A list of major Vancouver hashtags

I’m starting a list of Vancouver hashtags right here! Not Metro Vancouver hashtags, just those for the city of Vancouver alone. The reason: I keep looking for a comprehensive list, and I can’t find one. What else to do but make one myself?

So, here is the list of major hashtags I’ve encountered, with short definitions. Feel free to let me know if additions should be made, but just know that I’m going to try to keep it to “major” hashtags that have general community traction.

Notable Books of 2014

Before we get too far into 2015, here’s my recap of notable books read in 2014. I read 135 books last year and moved my book tracking collection over to Goodreads—you can see the full 2014 list here, but these are the highlights.

Books of 2013

I finally did it—I read 145 books in 2013, topping my record of 134 in 2004!

A few stats:

  • Average number of books read per month: 12.1
  • Highest number read in a month: 18 (December)
  • Lowest number read in a month: 8 (May, June, September)

Favourite books/series from this year, in no particular order:

  • The FitzOsbornes series by Michelle Cooper
  • Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters and How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford
  • My Booky Wook & Booky Wook 2 by Russell Brand
  • Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick
  • The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings
  • The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks - E. Lockhart
  • Mary Roach’s books, especially Gulp, Packing for Mars, and Bonk
  • The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
  • I Wear the Black Hat by Chuck Klosterman
  • Rainbow Rowell’s two adult books, Attachments and Fangirl
  • I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella
  • Hateship Friendship Courtship Loveship Marriage by Alice Munro
  • The View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg
  • All of Susin Nielsen’s books - The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen, Word Nerd, Dear George Clooney, Please Marry My Mom
  • Kenneth Oppel’s Airborn series, Frankenstein series, and the standalone Half-Brother (seriously, so good)
  • The Mothership series by Martin Leicht and Isla Neal
  • How Poetry Saved My Life by Amber Dawn
  • The Wes Anderson Collection by Matt Zoller Seitz
  • Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

If you’re curious, you can also see the full list of my 2013 reads, with intermittent commentary!

Goodbye TransLink, hello Vancouver

Jhenifer Pabillano

There’s a big announcement on the Buzzer blog today: I’m leaving TransLink, and heading to the City of Vancouver to help manage their social media program!

I’m excited at the new opportunity, but leaving TransLink is still hard: I’ve had an amazing five-year run. The post on the Buzzer captures my feelings exactly, so I’ll just repeat it here. 

I’ve got some big news to share with you today—-I’ll be leaving the Buzzer and TransLink as of Friday, August 9, 2013!

I’m off to join the City of Vancouver, helping manage the City’s social media program as their new Social Media Strategist. It’s a huge new role and I’m very excited to join their team.

But after five years with TransLink, it’s definitely not an easy change.

I’m so proud to be the Buzzer blog’s founding editor, and so proud I shared stories from the Olympics, from our control centres and garages, from transit conferences near and far, through podcasts, video, and more. And I’m so proud this work has earned TransLink real recognition from Mass Transit Magazine, and APTA in 2010 and 2012.

Most of all, I’ve loved getting to know the intelligent, committed, and wonderful customers we serve, and it’s an understatement to say I will sorely miss every one of you. It has been a true privilege to be a part of your lives for so long.

It’s a wonderful comfort, though, to leave you in the capable hands of Robert, as the main editor, and Borjana, Jiana, Angela, Tina, Pamela, and Stefanie as contributors—the wonderful new Buzzer crew who have joined me in the past little while. They’re all brilliant folks, and will continue to do great things at TransLink for years to come!

Again, my last day is August 9, so I’ll get to say goodbye to everyone during I Love Transit Week, which I’m so happy to have created back in 2009 :) If you’d like to stay in touch, you can find me at my personal website, pabillano.com, or @jpabillano on Twitter.

Goodbye, everyone, and thank you for everything! I’ll miss you all, but I won’t be too far away.

Park Compass: a quick map of Vancouver playgrounds

Park Compass: Vancouver playground map

For a long time I’ve silently grumbled that there’s no online map that shows all the Vancouver playgrounds. But lo and behold, now there’s Park Compass!

Just visit the Park Compass site on your phone and filter by “Playground” on the right—- then when you’re on the go, you can quickly find the nearest playground so your kid can blow off some steam.

