Rules of Engagement (ROE)

Welcome to our monthly church meeting.
Before we begin, let’s review our R-O-E.
We treat everyone as if we believed
they, too, have a spark of divinity.
We assume good intentions, even or especially
in those with whom we disagree on methods or priorities.
We are grateful for this opportunity
to work in community, even when it’s frustratingly slow.

Said no church-committee chairperson ever.

Welcome to our weekly marketing meeting.
Before we begin, let’s review our R-O-E.
We treat everyone as if they were a customer.
We put more effort into eliciting other points of view
than to persuading others to our point of view.
We respect the value our colleagues add
and believe that they are as committed to the welfare
of the company and this work group as we are.

Said no marketing vice-president ever.

Welcome to our daily sitting in the House of Commons.
Before we begin, let’s review our R-O-E.
We treat our fellow Members of Parliament
as respected representatives of Canadians.
We give this imperfect democratic institution
the respect it has earned
by staving off tyranny for 800 years.
We show respect to the Canadians we serve
by asking questions to get information, not to score points,
and by answering questions honestly and completely.

Said no Speaker of the House of Commons ever.

Why not? Why don’t organizations remind themselves of their putative rules of engagement, their alleged values?

Back in the 20th century, I was tasked with helping an executive refine a company’s vision, mission, and values statements. It wasn’t a great workplace collaboration. I kept trying to get the organizational-development type to be more specific and concrete, and he kept trying to get the literal-reader type to accept warm-and-fuzzy vague pronouncements.

Finally one day I snapped and spoke what was really on my mind, and it wasn’t lack of specificity or concreteness, turns out.

“We don’t actually do the things this says.
We don’t live these values.”

He looked at me for a moment.

“Isn’t there value in an aspirational statement?”

I looked at him.

“Yes. But it should be framed as that,
not as a statement of fact.”

We did it his way: He was the executive. (I think that might have violated Value #3 about the importance of listening to the little people.)

Anyway, decades later, I care less about how a values statement is phrased than about its potential for inspiring people to be better. Now I care about why values statements aren’t used more often to remind our better angels of what they already know.

Hey hi to everyone who lives in Isabel’s head.
Before we get out of bed, let’s review our R-O-E.
We give everyone we meet our full attention
and accept them as they are,
even the others in here that we’re not crazy about.
We are patient facing delays,
persistent facing obstacles,
and realistic facing disappointments.
We don’t whine about our lot in life,
but we are empathetic when others do.
OK, at least we don’t complain about them.
OK, not out loud.

Values statements can be facts or aspirations, however modest, but no matter how they’re worded they only have any, um, value if we trot them out from time to time and use them.


Posted in Management and Work, New Perspectives, Politics and Policy, Relationships and Behaviour, Thinking Broadly | Tagged , , | 18 Comments


You may remember the common redpoll I saw that turned out to be a hoary.

Saturday, with that error firmly in mind and determined not to make it again, I saw a hoary redpoll. That turned out to be a common.

If you’re confused, you’re not alone. But while both photos are too fuzzy even for the cover of the Rolling Stone (not to mention National Geographic), they’re clear enough to see the differences.

2-photo collage showing a hoary and a common redpoll

Hoary on the left; common on the right

I got one slightly sharper shot, but it doesn’t show any of the defining characteristics, like the red patch on the head. Bird watching is hard work.

Common redpoll, averting its gaze

I avert my gaze . . .


Posted in Laughing Frequently, Photos of Fauna | Tagged | 6 Comments

The Last Time

I can’t remember the last time I read three angry editorials on one topic in one newspaper on the same day. I’ve put the links below along with some representative extracts in case you can’t access the National Post, which is paywalled.

As I read about China and its alleged treatment of Uyghurs, I find myself engaged in a thought experiment. I wonder what the Allies would have done if Hitler’s Germany had not invaded Poland but had continued to operate Auschwitz, Dachau, Bergen-Belsen, Sachsenhausen, Buchenwald, Oranienburg, and Ravensbruck along with the thousand other Nazi concentration camps in which they detained, abused, tortured, starved, worked to death, experimented on, and gassed millions of people from 1933 to 1945.

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Posted in Politics and Policy, Sports and Exercise, Thinking Broadly, Through History | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

MAiD: Again

A last word, for now, on this topic. I recommend reading the whole post: Complex arguments don’t summarize well.

In other words, the Court recommended that MAID should be regulated the way other medical procedures are regulated: under the civil law and the medical ethics prescribed by physicians’ colleges. In six years Parliament has yet to take this learned advice.
Andrew’s Views


Posted in Another Thing, Politics and Policy, Thinking Broadly | Tagged , | 4 Comments

MAiD – Riposte

Following up on last week’s post on MAiD, this week I offer four more links covering three perspectives.

