Empathy, Schmempathy

When I want a good laugh, I don’t bother looking for “Top 10 Funny Websites.”

I head straight to articles about work.

How can I not laugh when I see a headline like this?


Empathy?  Seriously?  In today’s workplace?

Let’s start with some definitions:

Empathy-definition_02Empathy, noun:  the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

Empathize, verb:  to understand and share the feelings of another.

Empathetic, adjective:  showing an ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

Today’s workplace is known for:


The author of this article, Neil Senturia, cites a lack-of-empathy story about “Bob,” who had flown to his company’s headquarters for a two-day meeting:

mean-boss-faceAt the last minute, his manager asks Bob to stay over another night, for another big meeting.  Bob says he can’t do that, he has to fly home, his son is sick and wife is out and plans have been made.  The manager throws down the gauntlet and says that if you don’t stay I will fire you. 

Bob goes home and the next day he is fired.

Senturia goes on to say,

Bob is a $250,000 per year big data genius – these guys do not grow on trees.  What was that manager thinking?

Senturia isn’t bemoaning the manager’s lack of empathy with Bob’s dilemma at home.

He’s wondering how the manager could so easily fire a revenue-generating cog in his company’s wheel.

Let’s look at some other examples of company empathy:

Employee to Manager

Manager With Empathy Manager Without Empathy
 intimidated  not_this_crap_again  you're fired
I fell in our parking lot and broke my arm.  Can I leave early? You can still type, right?  And crunch those numbers for me? If you leave early, you’re fired.
I worked through lunch and crunched the numbers you said you needed. I asked for that?  Well, just leave it and I’ll get to it at some point. I didn’t ask for any damn numbers.  Stop wasting my time, or you’re fired.
I really need to go to the Emergency Room and get my arm taken care of. Well, as long as you call in for your meetings and don’t miss any deadlines. If you take unscheduled time off, you’re fired.

Senturia also extensively cites Cris Beam, author of the recent book I Feel You:  The Surprising Power of Extreme Empathy.  Senturia refers to Beam at least twice as “he,” when a glance at the Amazon write-up makes it clear that Beam is female.  Which makes me wonder if Senturia actually read the book, or just walked past it in a bookstore.

And – like a guy could write a book about empathy.

man bored
Oh, look.  Those sandwiches.  Again.

Senturia also cites how he provides “sandwiches from Con Pane Rustic Breads & Café” for his “crew,” like sandwiches are some kind of hallmark for his mastery of empathy.

Sandwiches?  Really?  How about a raise?  Flex time?  Work from home now and then?

How about a damn day off now and then?

So, if you’re looking for empathy I don’t recommend looking for it at work.

Unless your employer has a dictionary.

You can find “empathy” there.

Between “egregious” and “exploitation.”

No use searching under there, folks.  If you’re looking for empathy, try the dictionary.

Here’s Our Postal Service’s New Motto:

tsuami comparison
My tsunami-size mistakes (right) compared to Empire State Building.

I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my life, and I don’t mean just small stuff like keeping a library book past its due date.

I’m talking whopping big mistakes.  Life-changing mistakes.  Tsunami-size mistakes.

The one comfort I have is that while I still occasionally have overdue library books, I’ve learned from the tsunamis.  Learned well enough that I haven’t repeated those mistakes.

USPS_01 croppedNew mistakes, sure.  But no tsunami repeats.

Not so our U.S. Postal Service.

Their tsunami-sized mistake came in the form of a $3.5 million copyright infringement fine USPS must pay to artist Robert S. Davidson after it used – and profited from – a picture of his creation, the half-size replica of the Statue of Liberty that resides adjacent to the New York-New York Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

Apparently the mega-brains at USPS thought the image was the real deal – the full-size original in New York Harbor – and used it on a Forever stamp.

USPS thought an image of the Las Vegas Statue of Liberty (right) was the real deal (left) and used it on a Forever stamp.

USPS began printing the stamps in 2010.  Within months USPS was informed of their mistake by numerous credible sources, but kept printing the image anyway.  The artist sued in 2013.  The lawsuit was settled in July 2018.

But this wasn’t USPS’ first tsunami-sized copyright mistake.

In December 2013 USPS had to pay $685,000 to sculptor Frank Gaylord for using – and profiting from – a photograph of his creation, the central part of the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC.