Btw, the news about Park Compass came to me after I tweeted a playground map plea out into the ether: so lazyweb ftw :)

Infographic: How the digital world is affecting Canadian lives

I’m currently enrolled in the UBC Certificate in Digital Strategy program, and a recent assignment was to try making an infographic, using data to tell a story through visuals.

So, I mined a subject I was interested in learning more about: the intersection of digital and how we live our lives. And here is the result! Click the image below to see a larger version.

(OK admittedly, I didn’t use my data in the most rigorous way, and I also think I lack a good conclusion pulling it all together. Nonetheless, I think it still presents a decent broad picture of how Canadians are integrating digital into their worlds, and it was fun to try making an infographic!)

Infographic on how Canadians are using web, mobile, and social media tools

Spotlighted in 24 Hours

TransLink social media 24 Hours article

My work with TransLink’s social media was featured in a 24 Hours article on Friday, April 5, 2013!

Check the full article out on their website while you can. The big story is our fantastic TransLink Twitter account, which now counts nearly 31,000 followers. Here’s what I said about that in the article:

“The ability to give people information in minutes … clearly just fuelled its growth,” Pabillano said Thursday.

“We’re all so much more used to asking questions through online, through quickly texting a friend, and that sort of thing, and this (strategy) really takes advantage of that sort of behaviour.”

Social media shenanigans this week

This week I went to the 2013 Social Media Awards with my colleague and pal Robert Willis, where our work at TransLink was nominated for three awards!

We lost to some fine competitors, but emerged with this photo from SnapStands. I think it’s a fair trade.

Second, Robert and I hosted our first ever Google Hangout at the Buzzer blog, to talk about the history of the Buzzer newsletter. We had a special guest drop by: Mr. Buzzer, the longtime Vancouver transit mascot! This screenshot barely captures the raw excitement in the room when he popped in. Thanks, Mr. Buzzer!

Books of 2012

Inspired by my book pal M, let’s wrap up the year in reading!

Number of books read in 2012: 92

Average number of books read per month: 7.6

Top 10 books/series in no particular order:

Okay, that was eleven books. For the full details on all my 2012 reads, here’s the entire list of books (with periodic commentary!).

Zow - three social media awards from the American Public Transportation Association!

apta adwheel award

Some terrific news this week. The social media work that I manage at TransLink won three big awards!

Specifically, TransLink won three 2012 AdWheels from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), which honour the best in marketing and communications from transit agencies in North America. We won first place in the blog, Twitter, and social networking campaign categories! (Our social networking entry was our fabulous Pet Peeves Facebook campaign!)

You may recall that TransLink’s Buzzer blog, which I’m proud to say I launched and still contribute to, also won first place in the blog category in 2010.  But this year’s awards are quite an unprecedented sweep for us in the social media category. As my colleague Robert wrote on the Buzzer blog, “TransLink has also won a handful of APTA awards in the past, but we’ve never won so many for our social media work. We won three of four social media awards up for grabs!”

It’s amazing to be recognized again this year, and I’m especially proud of our Twitter team‘s win. I help direct our Twitter account’s overall strategy, but the heart and soul is really the team of call centre staff who have done a genuinely brilliant job with TransLink’s Twitter. They’ve delivered fantastic customer service to riders from day one, and racked up 22,000+ followers along the way. They get glowing kudos every day, so it’s wonderful to have them formally recognized by our peers in the transit industry. So well done, everyone!

PS. At the APTA national conference in October, all of our first place entries will be up for a “Grand Award” in the social media category, which essentially means the “best of the best”! I’ll keep you posted if we win ;)

Things to do in Vancouver for new moms and babies

I keep running into new parents who are also new to Vancouver. And pretty soon after, I end up spending a good chunk of time spewing out knowledge on places to meet other new parents, activities to do with your babies, and other sundries. In the interests of sharing this knowledge with way more parents are on maternity leave or paternity leave and Googling for answers, here’s my brief list (current and useful as of 2012).

Parent-infant drop-in groups from Vancouver Coastal Health

Vancouver Coastal Health, our local health authority, runs free parent-infant drop-in groups all over the city. They’re ostensibly about getting your baby weighed and reaching out to the VCH community nurses, but they’re also a sly way of getting you out of the house and meeting other new parents. Half the allotted time is usually just spent sharing or socializing.

