Aerytwo: 💯 in 2016

10. Picturepedia

Clocking in at 360 pages, N. & I read about two pages of this thing a night together for half of 2016 until it was finished front to back. As he so aptly put it, "there is so much about the world that I can't wait learn!" It's beautifully designed, reasonably priced, and beyond all the useful knowledge inside, it makes for a good reference when we just feel like drawing things like animals, or... famous philosophers through history.

9. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I know, I know, this was a December 2015 movie. But I didn't see it until 2016 with some friends at the Silverspot, a brand-new luxury theater in Chapel Hill with wide plush leather recliner seats and good beer on tap. Since becoming a parent, I can still count on one hand the number of movies I've seen in a theater, so it was an exceptional experience. The Force Awakens awoke within me all the visceral passionate affection for the Star Wars universe I had in my childhood that I thought had been forever extinguished after the three George Lucas prequels. I left the movie energized about the diversity, youth, and sheer unmistakable talent among the new stars. Question is: will Rogue One end up on my 💯 List for 2017... or 2018?

Weekend Update

8. SNL

Saturday Night Live has had its ups and downs, but 2016 has been an up for the show. It became important again. This year was obviously rife with source material for political satire, and critics' opinions on how the show has dealt with the election and its wake are as polarized as the country's opinions of the presidential candidates themselves, but count me among those singing SNL's praises, especially since November. A few takeaways from 2016: 1) the post-election Chapelle/Tribe episode was one of the most meaningful cultural events of the year and an instant-classic all-timer for the show; 2) Kate McKinnon is a national treasure; 3) Michael Che & Colin Jost have finally found their rhythm and have returned Weekend Update to a must-watch level it hasn't been on since Amy Poehler's departure.

Jon Favreau... or is it Jon Aery?

7. Keepin' It 1600

My podcast rotation has for years been a fairly lockstep oscillation between music and sports shows. I didn't think I'd ever have room to introduce politics to the mix, but when I heard Bill Simmons' The Ringer enterprise would introduce a political podcast in March, it piqued my interest. With the election looming and unprecedented WTF dynamics afoot, I wanted some fresher, more in-depth perspective on the political process than I was otherwise getting. Enter Jon Favreau, a Jon Aery look-alike (born only 11 days before). Jon was for four years the director of speechwriting for Barack Obama, whose measured words during his presidency have been the pinnacle of reason, intellect, empathy, and reassurance in our political discourse, and not, say, the buffoonish maniacal musings of a fourth-grade bully carved into a detention room desk. Favreau teamed with other experienced members of Obama's election campaign staff to bring sharp insight into what was happening behind-the-scenes during the run-up to Election Day, and in the remainder of the year, brought some sage, sobering analysis of the aftermath. Favreau and company are leaving The Ringer and taking their talents to a new podcast, Pod Save America, in 2017. You can bet I'll be listening.

Avery Bradley, 2010 Draft Pick, BOS

6. Avery Bradley

When I went away to college in 1997, talking with my dad on the phone was something he and I--out of necessity--started regularly doing. Neither Dad nor I ever particularly enjoyed talking to people on the phone or fancied ourselves skilled at it. But we always appreciated any opportunity to catch up with each other. Looking back, I don't remember ever having a phone conversation with him that didn't at one point or another include us trading thoughts on the Celtics, and what we each thought of the team. We even talked quite a bit about the roster in the final conversation we ever had in February 2013. Pops was pumped about Avery Bradley, whose return in 2013 from major shoulder injury had just given the team a spark to help them win a bunch of games. Rajon Rondo had gone out for the season with an injury at the end of January, but Pops was optimistic that Bradley would be able to keep the team winning.

In 2016, Avery Bradley became the lone remaining player on the Celtics who was on the team when Pops was alive. He finally made the leap Dad knew he could this year, proving to be a solid NBA starting 2-guard, All-NBA defender, second-leading scorer, and he may even become an All-Star before his career is through. As long as he's a Celtic, he'll remain my favorite player in the league. Whenever that inevitable day comes that he's traded or signs elsewhere, it'll be an emotional one.

Shaun T. of Insanity & T25 Fame

5. T25 Gamma Workouts

I'm slightly embarrassed to admit: 2016 is the first year that I have gone without running a single mile since 2008. There were no piles of miles for me this year, only denials of miles. I don't want to make too many excuses for myself--especially living in a temperate climate with favorable sidewalks nearby--but the tedium of managing two small children does take its toll on a man's available workout time. I found a single go-to solution to this conundrum in 2016: the T25 Gamma workouts. Trainer Shaun T leads you through three different intense 25 minute dumbbell circuit workouts, and a speed/agility workout; together these four workouts are everything. This is by far the most efficient workout regimen I've done in my life, and the most enjoyable.

The View from Just OUtside My office

4. Working at Duke

Presenting to Colleagues about Information Architecture

I had a good year at work. Fourteen years into my career at Duke, I was honored to be selected as the Libraries' employee of the year. I learned a ton from some really great new coworkers and got to work on multiple high-impact projects that I genuinely care about. One of the great challenges I faced this year happened frequently on the outdoor wooden chairs pictured in the photo above. Bravely eating two crunchy peanut butter and jelly sandwiches each day in this courtyard in the middle of the workday, I battled my nemesis Alfred (named by N.), a fearless hungry squirrel hell-bent on thwarting my plans to catch up on each morning's tweets while on my lunch break.

We Got it From Here... Thank YOu 4 Your Service

3. A Tribe Called Quest

This album was everything. A reunion album (first album from the group in 18 years). A tribute album (Phife Dawg died in March). A political album (rife with shots at the injustices unfolding). It was the very best album of 2016, chock full of all the bits and pieces of 2016 that defined the year. Q-Tip even worked in a Princess Leia reference (how could he have known?) While Phife was among the many music icon casualties the year claimed, the verses he dropped for this album before his death are pure fire. ATCQ capped off 2016 with a timely spirited SNL performance that simultaneously celebrated the fallen Phife while shining a floodlight on the new President-Elect's demagoguery toward marginalized communities. The band's chant "Let's make something happen!" in "We the People" was the rallying cry so many of us needed after being completely upended on Nov 8.

N. Played "Woozy" on his own for 95 points


After B's birth in 2014, I retired from Scrabble tournament play given a deficiency of time to study, practice, or leave the house for ten hours on any given Saturday to sit in a tiny quiet room in a Golden Corral with thirty strangers. While I've not yet re-entered that particular arena, 2016 marked the first time I felt N. (at five years old) was ready to play. And boy was he ever. For the first time, I opened the carrying case to Dad's custom Scrabble board. I set aside the score sheets from Dad and my final one-on-one games we played--on the final day I ever saw him. And I got to work sharing the magic with my son.

1. Family

Can't beat it. Aery Games. Playing music on the pool deck stage. Thursday Night laugh fests. Snuggling and playing and reading and teaching and learning with kids. Nieces and nephews and more on the way. Unbreakable bonds. Family.

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