Modifying “Hop on Pop” So As To Make the Dad Less of a Cranky Killjoy

I love Dr. Seuss. One time I dragged a number of pieces of furniture out of an alley and custom-finished them with cutout illustrations from Seuss books.

Custom-Decorated Dr. Seuss Kids Furniture

Custom-Decorated Dr. Seuss Kids Furniture

I’ve used one of the pieces to track the growth of my children for the past 15 years.

First Measure

Caleb Measure, Spring 2004

I’ve always especially loved Hop on Pop, because it is centered on a dad and two kids, and because the main storyline is the physical joy of attempting to crush your father’s sternum, but being unable to do so.

The problem with the book is that notwithstanding the fact that hopping on pop is a legit fun thing to do, the book casts the father figures as hangdog workaholics who just want to come home and be left alone because of an ostensibly rough day at the office.


So I fired up Photoshop, cranked up Times New Roman, printed out modified versions of key portions of the story, and affixed them to our nighttime reader.

This book was given to my eldest child on his 2nd birthday by his aunt and uncle. I am glad they made an inscription— these are invaluable keepsake-makers.

The cover itself has some freelance customizations from one of the kids.

The first step was to name the characters. I kept the look of surprise on the dad’s face because it exuded a kind of radical “youth beats the olds” type of narrative.

The first off-putting spread is the one that introduces the concept of the sad dad. Boring boring boring.

So I removed “sad”, added “glad”, and removed extraneous obtuse reference to the nature of the father’s day.

Similarly, I switched up the discussion among the youth about what kind of day the parental figure had,. You can see how easy it was to turn everything around. I made a mistake with the terminal point, but I accounted for that by allowing the underlying exclamation to show through.

The last modification occurs at the denouement, where the same illustration from the cover page is the setup for the big reveal— the misguided belief that children must not hop on pop.

The simple change of stop to lots and turning frowns upside down was all it took.

Moments are over in a minute. Offspring outgrow the edges of our measures fast.

Hop on pop as long as you can.

Leaving Smart Chicago for Ad Hoc

Today I am leaving my position as executive director of the Smart Chicago Collaborative to join Ad Hoc, a small software company that came out of the successful rescue effort. I will be joining Paul Smith, Greg Gershman, and the team they’ve built as director of business strategy & product development.

At Smart Chicago, I leave behind what is now an all-women team led by Kyla Williams, who will serve as interim executive director. Together, we’ve built a small, effective powerhouse of community technology.

I was handed a model organization— founding partners of the The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the City of Chicago, and The Chicago Community Trust. Centered in philanthropy, with the direct involvement of the municipal government, in a city with a fecund ecosystem ready to grow.

We’ve created programs that Chicago people love and that resonate across the country. Our Civic User Testing Group, which we invented out of whole cloth in 2013, has grown to more than 1,500 people. Now they’re spreading it across the country— join the CUTGroup Collective here.

We’ve built new brands like Youth-Led Tech, Connect Chicago, Smart Health Centers, Documenters,, Patterns, and Chicago School of Data. Created civic infrastructure like Open 311, Chicago Health Atlas, and Chicago Early Learning. Helped build new businesses, consultancies, and apps. We’ve cared about justice, and lived our principles, always. And we’ve never employed more than five full-time employees.


There is nothing like Smart Chicago.

And now, with Ad Hoc, I am going to help veterans get benefits and help uninsured people get coverage for the first time. I get to join great people— including a longtime friend and EveryBlock colleague— doing great things for millions of Americans.

I will be taking two weeks off before starting at Ad Hoc, and I am wide-open to hearing from people wide and far, especially if you have any stories about how Smart Chicago has affected you or what kind of things you’d like to see in health / gov software. Hit me up at @danxoneil or Le Email.

Lastly, here’s a short clip of me talking at the graduation celebration of our inaugural Youth-Led Tech, conceived with and funded by Get IN Chicago. I tell them that we love them and we’re never going to let them go. And I talk about how easy it is to say things like that, and how hard it is to create systems that deliver on it.

I will not be there for Youth-Led Tech this year. But due to the foresight and planning of Get IN Chicago, and the dozens of Roseland, Austin, and North Lawndale residents Kyla at Smart Chicago has hired to run things, the program has doubled.

Systems for love beat any one person who proclaims it.

My Journals, 2015

I hand-wrote 467 pages in various journals during  2015. This is actual pen-to-paper stuff. For years, I have been keeping five separate journal types going at any given time. I number each of the journals in order (Health Journal #14, Work Journal #46, etc.) and I try to be as honest and contemplative as possible as I write. Here’s a page breakdown and a general take on what I wrote:

Health Journal

I’ve kept this journal since I started my recovery from alcoholism. It’s where I write down facts about and what I think about the status of my physical, emotional, and financial health. I put everything from raw recitations of weight to plans for less spending. Over the last year I spent, believe it or not, circa $1,000 less of coffee than the year before. Just by planning and writing. I fucking love coffee.

Health Journal 14

Continue reading “My Journals, 2015”

15 Years of Sobriety— All Hail Alcoholics Anonymous

Today marks 15 years of sobriety for me. I am not the most devout member of Alcoholics Anonymous, but I do try to practice these principles in all my affairs.

The “Big Book“, which is actually titled, “Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Recovered from Alcoholism” is one of the most influential texts of the 20th century and was created and edited by a process we now know as “crowdsourcing”.

The 12 steps of AA are radical and simple. The meetings themselves are an odd and wonderful combination of rote conformance (the recitation of the steps, the format of the talks) and completely unpredictable local variation. The result is we can walk into a room, anywhere in the world, and have an immediate fellowship and sense of purpose with others. This centralization of mission and decentralization of operations is the basis for myriad movements.

Here’s what works for me:

Continue reading “15 Years of Sobriety— All Hail Alcoholics Anonymous”