There are six VCH community health centres who organize about 3-4 drop-in groups each, scheduled all over the week and located all over Vancouver (so at least one likely fits your nap schedule). They don’t really say it, but you can go to any of them even if you don’t live in the specific neighbourhood for that group. I ended up going to three for various reasons, and my favourite was Raven Song—-the nurses were really helpful, the meeting room is really nice, and there’s a ton of student nurses who help you out with weighing or holding your baby while you run to the bathroom.

Anyway, to find the group nearest you, here’s the main VCH drop-in group page with all the Vancouver health centres listed at the bottom. Click each health centre to see the group locations in different areas of the city—-for example, Pacific Spirit was the centre nearest to me, and they run 4 groups on the west side of Vancouver.

A note: most of the groups are up to 12 months only, because once your baby starts moving, it’s too disruptive for the group to manage. But toddler groups exist for after that (and by that time, you’ve typically met enough parents in the neighbourhood to meet up with on your own).

Movies for Mommies

If you just want a break from home, Movies for Mommies is a weekly movie event at two independent theatres in town (and one in Burnaby). You can bring your baby and nobody cares if they cry while the movie’s on. Plus they’ll turn down the sound for loud bits! Sometimes there’s free promo tables or services at the events, and there’s giveaways for board books and other products. They’re typically held on Wednesdays and Thursdays, but they’re on hiatus for the summer.

Here’s their main website, and here’s their Facebook page, where you can usually find out what movie is playing far ahead of time!

As well, the Ridge Theatre at 15th and Arbutus has a top balcony “crying room” where you and your baby can enjoy the film without driving other patrons nuts. The sound is piped in over a speaker and you can even adjust the volume. Be warned: it’s a bit hot. But still fun!

Family Places

The Family Places are fantastic resources in town: they are basically houses converted to play centres for young children, and anyone is free to drop by there with their kid to play for just $2. Think of it as a daycare-like space where every baby still has their parent/caregiver with them. These places welcome young babies but are astronomically better if your kid is walking and playing with others. They also run structured programs like Mother Goose storytimes and caregiver support.

There’s five Family Places across town:  the Westside, the Eastside, Mount Pleasant, Marpole Oakridge, and South Vancouver.

Drop-in play gym

Almost all the community centres in town run drop-in gym times, where you can show up with your baby and they can play with toys and climbing equipment in the gym. Here’s the list of community centres on the City of Vancouver site: check out the time of the drop-in gym nearest you!

Swap meets

Again, if you don’t mind secondhand items, kids swap meets are the best places to get your baby stuff. The swap meet name is a bit of a misnomer as you don’t need to bring anything to “swap”: it’s really more like a garage sale where awesome kids clothes and toys are on sale for $1 each. Each community in Vancouver seems to run at least one swapmeet a year, but they don’t give a ton of notice as to when they’re happening—- you’ll find out maybe about a month in advance at the earliest. Also, it probably goes without saying, but get there early for the best selection. Although I understand that if you go late, you can also swipe stuff people are trying to get rid of at rock bottom prices. So we all win?

Anyway, where’s the next swap meet? Obsessively check Kids Vancouver for the up-to-date schedule.


If you don’t know about it already, the kids and baby section of Craigslist is also an amazing place to get used baby stuff at reasonable prices. Many a Bugaboo has been bought here at low, low prices. Here’s the link.

Deal websites

There’s a ton of websites that offer you time-limited deals on baby stuff, kind of like Groupon. This can get exhausting but it also can save you a ton of money on things that you were thinking of buying anyway (carriers, accessories, etc). The most well known is Babysteals.com, but there’s a billion more.

Parent mailing lists

There are a wide variety of parent mailing lists that keep you up to date on what’s happening around the city and special deals you can get at stores and stuff. A non-exhaustive list:

And that’s all I can think of!

Drop a comment or send an email if there are corrections or updates, and the like.

