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solving problems

There’s a wonderful scene in film director Morten Tyldum’s dramatic thriller The Imitation Game, where mathematics professor and WWII cryptanalyst, Alan Turing and a top-secret team at Benchley Park find themselves short of qualified staff to crack the infamous Nazi Enigma codes. Once the enigma was unravelled, the codebreakers would end the war more quickly and decisively in Britain’s favour.

Turing proposes to find the staff they need by first advertising a particularly perplexing crossword puzzle: “IF YOU CAN SOLVE THIS PUZZLE IN UNDER TEN MINUTES PLEASE CALL STO-6264 FOR AN EXCITING CAREER OPPORTUNITY.” Those candidates were then invited for further testing, which involved solving another more challenging puzzle in “under six minutes.”

A high-ranking MI-6 character, named Stewart Menzies, asks Turing not only if he believes such a test qualifies candidates for Benchley Park—but also, if such a task is even possible. To which Turing responds, “No, it takes me eight [minutes].

“This isn’t about crossword puzzles. It’s about how one approaches solving an impossible problem. Do you tackle the whole thing at once, or divide it into smaller problems…?”

Emergency Orders Under the Quarantine Act: Best Plans; Better Practices

An emergency order—under the Quarantine Act—requiring all travellers returning to Canada to immediately self-isolate for 14 days (after putting a mask on before leaving the airport) remains in effect. Now, this week, the Public Health Agency of Canada reported setting up almost two dozen Canadians in federally designated—yet undisclosed—quarantine sites and self-quarantine lodgings. What’s all this “doubling down” on Covid containment about?

On Wednesday this past week, the federal government of Canada used its formidable powers under the law in an effort to further contain the virus. Fair plan; fair enough. Prime Minister Trudeau also made it clear that anyone who contravenes the Act or its regulations—or causes a risk of death or serious harm to others—can be fined up to $1-million and imprisoned for up to three years.

Trudeau himself, you’ll recall, sensibly put himself under self-quarantine as a precaution last month, when his wife Sophie Grégoire contracted the virus. Even Chancellor Angela Merkel, PhD, self-quarantined, after learning that her own physician was infected. Both Dr. Merkel and Mr. Trudeau tested negative. But here’s the rub: Although neither Canada or Germany is (yet) in full lockdown— unlike more restrictive mass quarantines like we see right now in the UK, Italy, and India—our schools, shops, restaurants and theatres are all closed, and gatherings of more than two people in parks and playgrounds are banned.

For all intents and purposes, neither Canada or Germany is immune to the damning effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Except in one significant way: comparatively, very few Germans are dying from the disease by comparison. What explains this? (In phenomenology, one brackets or excludes any shortcut explanations or rumours.)

As of March 29th, of the 56,202 confirmed cases, only 403 patients had died in Germany. For the Germans, that’s a fatality rate of just 0.72 percent. By contrast, Italy’s rate was 10.8 and over twice as many people have died in the UK, where there are three times fewer cases than in Germany, according to the New York Times this week.

Canada has close to 19,000 confirmed cases and 420 deaths so far, and that’s with less than half the population of Germany, dramatically more contained geographically. Canada’s 37.6 million vs. Germany’s 83 million. By further contrast, New Zealand confirmed its first death from the novel coronavirus this past Sunday—a 70-year-old woman—out of approximately 524 total cases so far. Data shows worldwide infections nearing the 665,000 mark, with almost 30,000 deaths to this point. More than 140,000 have already recovered from their infections.

What we’ve learned the hard way—by dividing wicked problems into a complex series of smaller ones…

After weeks of analysis, just why it is that Germany and New Zealand have fewer rates of fatalities from Covid-19 than Canada, the UK, or the United States? For the short term at least. The answer seems to be to adopt the practices learned from the facts gleaned as the result of better cases.