Canadians with Disabilities

“We should not be offering wider access to euthanasia until every Canadian that needs it has a truly viable option: access to excellent palliative care (only accessible to 30 per cent of us) or optimal life assistance for the disabled. But C-7 will, shamefully, make Canada one of the most MAiD-friendly countries in the world.”
Barbara Kay, “Wider access to assisted dying in Canada willbe catastrophic for the disabled,” National Post

“When life-ending interventions are normalized for people who are not terminally ill or suffering at the end of their lives, such legislative provisions tend to rest on – or draw strength from – ableist assumptions about the inherent ‘quality of life’ or ‘worth’ of the life of a person with a disability,” they say in a statement issued Monday by the UN Human Rights Council. “Disability is not a burden or a deficit of the person. It is a universal aspect of the human condition,” they add.
Joan Bryden, “UN human rights experts alarmed by trend toward assisted dying for non-terminal conditions,” Globe and Mail

Canadians with Mental Illness & BIPOC Canadians

“In the next few weeks, people from all sides of this debate will bring personal testimony to bear. And whether they support or oppose the expansion of MAID, a simple truth remains: This is a country that continues to fail in respecting the humanity of people with disabilities. And rather than find strength of character to improve ourselves, the Canadian government is set to fall back on egregious historical precedent by offering death instead. Where, I ask, is the dignity in that?”
Andray Domise, “Canada’s proposed expansion of assisted-death threatens to push the mentally ill out the door,” Globe and Mail

Conscientious Objectors

“On assisted death, the rights of the patient have been the primary focus of lawmakers, regulators, courts, academics and the media to a degree that has obscured and eroded other fundamental interests at stake — specifically, the freedom not to participate in killing.”
Brian Bird and Christina Lamb, “Assisted dying legislation must reconcile the rights of those who object to the practice,” National Post
(Dr. Bird is an assistant professor in the Peter A. Allard School of Law at UBC; Dr. Lamb is a bioethicist and assistant professor in the faculty of nursing at the UofA.)

Indigenous Canadians




Posted in Politics and Policy, Thinking Broadly | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Live and Learn

I hop out of my Kia gracefully. In my dreams, maybe. Since I had to wedge said Kia between two other vehicles in an under-sized parking spot in a chronically over-full parking lot, I actually edge out carefully, trying not to bang the adjacent SUV with my door and not to rub any (more) of the salt spray off my own vehicle onto my navy coat.

Ah, winter in Ottawa: my favourite.

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Posted in Appreciating Deeply, Laughing Frequently, Photos of Built Stuff | Tagged , | 6 Comments

If Ever

“Oh, I’m so glad you think it’s getting better.”

I look at my 84-year-old mother in some surprise. I believe that her apparent relief is genuine, but I don’t understand it.

It’s 2006 and we’re sitting at the kitchen table in my parents’ Calgary home: a home now in varying stages of disarray reflecting varying stages of packing-up for a move to a senior’s residence. My mother is showing me her injury from a too-close encounter with the corner of a box. However, the obvious suspects — large moving boxes that clutter every room — are not the villain of this piece. Rather, it was an innocuous banker’s box, a long-term resident of her own office, that sidled into her path and attacked the side of her lower leg a few months back.

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Posted in Politics and Policy, Relationships and Behaviour, Sports and Exercise, Thinking Broadly | Tagged , , | 16 Comments

Happy New Year

You might think I’m a bit behind the times/curve in wishing you a Happy New Year. After all, we celebrated that 37 days ago.

You might think I’m getting a bit ahead of the times/curve/myself in wishing you a Happy New Year. After all, we won’t celebrate the lunar New Year for another 5 days. (I’d say, “Out with the rat!” with more enthusiasm if I didn’t have to also say, “In with the bull!” If there’s one thing of which we do not need more at the moment or for the coming year, it’s bull.)

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Posted in Appreciating Deeply, Laughing Frequently, New Perspectives, Through Space, You are Here | Tagged , | 12 Comments


This week I came across two pieces on medical assistance in dying (MAiD). Both are worth reading.

Andrew Roman

Just as the state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation,
it has no business deciding
how long and how much Canadians must suffer
before we seek medical assistance for a better death.
Andrew’s Views

Chris Selley

As unprepared as much of Canada was to fight a pandemic — to have adequate PPE on hand, to take the threat seriously before it was too late, to secure adequate tests and vaccines — it was totally unprepared to legalize assisted suicide without it becoming a shame and a disgrace. And that’s exactly how we will see it in a few years’ time, if not sooner.

The solution isn’t to limit access. If someone would rather have help dying peacefully than endure squalor, “sorry, we’re protecting your rights” is no kind of answer. There isn’t a solution except to become a better, more competent, more serious country. We haven’t managed it in a lethal emergency unprecedented in our lifetimes. I wish I could see any prospect of it in the giddy, vaccinated, post-pandemic afterglow to come.

National Post


Posted in Politics and Policy, Thinking Broadly | Tagged , | 11 Comments