Pro Wrestling

The Best Professional Wrestling Matches of 2015

Banner Image - Matches of the Year 2015

I am proud to present my list of the best professional wrestling matches of 2015!  Only matches that I have viewed personally are eligible for this list, which largely limits this consideration to WWE, NXT, Ring of Honor, and New Japan Pro Wrestling (sorry TNA).  I’ve sorted these matches into silver, gold, and platinum tiers with the latter containing my personal ranking for the top nine matches of the year.  Of the 26 listed, the breakdown by company is:

New Japan Pro Wrestling – 13
WWE – 6
Ring of Honor – 4
NXT – 3

A handful of performers deserve special recognition for appearing on this list multiple times.  These include AJ Styles (5), Kota Ibushi (5), Hiroshi Tanahashi (5), John Cena (3), Shinsuke Nakamura (3), Kazuchika Okada (3), Seth Rollins (3), and Roderick Strong (3).

 

Silver Tier

Kazuchika Okada vs. Roderick StrongField of Honor – An excellent addition to the Roderick Strong Versus the World Tour.  Witnessing one of the very best American wrestlers grapple with the IWGP Heavyweight Champion was an absolute pleasure.

Jason Jordan and Chad Gable vs. Rhyno and Baron CorbinNXT TakeOver: Respect – Jason Jordan and Chad Gable have done an amazing job of winning over the NXT crowd with little more than being excellent in the ring.  Gable is a chain wrestling prodigy, while Jordan is a hard-hitting amateur-style star in the making.  This was the biggest match these two had ever been in, and they delivered.  Corbin’s End of Days in this match was a thing a beauty.

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Katsuyori ShibataG1 Climax Day 13 – This was a Shibata-style match, but Tanahashi hung with him the entire time, proving why he is one of the best in the world.  In one memorable sequence Tanahashi stopped Shibata’s signature hesitation dropkick with a kick to his shin.  When Shibata ran to the far rope to try it again, Tanahashi rose from the corner to counterstrike, but Shibata turned around quickly and delivered the European uppercut.  Spots like these made this match feel familiar and original all at once.  They traded submissions, then worked up to strikes.  The finish deflated me, but could not diminish the quality of a contest that was fun from start to finish.

Seth Rollins (c) vs. Neville for the WWE World Heavyweight ChampionshipMonday Night Raw June 3 – In my opinion this was Neville’s best match in WWE.  He executed a number flips and ranas the WWE audience had never seen before.  The unconscious Rollins’s foot on the rope following the Red Arrow was one of the closest two-counts EVER in a WWE Championship match.  Outstanding, athletic, heart-racing stuff.

Kota Ibushi vs. Tetsuya NaitoG1 Climax Day 11 – By this point, Naito had fully adopted the role of despicable heel, while Ibushi fought with heart and full crowd support.  There were some AWESOME high-impact maneuvers and counters in this one, like Naito’s top rope reverse hurricanrana that I thought took Ibushi’s head off, and Ibushi’s jumping over Naito’s sliding kick and landing straight on Naito’s chest.  This match actually made me yell out loud at multiple moments.  These two have such amazing chemistry together.

Katsuyori Shibata vs. Kota IbushiG1 Climax Day 7 – This was probably the best third-match-from-the-top of any of the G1 Climax shows this year.  You knew with the talent of the men involved that this was going to be great, and it was.  If only they had given them more time.

Jay Lethal (c) vs. Roderick Strong for the ROH ChampionshipDeath Before Dishonor – One of two matches on this list that I saw live this year, this 60-minute marathon had a polarizing effect on fans.  Some thought it went too long without a satisfying conclusion.  I’m in the other camp that marvels at the ability for two wrestlers to perform the very difficult feat of going the hour.  This is worth your time.

Seth Rollins (c) vs. John Cena for the WWE World Heavyweight ChampionshipSummerSlam/Night of Champions – I’m lumping these two matches together because I thought they were equally good.  I want to pay special attention to the SummerSlam match where Rollins just totally rocked it.  He adopted the new white gear, and since he was given a chance to work a long match, looked like a superstar.  Rollins brought out a lot of stuff we don’t normally see from him like the frog splash, roll-through Attitude Adjustment, and superplex into a falcon arrow.  The crowd’s energy was excellent as well.  Even the Jon Stewart finish couldn’t take away from two of 2015’s best.

 

Gold Tier

Tomohiro Ishii (c) vs. Tomoaki Honma for the NEVER ChampionshipPower Struggle – This was similar is style to their match at New Beginning Sendai, but better on all levels.  These men fought like warriors, connecting with more high impact clotheslines, slaps, elbows, and by-God headbuts than I could count.  After missing the first couple, Honma hit a suite of Kokeshis from every possible angle including a sick one off the top rope to the floor.  The last few minutes saw a slew of near falls following moves that looked like they could kill a normal person.  I thought it was over numerous times before Ishii finished Honma off with the brainbuster.  The crowd was super into it, and the sight of Honma being helped out in tears was perfect.  Excellent match!

