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O, Vancouver

I am in Vancouver for about 36 hours. Vancouver anytime is pretty great; in springtime, it is even greater. Snowcaps glimpsed between modern skyscrapers; people from everywhere; lots of green. And, of course, that spectacular meeting of mountain and water. A few random observations:

1. There seem to be more coffee shops per square block, including Starbucks, Blenz, and others, than in any other city I’ve ever been.

2. Near the big courthouse, I walked into a store that sold nothing but fruit. Cut-up fruit at a salad bar and whole fruit for sale by the pound. I like fruit — love it, in fact, far more than the average person. And it’s unbelievably hard to buy good fruit when you’re traveling. But still: a fruit store? I don’t see a future in that.

3. In the Chapters bookstore, I was surprised to see Freakonomics, front and center, still among the best-sellers. I guess it’s easier to stay afloat when you’re not competing against all the big American political books (George Tenet, Barack Obama, etc.).

4. The food here is good. Really good. Where to eat: Glowbal, which is in Yaletown, which is sort of the Vancouver equivalent of NYC’s meat-packing district. What to order: Mushroom satay, short rib satay. What to drink: Sleeman Honey Brown lager (yum!).

5. The biggest culture shock for me is that nobody here jaywalks. Coming from New York, I jaywalk at every opportunity. People look at me funny in Vancouver when I do this. Here, they wait patiently for the light to change, even if there are no cars. I asked several people why this was so. Some suggested that Canadians are simply obedient, whether by conditioning or temperament. Others said that jaywalking has been discouraged by the police, who sometimes ticket jaywalkers. One guy (who worked at Chapters) told me that nobody jaywalks because they are all stoned — apparently, a lot of marijuana is smoked here in Vancouver. Whatever the reason, Levitt should probably spend more time here since he hates it when people cut in line, like in Poland.

6. In a National Post article about the British Columbia Institute of Technology’s biotechnology department — which is churning out lab techs and other health workers as fast as possible, due to a labor shortage in the field — one recent graduate said something about her medical training that reminded me of an issue we’ve written about before: the nature of talent. Here it is:

Ms. Wong recalls that as a high school student, she was always interested in science but wasn’t particularly good at it initially. “Science is one of those things you have to be passionate about. If you don’t have [passion], you don’t get better.”

7. A final note: I flew here from L.A., and from the plane I had a clear view of the fire in Griffith Park. It looked particularly ominous from the air, though at the time, none of us on the plane knew what was burning. Vancouver had its own natural disaster in a beloved park not long ago, when winter storms took down thousands of old trees in Stanley Park. Living near Central Park in New York, I can very much empathize with this kind of loss. Condolences and good luck to all involved, especially the firefighters in L.A., who probably have a hard summer ahead of them.