The Data-Driven Mom: Baby Connect, Reconsidered Again

OK, we’re 10 months into Baby Connect now and I have to say it’s really not so bad anymore. I’m really not using it for logging as frequently, so the need for speed has abated. Also, there have been a number of nice upgrades that have resolved some of the issues I previously had with the app. For example:

No more clutter! You can customize the homepage with the icons you like best: in my case that’s sleeping, eating, and feeding. And the buttons display the lapsed time since the last recorded instance, which takes care of another complaint.

So Baby Connect is certainly app worthy of your dollars—-the recent upgrades show much improvement, and hell, I’m still using it for tracking naps and milestones. If you want a push to buy it, here you go!

Scissor sharpening in Vancouver

This one’s for all the seamstresses looking for scissor sharpening in Vancouver. Quality Saw and Knife at Quebec and 4th, yo!

Since I took the bus there, they kindly sharpened my fabric scissors while I waited with the baby. (I think typically you drop your scissors off and pick them up later.) And it only cost a cool $5.60!

The sharpening staff is there from 7am to 2pm, so they were able to squeeze my scissors in as long as I arrived during that time.

Where’d I find their name? From the Chowhound boards: here’s one post about knife sharpening, and another. I might try Sharpening House in Kerrisdale next time, but I’m not sure any of the the mobile services listed would come out for just one pair of fabric scissors. And I totally doubt the Santoku store would work on my old sharps (but prove me wrong, please!).

Four Books and One TV Show from My Youth, Re-Imagined With Modern Technology

1. The Baby-sitters Club Series by Ann M. Martin
Goodbye club meetings! Stoneybrook parents won’t tolerate having just three half-hours a week to book a sitter by phone. Instead, Kristy creates online babysitter bookings and hires a Bangalore call centre to field any phone inquiries. Virtual assistants coordinate the sitters’ schedules in Google Calendar, and all club meetings would take place over Gchat. The babysitting diaries of course become a password-protected blog. Also: Kristy gets profiled in Inc., Jackie Rodowsky’s accidents become YouTube sensations, and Charlotte Johanssen gets cyberbullied (but learns a valuable lesson about online privacy and the nature of true friendship).

2. Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews
Chris, Cathy, and their younger twin siblings disappear, but astute friends notice a lack of Facebook updates, text messages and Gchat conversations. A concerned message gets quickly retweeted and reposted throughout the social world: “Do you know where the Dollanganger Four are?” Soon, a Metafilter thread examining the issue leads to several parties digging up the Dollangangers’ twisted family history via online genealogical resources, and local authorities are swiftly dispatched to Foxworth Hall to retrieve the kids. Olivia, Corrine, and Bart Winslow are arrested, and Cathy and Chris give an exclusive interview follows with Anderson Cooper, tying into their soon-to-be released tell-all book. All the brother-on-sister action still happens though.

3. Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson
Living in the shadow of her beautiful twin Caroline, Louise Bradshaw takes to the internet and develops a devoted following by blogging about crabbing, cooking and rustic pursuits in Chesapeake Bay. Teen Vogue profiles her after she signs a book deal with HarperCollins: the article contains a small sidebar about her twin sister’s budding vocal career and jewelry line.

4. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
Mostly the same except with more texting and Facebooking and the like. Also, Margaret spends a bunch of time discussing her conflicted search for religion in the message boards on the Teenage Softies website. A community manager dispenses ineffectual advice with lots of exclamation marks, and sends Margaret an online promo code to get a free trial pack of Softies, “for being such a great contributor!”

5. Ghostwriter - PBS TV show
Ghostwriter is totally obsolete: texting and instant messaging render his skills completely worthless. Lenni and Jamal still take to wearing pens on lanyards, however.

Mr. Peanut

For L’s first Halloween, I tried to find a store bought costume and save myself some effort. But there were hardly any costumes out there, and the ones that did exist were like $60! I mean, $60 for a costume that she’d never ever wear again? Please.

So I sewed my own, and I’m super proud of how it turned out. Onesie, pants, spats, peanut shell, top hat: all made by mom!

As well, please note the monocle and walking stick to complete the outfit :) It’s the little things that count, you know?