Korean memorial stamp korean war memoria in snow

USPS stamp using an image from the Korean War Veterans Memorial.

Gaylord filed his lawsuit in 2006, it worked its way through various courts, Gaylord eventually won, and USPS paid.

That was USPS’ first tsunami-sized copyright mistake. zip

And from that first mistake, USPS learned:

Zip.  Zilch.  Nada.

Hence the 2013 lawsuit by Robert Davidson, and a penalty approximately five times the size of Gaylord’s earlier settlement.

At this rate I figure USPS’ next copyright infringement tsunami should be worth at least five times Davidson’s settlement, or around $17 million.

Now all I have to do is figure out how to get USPS to use my image on a stamp:


Don’t Try This At Home

I was hunting for the right word or words to describe a recent story I’d read that had an outcome the opposite of what I’d expected. wait what

One of those “No way!” stories.  One of those “Wait…what?” stories.

Eventually my hunting led me to the right words:

because its' there_01
In 1923, when asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, George Mallory famously said, “Because it’s there.”   He disappeared on Mount Everest in 1924.  His remains were found in 1999.

Situational irony:  a discrepancy between what is expected to happen and what actually happens.

The situational irony I’m referring to is about Charlotte Fox, whom I’d never heard of and it’s likely you haven’t either.

This is also a story of mountain climbing and the people who do that.  Why they climb a mountain is something that’s never been adequately explained to me, other than, “Because it’s there.”

The mountain in this story is Mount Everest in Nepal, which we have heard of, mostly when people die trying to climb it.  And close to 300 have – from myriad causes including falling, oxygen deprivation, freezing, and avalanches.  Then there are those who just…disappear, like George Mallory,charlote and are presumed dead, cause unknown.

In 1996, Charlotte Fox was part of an Everest climbing group that ran into serious trouble one day, and she lived to tell about it.  Unfortunately, eight other people on the mountain that day did not.

The story of that tragedy was turned into a book, Into Thin Air in 1997, and a movie of the same name, same year.

Everest was neither the first nor last mountain Charlotte climbed; on an Everest history house_03 croppedwebsite she’s cited as the first American women to summit three 8000m (five mile) peaks.  Her bio goes on to list where she climbed other mountains:  Asia, South America, Antarctica, Africa, Canada and the U.S.  So that Everest climb in 1996 was not Charlotte’s first rodeo, as they say.

Now, the situational irony:

Eventually Charlotte settled in Colorado, and apparently she still loved climbing; she moved into a 4.5-story house with 77 stairs.

It was in that house in May 2018 that Charlotte, who’d survived Everest and conquered so many other mountains, died.

She fell down the stairs.

no way_02 cropped

Girl, You Are Dumb As Dirt, Part 2

On March 9 I posted a blog, Girl, You Are Dumb As Dirt.

In it I wrote about a female politician who behaved badly, got caught, and resigned.  Heroh no not-this-again cropped story included extramarital sex and misuse of taxpayer money.

Since so many male politicians get headlines for the same or similar activities, I figured it was only fair to notice when a female politician did a dumb thing, too.

In other words:  She acted like a guy.

Signing pledgeAt the time I didn’t anticipate that I’d be writing about yet another female politician who was dumb as dirt, but sad to say, here she is:

California Democratic Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia.

In the recent past, media outlets describe Garcia as “a leader of the #MeToo movement in California government.”  The December 2017 Time magazine’s Persons of the Year choice was The Silence Breakers, and Garcia was included in a two-page photo spread of #MeToo activists:

Silence Breakers

Perhaps she misunderstood, and interpreted the #MeToo movement as, “Me, too, I can act like a guy”?

The story so far:

groping_03 croppedEarlier this year, former legislative staffer Daniel Fierro accused Garcia of groping him in 2014 when she was “visibly intoxicated.”  Specifically, Fierro said that Garcia stroked his back, squeezed his buttocks and attempted to touch his crotch in a dugout after a softball game in 2014.

But not just any softball game – it was a legislative softball game, which I thought was a nice touch, if you’ll excuse the expression.

Garcia denied the allegation, an investigation ensued, and on May 17 the California Assembly said an outside investigator found no evidence substantiating Fierro’s claim.not-the-end1  The Assembly Rules Committee sent letters to Fierro and Garcia that said the investigation was complete.

End of story?