  • Test early; test often;
  • Track the contacts of those people infected, using qualitative data as well as quantitative results. (For example, by protecting more vulnerable groups, such as older residents in retirement homes—who appeared at greater risk early on);
  • Quarantine exposed citizens, including those without symptoms who may be unwittingly carrying the virus. There may be no “light at the end of the tunnel;” but there may be a “long and winding road” ahead, leading us to it… Many more young people in Germany have tested positive for the virus than in other countries. The fact that Germany has done more extensive testing may explain part of that. But there’s also environmental and cultural considerations that must be taken into account over the long-term. Since it seems inevitable that such pandemics and other disasters appear likely to recur in our future. Germany maintains a healthy outdoor-physical sport culture. Skiing, for instance, is a popular, outdoor family activity with around 15-million enthusiasts who go skiing each year in the Black Forest mountains and nearby holiday resorts in the Austrian/Italian Alps. Whereas, according to recent findings released by Active Healthy Kids Canada reveals that the overall physical activity levels of Canadian children continue to lag a good way behind youngsters from other nations. Regardless of trailing many kids the same age in physical activity per se, the report finds that, on average, Canada is among the leading nations in physical activity infrastructure and programs. For example, Canada ranks third, given an “C-plus” for organized sports programs, behind New Zealand and Australia, with 75 percent of five to 19-year-olds participating in organized sport.

Despite finding there are ample places and programs to play in—such as the many parks, pools, and other outdoor boardwalks and spaces we have within a few minutes walking distance of our CityPlace condominiums—only one in four of our younger folks breaks a sweat in any of them.

The vast majority of students all across Canada…

[have] regular access to a gymnasium (95 percent), playing fields (91 percent) and areas with playground equipment (73 percent) during school hours. And still, Canadian kids aged three to four spend 5.8 hours of every day being sedentary. That number spikes to 7.6 hours a day for five to 11-year-olds, while 12 to 17-year-olds spend 9.3 hours a day immobile, except (perhaps) for fondling screens and video player joysticks with their thumbs and fingers. In fact, 62 percent of parents reported their five to 17-year-olds were always driven to and from school.

Canadian children and youth were ascribed “D-minus” for physical activity levels, all-inclusive. New Zealand and Mozambique (“B-grade”) topped the charts for overall physical activity levels. Canada trails near the back of the pack internationally—along with Australia, Ireland, and the United States of America, who were also each assessed a “D-minus,” while Scotland received an “F.”

As a contemporary culture, we appear stuck in this mire of insatiable expedience. We delude ourselves into thinking we’re doing more in less time— multitasking—when we walk our dogs and kids without taking our eyes off of our cell phones. Isn’t it time we face up to the ubiquitous “black mirror” in our palms and pockets, and recognize we’re living at odds with promoting our own and our children’s physical-mental-emotional-spiritual health. For what? Name something more valuable and worthy of your time and other resources, I dare you.

Which brings me to what I’d like to say about using this site as an efficacious community forum for probing wicked messes and sundry…

I’d like to propose a voluntary change in our healthy mind diets (a subject on which I plan to explore with you in our next installments). Beginning with my appeal for your involvement on behalf of the entire CPRA Board of Directors. (Whom I encourage you to relentlessly hound for their opinions. They’re a bright bunch of amiable bandits, eager to hear from you too.) This can be your mic and virtual soapbox to us and the entire CityPlace community to which we all belong.)

I hope I speak for the entire Board when I say we welcome, even solicit, dissenting views. Our goal is not to tell anyone else what to think—we don’t

have the temerity for that—but rather to entertain different points of view. Perhaps strengthening support for your own project of enlightenment and sharing this with others. Keeping a close watch on how all of our lives may be changing forever. Much, we hope, for the better.

We Want to Hear from Each of You

How, for example, is the pandemic likely to alter the ways in which we gather to socialize, work, shop, worship (at church, theatre, café or gym)? Or how we intend to go on educating and entertaining our children and ourselves differently from now on? Will it be, for instance, as it remains much the same for a ghostwriter like me? Or will your life have changed in ways for which there’s likely no going back to the “way things used to be?”

We want to—I want to—hear from those of you working and those of you anxious to start working again, or try something new for a change? Imagine what it is we don’t know that we need to find out. Imagine how we might go about it. Is there something we are avoiding that needs asking, or expressing? Whose voices are not being heard? How can we probe them to share what they have to contribute?


Since only a small part of the totality of human experience is ever retained in consciousness, our individual experiences become—for better and worse— culturally sublimated in our collective memory as recognizable entities. Such as the community known as CityPlace Toronto. These reflections upon otherwise taken-for-granted shortcuts and beliefs require lessons in courage and skill that can be found in the shared awareness of individuals like you and me. Please speak up, I can’t hear you. But I’d like to.



CPRA President
Peter Chiaramonté, PhD

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