On TV Theme Songs and Openings

TV theme songs/openings I skip every time
5. Entourage (for that matter, I’ve skipped the last 4 seasons)
4. Game of Thrones (let’s get to the show already, although the maps are nice)
3. The West Wing (SO LONG)
2. The Wire (hear each variation once and then NEVER AGAIN)
1. Community (though I love it so)

TV theme songs/openings I always let play through
5. Burn Notice (My name is Michael Westen…)
4. Who’s the Boss
3. Gilmore Girls
2. 30 Rock
1. Parks and Recreation

The Data Driven Mom: Baby Connect iPhone app reconsidered

Edit: I’ve come to mostly like Baby Connect after using it for 10 months. So, you know, grain of salt with the review below and all.

I’ve now had two months of experience with Baby Connect, which has given me a markedly less positive view of the app than in my initial review. Begin the first-world whining!

  • It’s sooo slow! When I switch to the app to enter some data, too often have I encountered the startup screen, which takes its sweet time loading all the data before I can get to the entry part. Is this my fault for entering too much data in the app? If so, why allow us to enter so much data into the app? Speed is totally a crucial issue when you’re a mom—sometimes you have only a few seconds to stop a timer or enter a piece of data before your baby will scream, or they’re screaming already and you feel like a dick for prolonging their agony and waiting for your dumb app to load so you can enter info that feels increasingly trivial.
  • The super not-useful home screen that you’re forced to continually revisit. Virtually 90% of the buttons on the home screen are hardly used and barely any useful current data about your baby is displayed—-but you’re forced to go back to the home screen over and over again when you switch timers or enter other data. Why force us to keep on loading a page that doesn’t show anything useful? Why not just make the home screen display all the info in the “List” screen, which actually tells you when your baby was last changed/fed and the detailed chronology of what your baby was up to all day? The home screen for rival app Baby Log is far more intelligently designed (see a photo here), letting you access the timers you need while displaying all the current info about your kid right on the surface.
  • Who cares if you can store so much data on activities if you can’t call it up later? Sure you can enter lots of activity data, but good luck retrieving it. For example, I faithfully log the times when I bathe my baby, but there’s no way to quickly look up when I last bathed her. In comparison, Baby Log had a bath button that let you access the bath data entry form, but also displayed the time elapsed since you last bathed your baby right on top of the button.
  • Zooming in on the charts does not help you understand them better. The axes are eradicated as you zoom in so you have no idea what the zoomed-in bars mean.
  • The sleep timer goes immediately to the home screen after being activated. A minor annoyance that gnaws on your patience over time, because often I just want the sleep timer to stay up so I can keep an eye on how long she’s slept while I’m holding her. None of the other timers do this: why does the sleep timer?

Hopefully this doesn’t sound vindictive but merely descriptive of my frustrations, as I know Baby Connect’s developer is very active in listening to the user base and I’m certainly grateful for what functionality is there. My experience over the past months has just made me prefer Baby Log’s more efficient interface: if it weren’t for Baby Connect’s superior timers, its ability to sync across devices and its online access, and responsive development team, I probably would have switched back already. I feel like Baby Connect allows you to log a ton of data, but it doesn’t consistently do a good job of surfacing key data or ensuring a pleasurable user experience over a long period of time.

(Again, my biases: I have a baby who is 8 weeks old, I like efficiency, and I like being able to analyze accumulated data to improve my understanding of my baby’s behaviour. If you’re using the app for reasons other than this, you probably won’t have the same issues.)

A selection of things I have done as a new parent thus far

  • Recorded the sound of myself shushing my kid, then played it back to her in an infinite loop (God bless the iPhone—and the sound really works to calm her)
  • Watched Alien, Aliens, and sort of at random, two other highlights from the James Cameron oeuvre (Titanic, The Terminator)—there’s a lot of downtime while breastfeeding/rocking your kid to sleep
  • Read so many long form articles it’s silly—again, there’s lots of downtime. My favourite links to read while killing time: Longreads, Give Me Something To Read, Longform, and Ask Metafilter; also, Instapaper is indispensable for making everything nice and readable on the iPhone.
  • Slept for a luxurious five hours straight.
  • Gone to see Super 8 at Movies For Mommies at the Rio. It was a real relief to know you can still see movies as a new parent—there’s change tables, stroller parking, and they turn down the volume on the noisy bits!
  • Taken the baby quite successfully on buses, the Canada Line, and a ferry. Fodder for expansion in a future post!
  • Discovered that the hair dryer is one of the most powerful tools in a parent’s arsenal of baby soothing tools.
  • Taken approximately 8 billion photos and videos of one tiny human being.