HHH vs. StingWrestlemania XXXI – I understand that this might be a unpopular choice for some because, let’s face it, the action in the ring was not the best you’re going to see.  However, the spectacle of seeing Sting wrestling in a WWE ring for the first time was definitely special.  What made the match for me though, was a first-time ever epic encounter between DX and the nWo.  I know they’re all really friends and were standing together at the Hall of Fame the night before, but it didn’t matter to me.  Plus, it’s Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania.  I apologize for being such a mark.

Kazuchika Okada vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi (c) for the IWGP Heavyweight ChampionshipWrestle Kingdom 9 – The story going into this match was that in order for Okada to become the “ace” or “face” of the company, he had to go through Tanahashi first.  This was outstanding from bell to bell.  Both men won their share of fan support before the end of the match brought them to a frenzy.  For the very first time, someone (Tanahashi) kicked out of the Rainmaker Clothesline!  This match provided great drama and a surprising finish – one that would ultimately pay off a year later – that make this a must-see.

Shinsuke Nakamura (c) vs. Kota Ibushi for the IWGP Intercontinental ChampionshipWrestle Kingdom 9 – Both of these men had an excellent year filled with classic matches, but in the eyes of many, including me, this is one of the best.  Dave Meltzer gave this match 5 stars and I’m not going to argue with his assessment.  The sight of Ibushi German suplexing Nakamura into the ring while standing the second rope still hangs with me.  If you are a wrestling fan and missed this match, do yourself a service and find it.  It is beyond excellent.

ROH All Stars (The Briscoes, Roderick Strong & War Machine) vs. Bullet Club (AJ Styles, The Young Buck, Doc Gallows & Karl Anderson) – War of the Worlds Night 1 – This was probably the best 10-man tag match I have ever seen.  The action was so fast, furious, and impactful that it was hard to even keep up with all of it.  Each wrestler was given an opportunity to look like a star and the finish took nothing away from anybody.  You might call this a demolition derby, and it might be more candy than steak, but my goodness was it delicious candy.  This was one of ROH’s best matches of 2015.

KUSHIDA vs. Kyle O’ReillyNew Japan Best of the Super Jr.’s Finals – These two fought like heroes for 32 minutes. Both men suffered arm injuries in the match which caused them to adapt their styles. There were plenty of high-impact moves, strikes, parries, counterstrikes, dodges, and chain wrestling.  The last five minutes were packed with edge-of-your-seat action and dramatic near falls.  The winner moved into a higher position, and the loser looks better in the loss than when he came in.  This is the way wrestling is supposed to be done.

Bayley (c) vs. Sasha Banks for the NXT Women’s Championship in a 30-minute Ironman MatchNXT TakeOver: Respect – Many people view Sasha Banks as one of – if not the – best female wrestlers in the world.  In this match, Bayley got to prove that she’s right on that same level.  Because it was held at Full Sail, it didn’t possess the epic aura of their classic in Brooklyn, but the more intimate atmosphere allowed for some great heel antics, like when Sasha stole Izzie’s headband to mock Bayley.  This is was the first time (in my memory) that women were given the opportunity to main event a major show, and they delivered.  The moment when the locker room came out to congratulate Sasha before she moved up to the main roster for good put a giant smile on my face.

Bayley vs. Sasha Banks (c) for the NXT Women’s ChampionshipNXT TakeOver: Brooklyn – This was absolutely incredible, and arguably the best women’s match in WWE history.  Sasha entered in a giant black SUV flanked by bodyguards, making her look like a total boss.  Her disdain for Bayley’s dream to become champion coursed throughout this match.  The little mannerisms, glances, and details made this special, like when Sasha stomped on Bayley’s hand as she reached for the ropes to break the Bank Statement.  Bayley reversed Sasha into her own Bank Statement.  Sasha kicked out of the Bayley-to-Belly.  Bayley shocked the world with a top rope reverse hurricanrana.  The moment where the Four Horsewomen gathered together in the ring to celebrate was one of my favorite moments of the year.  I felt sorry for the main event.  They had no chance of surpassing this.

John Cena vs. Seth Rollins vs. Brock Lesnar (c) for the WWE World Heavyweight ChampionshipRoyal Rumble – Three consumate professionals competed together and proved just how good they are.  Tight sequences, expertly-exucted manuevers, and impecable timing were everywhere here.  Seth Rollins’s elbow from the top rope through Lesnar on the table was ridiculous!  The Phoenix Splash spot was amazingly well-timed.  The counter of finishers at the end was simply excellent.  If only the rest of WWE’s 2015 was this good.

