermostat, with the flame going on or off depending on the temperature as measured by the remote. Or you can use the “smart” setting, which seems more fanciful than anything, where the remote will adjust the height of the flame, making it higher as the temperature goes lower and smaller as the temp gets closer to your desired setting.

So I pushed the setting button endlessly, through the three options, over and over, trying to make the flame come back on. I could see the pilot ring with its little circle of blue flame, and I wasn’t getting a “low battery” reading from the remote, and I just wasn’t figuring this out. I gave up and tried the manual switch at the base of the fireplace, and the flame came back on, completely uncontrolled.

I don’t know what setting the manual switch puts the flames at, but it’s some functional level, even if you do only have the one option. Since the fan works whenever it wants to, with no input as promised by the remote, this is probably all we should ever worry about anyway — just switch the flames off and on manually. Except that to reach the switch one has to bend way over or drop to a creaky knee.

At some point it is always a good idea to refer to the instruction manual, so that’s what I did yesterday, discovering that in addition to the three AAA batteries in the remote, there are four AA batteries resting somewhere behind that switch. So, for the privilege of turning the flames off and on without dropping to creaky knees, plus the added bonus of controlling how high they soar (or don’t), it costs seven batteries. Seven! For one stupid, not terribly useful remote that looks all sleek and Star Trekky.

And then it turns out that while the instruction manual makes it sound like you remove two screws and pull the entire battery pack out, what you really do is take off two of the world’s tiniest screws to encounter two of the world’s longest screws. The first two only hold the faceplate on; the really, really long ones hold the remote-sensing unit in its less-than-desirable location down near the ground.

So Lynn, who for some reason thinks her knees are less creaky than mine, got down on the floor and removed all the screws, plus the four batteries, which I then put to the tester purloined from work. All four of them came up right on the border of “good” and “bad,” which in everyday parlance means “completely useless.”

Fortunately Lynn, electronics devotee that she is, keeps an abundance of batteries on hand, so in went four new batteries, which we were able to test while the unit was still in her hand. Problem solved; I had not broken the fireplace after all, no matter how remarkable a coincidence that the flame gave out exactly as I pushed two buttons on the remote.

It turns out, though, that only part of the problem was solved, because now the two longest screws in the world had to go back in place, which wasn’t terribly hard, but then the two smallest screws in the world had to fit into this scheme. That was a lot harder. And in the middle of all this is the actual switch, which for some reason rests on the outside of the faceplate and doesn’t seem to be very sturdily attached.

When we cleaned the fireplace glass, we ended up leaving out two screws that wouldn’t fit back in place, and we almost left two more by the wayside for this project. We’ll be lucky if the fireplace is still standing a year from now.

In the meantime, the seven-battery remote project is functional, although the cheap Panasonic batteries in the remote will probably give out one day after our complacency sets back in. (Those will be much easier to swap out. No screws involved at all.)

Then I went to use my razor, and it needed batteries as well, four of them. And then this morning my reading light grew dimmer with each page, and at the rate we’re going it will probably need a cadre of eight C cells or some such. Plus my laptop is only happy being untethered for an hour at best, and no Youtube at all during that time, or the battery drops precipitously.

Sigh. Batteries. Can’t live without them, apparently.

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