Two weeks later Fierro appealed, complaining that the investigator didn’t interview at least one witness he reported.  As of June 13, the California Legislature was resuming an investigation in light of concerns raised about the initial investigation into Garcia’s conduct.

But-wait-theres-more-865x731 croppedThe accusations don’t begin and end with Fierro’s, however.  Investigators did substantiate allegations that Garcia routinely used vulgar language around staffers, had staff run personal errands, and created a toxic environment in her office.

Also substantiated:  Making derogatory remarks about other lawmakers, including calling then-Assembly Speaker John Pérez a “homo,” for which Garcia later apologized.  She was also “strongly admonished” for making racially insensitive comments directed toward Asians.  She did not apologize.

Whew!  Garcia is one busy politician!

So here’s our scorecard:



Sexual misconduct:  groping Investigation ongoing
Sexual misconduct:  squeezing Investigation ongoing
Sexual misconduct:  crotch touching Investigation ongoing
Using vulgar language Substantiated
Requesting personal errands Substantiated
Creating toxic environment Substantiated
Using homophobic language Substantiated, apologized
Using racially insensitive language Substantiated, admonished

Behaving like a guy is getting to be an equal opportunity thing, isn’t it?

In the meantime, Garcia is up for 58th Assembly District re-election in November.  I don’t imagine her constituents are doing the Happy Dance.

58th district
California’s 58th Assembly District:  No Happy Dance here.

Here It Comes…

I saw this headline and thought, “Major Ah-Ha Moment!

Headline final.jpg

“That’s what I’ve been doing wrong at work all these years!  Following the rules, slaving away, old nose-to-the-grindstone.  When I should have been rebelling!”

I couldn’t wait to read the Eight Ways Rule Breakers Can Create Positive Change so I could “Be A Rebel At Work.”

Then I decided to start my rebellion right away and not read the Eight Ways in order.  Or read all of them.  HA!

I started with Way #3:  “Use the conversational technique of plussing.”  This means thatnumber 3 when you’re in a meeting and someone has a stupid idea, instead of saying “but,” you keep an open mind and say, “and…?”  Hoping they’ll pick up on your “and” and say something intelligent.

I know.  Unlikely.

By the way, in the dictionary I see “plus” listed as a preposition, an adjective, a noun, a conjunction, and an adverb.  As far as I can tell, “plus” is not and never has been a verb.

But perhaps using “plus” as a verb is a form of rebellion?

number 1_01Way #1 is “Break away from the routine” and the author says, “It’s very easy for us all to fall back into routines and mindlessly follow them, day after day.”  I thought, yeah – that’s called “work”:  Mindless routines in exchange for a paycheck.

But then I thought – why not?  Why not “purposely seek out new and novel ideas,” as the author suggests?

My routine is to arrive at work by 7:30am, skip lunch, and work until 6:30pm or…whenever.

born to rebelBut today was my day to “break away from the routine.”  I strolled in around noon, and announced to everyone that I was leaving at 4pm.

Born to rebel, yeah!

OK, it was Sunday, and I was the only one there.  So it wasn’t exactly a full-frontal rebellion.

Moving on to…

Way #2:  Seek out differences of opinion.Number 2

This morning I was part of a group interviewing a prospective employee.  We each took turns asking the prospect a question, and when my turn came around…

Get ready…

I said, “Why do you want to work here?  This place sucks.”

No one in the room agreed, including our manager.

So, “differences of opinion,” yes?

Rebellion success!

My manager said she wants to see me right after the meeting.  I’m betting she’s going to congratulate me on my new Rebel Persona!

But before I go, I’m going to take that Rebel Test the article talks about.  Can’t wait to see what kind of rebel I am!

Rebel Quiz results best






Book Review: No High School History Book Here

Publication date:  April 2018book

Review, short version:  Four roses out of four.

Review, long version:

If you’re not a fan of histories of royal families, you can skip this.

If you are a fan – and I am, big time, especially the women’s histories – then I highly recommend Daughters of the Winter Queen by Nancy Goldstone.

This is a biography, and I often have a problem with biographies:  Dry, dry, dry and boring, boring, boring.

Did I mention dry and boring?

Like a high school history textbook.  And a college history textbook.

Like any textbook.

