Morning excitement: I found an ATM that had been tampered with after withdrawing $300 and getting $280. I wouldn't have noticed if I hadn't counted. The money gets dispensed from a slot, and someone had smeared a tacky substance on the inside the slot that catches a bill or two. There was a note on the ATM asking "if you notice that this ATM has been tampered with, please call the Vancouver police". I'm here to get to know Vancouver, so I decided to get to know the police. They responded in 25 minutes which is I guess about average for non-emergency, were appreciative of what I'd found, and followed up later to make sure I gave them my photos. While I waited I saw two different sketchy people walk past the ATM and check it for money.
I've been invited to Canadian Thanksgiving at a friend's house, so I went into the West End to get some wine from the BC Liquor Store. (Alcohol sales seem more restrictive here; Canadian grocery stores do not sell alcohol.) BC Liquor seems like an almost exact clone of BevMo, except it's run by the government and the prices are higher. The California MacMurray Ranch Pinot that I got for $25 sells for $15 in Oakland.
What I was calling "the north half of the west end" is actually Cole Harbor. Very clean but a little desolate. It's mostly tall 20-30 story apartment buildings, built up to give a view of Vancouver Harbor which is exceptionally beautiful, with ships passing in and out of the harbor and condos on the shore behind them on the heavily forested North Shore mountains. There's a big promenade along the shore, a seaplane harbor and landing area for bush pilots going up north, and a "Children's Water Park", basically an area where kids can run around while jets of water rain down on their heads. (I'm not sure what the attraction is in Vancouver where you often get that for free.) The Vancouver Convention Centre is in Cole Harbor, and anyone coming here for Siggraph 2011 will probably spend a lot of time around here.
Buses run all over Vancouver. They are clean and run more or less on time. My Nexus One's map app supports public transit navigation. Its advice about where to walk, which bus to catch, and when those buses would arrive has always been spot-on. This evening's bus happened to take me through Chinatown and I realized what I'd missed. Partly it was the rain keeping visibility poor, partly it was late with few people on the streets, and partly I'd taken a turn too early, but it turns out that there really is a pretty huge Chinatown after all. Not as cramped as San Francisco or Yokohama Chinatown. Definitely deserves a closer look later. On the bus I had a chat with two Chinese people who I thought were locals but it turned out were fellow tourists from Beijing.
I had Canadian Thanksgiving dinner at my friend's place in Burnaby, which was quite pleasant. I asked how similar the holiday was to the American holiday, and the table's consensus was that it was probably mostly a derivation from American Thanksgiving, a month earlier since the Canadian harvest comes earlier. Wikipedia says that Thanksgiving started with a dinner by Martin Frobisher in 1578, giving thanks for his safe return from unsuccessfully seeking the Northwest Passage. But Thanksgiving didn't actually become a civic holiday until 1872, in honor of Prince Edward's recovery from a serious illness. Almost every Canadian I've asked does not know either of these things, so (historical trivia aside) I'm assuming that the real reason they celebrate Thanksgiving is because eating with friends is fun and turkey is delicious.