And much more, of course, but this is a start :) Who knew so much media consumption was involved in raising a newborn?

The Data-Driven Mom: Baby Connect iPhone app review

Edit: I posted an update to this review after using the app for about 2 months—- and then I reconsidered after using it for 10 months.

You should all know that I’m writing this review on my iPhone, as hey! It’s one of the few devices I can carry around and access one-handed while wrangling a baby! And boy, is it a lifesaver: how did moms do anything without smartphones, seriously? It’s a connection to the outside world, an entertainment device, a camera, and of course, a serious data collector.

Which brings me to my review of Baby Connect, the iPhone baby tracking app, as promised in the Baby Log review I posted earlier.

Baby Connect is $5 and well, it’s basically usurped the role of Baby Log on my phone. It provides the robust functionality I was looking for in an app—and to be specific about my situation: my baby is six weeks old, and I use the app mainly track feedings, sleep duration, and diaper changes. So parents of older children might be looking for different attributes, but that’s not what I’m looking for or rating the apps on.

But while Baby Connect is functionally good, it does lack in terms of presentation. Or put another way, while all the data you want is physically in there, it’s a real trial to find what you’re looking for sometimes. Here’s a few examples.

  • The home screen feels overly complex. Most of the screen real estate is given to a bunch of static buttons showing you which activities you can enter, and the really useful stuff about when your kid last fed or last had a diaper changed is relegated to super-tiny-text on the bottom of the screen. You can go to a List view to see this data larger, but that’s two steps instead of one, isn’t it—and time can be of the essence when you’re managing a baby and trying to figure out when you last fed her!
  • Editing prior entries takes a wee bit long. This is an example of some redundancy in the app. You can select entries you’ve made in the app and edit them, but the app always makes you go to an interim screen displaying the info about that entry before you get to the editing dialog—-where the info about that entry is also displayed as well. So why not eliminate that interim screen?
  • All logged entries are just in one long, undifferentiated list. Which is fine if you’re looking for only a chronological approach when investigating your child’s actions. But sometimes you want to sort the entries by different criteria to see what’s going on and how things stack up! For example, in Baby Log, if you tap the Sleep button, you get a list of only all the past Sleep entries you’ve made, which can be very useful (Baby Log keeps its undifferentiated chronological list of actions on its home screen).
  • Graphs are more useful, but still too small and imprecise to use for discerning patterns. There’s a lot of interesting charts here, but you still can’t zoom in and look at the data very specifically—your only option is to go to the .csv files and eyeball the raw numbers. Which is not the same as manipulating the charts visually! Seriously, I want to be able to look closely at the day-long chart of my baby’s actions and figure out if there’s common times when she feeds, sleeps, does poops, etc. Or I want to look at the chart of the common intervals for feedings and perhaps change the data that’s being graphed. If I’m doing all this terrific data collection, why not give me more visual tools to manipulate it with?

However, Baby Connect has taken over from Baby Log for a reason, and that’s because its features are super robust and intelligent beyond the presentation problems. Some favourites:

  • Sync data across devices and online! Yes! Multiple caregivers can be assigned to the same child, so if your partner installs Baby Connect on his or her phone, entries you both make get merged into one data stream for the kid. Also, there’s automatic backups to a central server (baby-connect.com) and you can even enter info through the web interface. Fantastic!
  • Intelligent timers. Say you’ve taken a few minutes to settle your kid into feeding, which means starting a feeding timer would actually be two minutes behind. With Baby Connect, you can just set the actual start time for the feed, and the app will add the extra time and continue the timer ongoing. The app is also very consistent about reporting when your baby last did an action—you can actually set it to count time since the start or the end of the last activity. As well, for past entries, you can just set start and end times and the app will automatically calculate duration for you, which Baby Log couldn’t do for some reason.
  • Export is much better. Data comes in one big .csv package dump, and you can download it from the web interface too. Nice!

So in sum, Baby Connect is the clear winner thus far, though there are some things wanting. And I’ll keep you posted as my app adventures continue!