Goldstone’s cast includes Mary, Queen of Scots…

Goldstone is a wonderful writer, a great storyteller, and – surprise!  Also funny.  I was cruising along, reading, and suddenly I’d laugh because Goldstone has a way of making wry observations that make the characters and their era – the 17th century – more relatable.

Yes, humor in a biography.  Examples:

“It was during this trip that the duke of Buckingham took it into his head to try to seduce Louis XIII’s wife, Anne of Austria, queen of France, a diplomatic initiative of questionable value.”

Another from Goldstone:  “It was like overhearing your lover use exactly the same pickup line he had once used with you, and then having him turn to you to ask for help in convincing his new quarry of his sincerity.”

Mary’s son, James I of England…

And:  “No husband who had cheated on his wife and was trying to get out of it by pretending to be concerned for her welfare ever penned a guiltier letter.”

No textbook ever sounded like that!

So what’s Goldstone doing, adding her contemporary comments to 300+-year-old history?

charles I
James’ son, Charles I of England…

She’s telling a serious story and reminding us that while these people were of the highest rank, they were just as human – and full of foibles – as we are.

Of course, there’s much more history than humor – the royal Stuarts weren’t known for having a sense of humor.  They often helped to bring tragedies on themselves, starting with Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, beheaded in 1587.  Mary’s son, James VI of Scotland becomes James I of England and managed to keep his head, but not so his son, Charles I, beheaded during England’s Civil War (1642-1651), of which he was a major cause.

James’ daughter, Elizabeth Stuart, The Winter Queen…

The Winter Queen is Princess Elizabeth Stuart (1596-1662), daughter of that James I, whose betrayal of her was unspeakable.  Elizabeth and her husband, Frederick V, became queen and king of Bohemia, then lost their throne during the 30 Years’ War (1618-1648) after reigning only briefly, from November 1619 to November 1620.  Hence the nickname she was stuck with for 40+ years.

Elizabeth spends the remainder of her life in exile, striving always to regain what was lost.  She never again reigns as a queen, but her youngest daughter, Sophia,

And her grandson, George I of England.

becomes the mother of Georg Ludwig, who becomes George I of England.  Elizabeth’s story and that of her 13 children, particularly her daughters, make fascinating reading.  As does the history they were all participants in – and victims of.

It’s not often I encounter a biography – or any book – that I enjoy, learn from, and smile about.

Is there a better combination?

Coming July 11: New, Must-See TV (Especially If You’re Eating Dinner)

The other night I had one of those life-altering “Wait…what?” moments.

I was watching TV, and saw a promotion for a new program on TLC, The Learning Channel.

Always eager to learn, I focused in and saw…Doctor

Dr. Pimple Popper.

Did I mention I was eating dinner at the time?


Dr. Pimple Popper – apparently a moniker she’s chosen for herself – is also called “Dr. PP” by those in the know, that is, the hordes of fans who watch her multitudinous YouTube videos.  They, too, have a moniker:  “Popaholic, the endearing term for the community of Dr. Pimple Popper-obsessed viewers.”

The YouTube videos are of the good doctor treating people for conditions including:

“Egg Salad Cyst Bigger Than Expected” – 252,000 views
“Never-Ending Blackhead Surprises” – 2 million views
“Steatocystomas & Momma Squishy” – 12 million views

So you know Dr. PP is on the level – she has her own YouTube channel.

And, secondarily, according to her website, Dr PP is “a board-certified dermatologist.”

Wow, a bonus!

logoNow The Learning Channel is premiering Dr. PP’s own reality show on Wednesday July 11.  Whatever else you had planned for that evening, cancel it!  Except dinner, of course.

But wait, there’s more…

YOU can audition for the show:

Dr. Pimple Popper is looking specifically for people with lipomas, cysts, large growths, undiagnosed skin conditions, or something “oozing, draining, or bleeding.”

Casting call

If you aren’t among the afflicted, you can recommend someone to audition for the show.  What a compliment!  “Jeff, you look so heinous, I’m going to contact the Dr. Pimple Popper show and recommend you.”  And if Jeff does, indeed, look heinous enough to qualify, you get $500.  A win-win!

Now, I am not someone who would ever make fun of a person with a skin condition, having suffered from several of them myself.

But I am hopeful that someday, somehow, I’ll figure out how…


In fact, the possibilities for doctor TV shows are endless, if you’ll excuse the expression.

