Category: Ramsay Writes

A plague of intimacy

For years we’ve batted away the pleas of Nigerian widows, deposed kings and even Jamie Dimon to hand over our credit cards in return for certain fortune.

We can spot them and their badly-spelled pitches from far off. But there’s a new scam on the block. It’s from online marketing agencies who pretend they know us by picking up clues on LinkedIn and faking up an e-mail that implies we went to university together — “Go Tigers!” or that we’re both writers and it sure is lonely, isn’t it?… but mainly that they’re wildly impressed with “Ramsay”.

These e-mails begin with: “Hey, Bob, I’m free at 4. How about we jump on a call for 10 minutes?” For the first one or two, I thought we must know each other. But of course not. What was I thinking? This is the internet.

It’s when you don’t reply that they up their game. “Bob, I haven’t heard back from you – would it be a ridiculous idea to see if we might be a good fit?”


A place to stand? Or a place we can’t stand?

My brother Jim built Ontario Place, so I have a familial interest in the fate of the theme park on Toronto’s shore whose future is being loudly fought over. I also have friends on both sides of that debate.

What’s incontestable is that you should take an active interest in its future – not just because Ontario Place will likely be part of your leisure life, but because it will signal so much of what kind of city Toronto is and can be.

While Ontario Place is owned by the province, which is pushing forward on its plans for a new theme park to open as early as 2027 and serve up to five million people a year, last week Toronto’s planning department issued a critical report on the facility’s new spa in particular.

In 2019 a citizen’s group, Ontario Place for All, was formed, and Alex Bozikovic, The Globe and Mail’s architecture critic, has written a number of gloves-off reviews of the park’s design and funding. Meanwhile, Therme Group, the Austrian-based spa designers, have already made alterations to their original design.

One big question is whether Toronto’s next Mayor will support the new Ontario Place the way our last one did.

There’s a lot at stake here. Well worth some time to study up on the issues and the facts.


April Fuel

The best April Fool’s prank I’ve fallen for took place in 1976 when my alarm, tuned to wake me to CBC Radio One, buzzed on the hour. The newscaster announced that because Canada had adopted metric measurement for weights and distances the year before, henceforth Canadians would shift to metric time: there would be 10 hours in a day and 100 minutes in an hour. Ottawa would be subsidizing the cost of retooling our clocks and watches for the future.

“How had I missed this?!”

Not for a second did I remember it was April Fool’s.

Today, you will likely be pranked by the likes of Virgin, McDonalds, Google, and Airbnb. So be vigilant.

Also, here’s perhaps the best April Fool’s, or rather, the best April Fakes of all.


Cheaters never prosper.

Talk about an obsolete idea. It seems the people who prosper too much these days are the cheaters themselves.   But I leave that discussion to the clerics and philosophers. What gets me is the speed of cheating. It’s spreading from poker to fishing, to chess, where a report this week found that American phenom Hans Niemann had likely cheated over 100 times. As one  pharma executive told me years ago, cheating is behind pretty much every scandal in his industry, and lest we forget, it’s not only rampant in American and global politics, it’s their defining quality.


Today’s new word is “carminative.”

It describes something, usually a drug, that stops farting. I fell across it in an odd place: an essay about Shackleton’s medical kit from his expedition to Antarctica in 1914, and which shows that brilliant writing can turn the most distant, indifferent subject into a pulpit for new thoughts on science, medicine, ‘life back then,’ and of course, endurance.


“Most successful people are just a walking anxiety disorder harnessed for productivity.”

Andrew Wilkinson’s idea won’t leave my head as I scratch it to come up with any successful person it doesn’t describe. Which got me to thinking about that other earwig, Donald Trump. He doesn’t seem anxious, except maybe this week he finally will, as New York Attorney General

Letitia James filed a 222-page lawsuit claiming he and his kids have engaged in massive fraud over many years. The document makes astringent reading. And speaking of reports, Wachtell Lipton’s on the racist and misogynist actions of Robert Sarver, the owner of the NBA Phoenix Suns, exemplifies how law firms are now policing workplace misconduct. But the most shocking of this week’s reports comes from the US Congress which revealed just how much energy companies have misled Americans on the industry’s role in climate change. 


It’s Speech Season

Instagram is jammed with shots of proud parents and their mortarboarded kids, degrees in hand (surely the most expensive paper on earth). Critical to this life passage is the convocation speech. Most of them are forgotten the second their words leave the speaker’s lips. A few, like Steve Jobs’, and Gloria Steinem’s, and Barack Obama’s, live on.

Here are three worthies from this year: The ahhhhmazing Jacinda Ardern at Harvard; Scott Galloway with advice to grads and lifers alike; and Elizabeth Bonker at Rollins College. Bonker, who lives with non-speaking autism and communicates solely by typing, urges her fellow graduates to use their voices to serve others.


Sumer is Icumen In

Odd that this is the title of an English round composed in 1260, because there hasn’t been a summer in the past many years more envied in its arrival than this one. Here are some places to help you get ready: sexy camping gear, plus where to get your next and best bike, plus 10 gardening mistakes to avoid, and the most beautiful coffee shops in the world (including Toronto’s Café Neo).

So, pour yourself a cup and breathe in this week’s Omnium Gatherum…

Changing Weathers.

My Grade 10 geography class taught me that weather is what’s happening outside my door now, and climate is what the weather’s like in three month chunks and more, usually beyond my door. But one of the scarier things about climate change is weather change. Toronto was equatorial last weekend, then overnight it was cold and droopy. While the leaves bloomed like mad, the Leafs predictably died. Time to build a bigger mud room on to your home, and a bigger sun room.

Meanwhile, other vexing questions.

Too hot. Too soon.

It feels we just skipped from winter to summer. But is this one swallow or is it a trend? Will shoulder seasons like spring and fall now last a couple of weeks, then be swallowed up whole by their extreme siblings? Will we all be forced to take up extreme lifestyles in order to weather The New Weather? It feels that way. But before all that, here’s what’s hot this weekend.

The ice is melting on Georgian Bay

Enough to get the kayaks out of the garage onto the dock and into the water. Thus begins our annual rite of spring.

As Andy Grove, the co-founder of Intel, noted, “When spring comes, snow melts first at the periphery, because that’s where it’s most exposed”. This may seem dead-cert obvious, both in business and in kayaking. But it really says to not just keep your eyes on the bullseye, but on the edges, where real change begins. Happy paddling with these little waves from that very place.

The truck stops here.

Of the hundreds of millions of dollars lost by merchants who can’t open their stores, or the billions more lost in trade because the world’s longest undefended border is upended, or the thousands of Ottawans deprived of sleep, the homeless who had their food stolen, the hundred-plus kids living in their parents’ trucks, the indifference of truckers in expelling the racists and anti-Semites among them, of the millions of words and images spent in explaining this nonsense to ourselves and the world, this says it all.


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