Quick!  Who can I recommend for…

Dr Colon Must See

Wow!!! I’m Rich!!!

Dear Mr. Maxwell:

I am so excited to receive your email – excited and grateful!

Email with border image

I had no idea that I had a rich relative.  This is amazing news!

And not just rich – to quote you, the amount is “twelve million eight hundred thousand euros,” which translates into $14,875,507.20 at today’s exchange rate.  And let’s don’t forget that 20¢!

Because I’m smart, I did wonder if this was one of those scams I hear about – “too good to exploding computerbe true” and all that stuff.  But the reason I know you’re for real is that you don’t tell me to “Click Here” for more information, and then my computer blows up.  And you didn’t ask me for money, like some of those scams.  As if I would fall for that!

I will confess that I’m a bit confused about why, if my relative died in “May 2003” that you’re only contacting me now, more than 15 years later?  On the other hand, when I think of all the interest that’s accrued on that €12.8 million euros – no problem!

map_04 cropped
I found it!  That red thingy is Togo!

I’ll confess to a bit more confusion, with your saying your law firm is located in “Iome Togo” – I could not find that on a map.  Until I discovered that your “Iome” is actually Lomé, the capital of Togo, in West Africa!  I consider myself something of an expert sleuth and I enjoyed that challenge.  I like digging deep and figuring things out – nobody can pull the proverbial wool over my eyes!

Speaking of figuring things out, “Togo” is such a funny name for a country – like togo cups!

And speaking of confusion – I’m referring to the other typos in your email.  I didn’t want to be rude and ask why you didn’t have one of your secretaries type this, but then I realizedlaw and order that you’re doing that secret-secret Client/Attorney Privilege thing that I’ve seen on Law & Order.  You’re smart, too!

So – what’s our next step?  Verify that I actually am a relative of your client?  Well, we do have the same surname, and it’s not all that common.  I’m pretty sure I haven’t met another person with the last name “Johnson” except my family, so I’m sure you’re client is part of my family!

Since you didn’t give me your phone number, maybe I should come to Lomé, Togo in plastic-surgery-list-services-vector-illustration-34214074West Africa to meet with you?  It’s probably the least I can do after you took all that time to track down me, and only me.  For sure I’d like to shake your hardworking hand and say, “Thanks, Mr. Maxwell!”

And thanks to you, I can afford the airfare!  Oh, when I think of all the charitable good works I can do with that money…Liposuction, tummy tuck, my nose (for sure my nose), a Ferrari – no, make that a Jaguar.  No, make it both!

But in the meantime, just to make sure we’re on the same page, I’ll give you my PIN, checking account and Social Security numbers and you can just go ahead and deposit the money now.  For sure that €12.8 million euros – plus 15 years interest – is going to make myBest-Friends-Forever-Image stupid bank manager stand up and take notice.  He’s bounced a couple of my checks lately and I’m really annoyed with him.

Mr. Maxwell, I feel like we’re on our way to being Best Friends Forever!

Sincerely, and I do mean that!


Survey Says…A Whole Lot Of Employers Are A Whole Lot Afraid

For the sixth straight year our daily newspaper just announced it’s “taking nominations for the Top Workplaces in the county.”  Ours is a county of about three million people, and anyone – employees and others – can nominate an employer.

The process is as follows:

Timeline darker.jpg

The part of the process that intrigues me actually happens between Step #1 and Step #2 but isn’t shown on this image.

This is when the survey company contacts the nominated companies, agencies and institutions.  Those that agree to participate provide email lists of their employees to the survey company, which in turn emails the surveys to the employees.

In 2017, according to the article, “914 organizations were nominated and 77 agreed to participate.”

Let’s look at that again:

Employees/others nominated 914 organizations.whats up with that

Only 77 agreed to participate.

That’s a mere 8.4%.

That means 837 organizations declined allowing their employees the opportunity to fill out a survey about their organization.

That’s a whopping 91.6%

What the hell is up with that?

Further into the article I learned that this lack of participation is “partly because employers who think they might be criticized by their workers choose not to participate.”

ah ha moment croppedAh-ha moment.

So 91.6% of the employers nominated were so afraid of being criticized by their employees that they said “No” to participating.

Could that 91.6% be extrapolated to encompass the whole county?  The whole country?

I say “Yes.”

I say a whole lot of employers are a whole lot afraid.