 

Platinum Tier

9) AJ Styles (c) vs. Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP Heavyweight ChampionshipDominion – This was the best match of what was arguably New Japan’s best show of the year.  The series of rapid counters and near falls was remarkable.  I will never forget the final flurry between these two that eventually ended the match.  I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything better than it.

8) Kevin Owens vs. John CenaMoney in the Bank/Elimination Chamber/Battleground – This was easily the best series of three matches between any two wrestlers this year.  Kevin Owens made a memorable Raw debut by going right after John Cena and telling him that he was going to beat him.  Then, in his first match on the main roster, Kevin Owens did just that.  His win sent shock waves through WWE, raising speculation that maybe there was an opportunity for a new top guy to emerge.  The results of the next two matches dampened that enthusiasm, but we shouldn’t let that distract us from the fact that Owens and Cena produced three absolute classics this year.

7) Kota Ibushi vs. AJ Styles G1 Climax Day 5 – AJ Styles wrestled this match right around the time he turned 38 years of age.  What’s so remarkable is that I’m not sure he’s hit his peak yet.  He doesn’t seem to have lost any of his athleticism.  His mat wrestling has improved since his time in TNA and his character is more well-developed than ever.  In short, he looks like a superstar.  In this match, AJ had the opportunity to tangle with another one of the top – and underrated – stars in the world, Kota Ibushi.  Ibushi held his own to prove to AJ and all of New Japan that the future is indeed bright.

6) AJ Styles vs. Jay Lethal (c) for the ROH Championship Final Battle – AJ entered this match having had probably the best year of his professional career.  He was one of the few gaijin to ever hold the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, and he put on classics while defending it.  His Bullet Club was one of the hottest acts in wrestling.  More importantly, wherever AJ Styles goes, he’s a megastar.  As mentioned on commentary, Jay Lethal must be included in the discussion for best year of any ROH wrestler ever.  He was the longest reigning TV Champion in history.  He won the World Championship simultaneously and successfully defended both on the same show.  He went an hour with Roderick Strong.  He made himself arguably into Ring of Honor’s top guy.

These factors made this match tremendously compelling.  We entered expecting each to be on top of their game, but both elevated theirs.  The first few minutes saw multiple bouts of superior chain wrestling – acts that were long, fluid and innovative.  Lethal went after the back, knowing that AJ had been rehabbing it for weeks.  Truth interjected himself in all the right moments.  A couple wicked spots near the end of the match – including one involving a table – and a finish that seamlessly incorporated Lethal’s storyline with Jerry Lynn made this my favorite ROH match of 2015.

5) Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kota IbushiG1 Climax Day 1 – This was the main event of the show that kicked off the G1 Climax tournament, and New Japan picked a doozy.  I usually keep notes during matches, but this time I just got too lost in the action.  The only thing I wrote down afterwards was “wrestling perfection.”  Stop what you’re doing right now and go watch this.

4) Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Hirooki Goto (c) for the IWGP Intercontinental ChampionshipDestruction in Kobe – This was the product of two masters of their craft who know each other well.  Throughout the entire contest, we waited for each wrestler’s signature maneuvers, and so did they.  Every move was made new by the creative counters and counters to counters each man employed.  This match included working on body parts, hard hitting Japanese-style striking, fluid and innovative technical wrestling, and a slew of near falls.  The finish was so satisfying that I actually threw my hands up into the air and cheered after the three count.  God, was this good.

3) Brock Lesnar vs. The UndertakerHell in a Cell – JBL commented on how the mood of the entire arena changed when this match started, and he was right.  This had the feel of two men about to go to war.  It was one of the stiffest WWE matches you would see in 2015.  Brock and Taker both bled hardway, and it stood out so much since WWE rarely does blood anymore.  Lesnar employed wicked chair shots, went brarefisted, and executed quick-as-hell suplexes.  Taker took a BEATING, but managed a Hell’s Gate and enough strikes to stay in it.  Both men kicked out of each other’s finishers.  Lesnar’s seeing the tear in the canvas and deciding to tear the ring up was brilliant.  I can’t remember ever seeing the wood beneath the ring in WWE before.  The postmatch was perfect.  Brock is sold as unbeatable, Taker gets minutes of pure respect as if it’s his last match, and the Wyatts carry him away.  I have a busy mind, but I did not lose focus on this for one second.  In my opinion this was the best WWE match of 2015.

2) Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. AJ StylesG1 Climax Day 17 – This was an epic 23-minute contest in which the winner would win the A Block and advance to the G1 Climax Finals.  This was a back-and-forth affair in which both men stayed so evenly matched, you couldn’t wait to see who would ultimately seize the advantage.  Every move seemed to have a counter, and every impact that landed was intense.  This was one of those fights in which all the little things seemed to matter, where the fluidity makes it seem like the game is slowing down for the wrestlers, while we marvel at their heroics in real time.  AJ and Tanahashi eventually hit their own finishers and then the other’s!  The crowd built to a frenzy by the end of this wrestling classic.

1) Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Shinsuke NakamuraG1 Climax Final – The G1 Climax is unquestionably the greatest annual tournament in wrestling, and the Finals has consistently delivered one of its best matches.  The winner of this one would advance to the main event of Wrestle Kingdom 10 to face the IWGP Heavyweight Champion, Kazuchika Okada.  Okada had regained the championship earlier in the year, but had yet to cement himself as the “ace” of the company.  If Tanahashi won, Okada would face the current ace, and the man he had never been able to defeat at Wrestle Kingdom.  If Nakamura won, Okada would face the leader of his own faction, CHAOS, in a match that could see Nakamura “pass the torch” to his younger stablemate.

With the future direction of New Japan Pro Wrestling on the line, the pressure was squarely on the shoulders of arguably the two greatest professional wrestlers in the world to deliver a match worthy of the set up.  Given the talent levels of Tanahashi and Nakamura, the fans were expecting something special.  We ended up getting a wrestling classic, and one that earns the distinction of being my favorite match of 2015.

Anticipation was palpable.  The fans buzzed like a Wimbledon crowd that wanted to explode into cheers, but which was constrained by respect and cultural convention.  Tanahashi set the early pace by working a headlock.  Once Nakamura escaped, they fell into “wrestling jazz,” a sort of improvisational grappling that ultimately led to a standoff.

Long matches of this kind always need a spark to propel them to the next level.  Here, that spark was disrespectful taunting.  Tanahashi tried for the vibration kick, then Nakamura lightly, mockingly, and repeatedly kicked a kneeling Tanahashi in the face.  Anger and intensity grew.  After Tanahashi hit a crazy High Fly Flow onto Nakamura from the top turnbuckle to the floor, the match shifted into high gear.

Tanahashi executed some wicked dragon screw leg whips and negotiated Nakamura into a Lion Tamer.  Nakamura escaped and hit a pair of Bomaye knees.  Tanahashi attempted to counter a third with a bridging reverse hurricanrana, but Nakamura hit it anyway, leading to a fabulous near fall.  The crowd was electric, as they knew the match could now end at any point.

As both men descended into exhaustion, their shots became stiffer, as if each thought he might only have one more left in the tank.  Tanahashi and Nakamura chain wrestled into their signature maneuvers.  The young lions at ringside displayed expressions of shock.  Finally, Tanahashi won a battle on the top turnbuckle and hit three High Fly Flows.  He covered Nakamura for the pin at the 32-minute mark, causing the crowd to erupt with approval.  I cannot recommend watching this highly enough.

 

Honorable Mentions: Cena vs. Cesaro (Raw June 29 and July 6),  AJ Styles vs. Shibata (G1 Climax Day 1), Ibushi vs. Naito (New Japan Cup semis), Honma vs. Ishii (NEVER Championship – New Beginning Sendai), Adam Cole vs. Kyle O’Reilly (ROH Final Battle), The New Day vs. Lucha Dragons vs. Usos (Tag Team Championships – TLC), Cena vs. Sami Zayn (Raw May 4), Sakuraba vs. Shibata (Dominion), Finn Bálor vs. Adrian Neville (NXT Rival), AJ Styles & The Young Bucks vs. Adam Cole, Matt Taven & Michael Bennett (War of the Worlds Night 2), Jack Evans vs. Angelico (PWG Battle of Los Angeles – Night 2), Nakamura vs. Goto (IWGP Intercontinental Championship (Dominion)), The Young Bucks vs. reDragon (ROH 13th Anniversary)

Personal

Charm City Bills Backers Parade Through Steelers Bar

Buffalo Bills Logo

It may be nothing more than sweet solace at the end of an otherwise disappointing season for the Buffalo Bills, but damn, their win over the NY Jets in their regular season finale sure does feel good.  The scenario was this: if the Jets beat the Bills, they were in the playoffs.  If they lost and the Pittsburgh Steelers won against the hapless Cleveland Browns, the Steelers would take their place in the postseason.  Coincidently, Baltimore’s Buffalo Bills bar, The Rockwell, and its Steelers bar, Todd Connor’s, are right next door to one another.  Late in the fourth quarter, the Bills intercepted a Jets pass, effectively sealing the game for Buffalo and sending the Steelers to the playoffs.  In response, we Bills fans decided to parade our celebration straight through Todd Connor’s!  Watch a rare moment of simulataneous sports elation.

Video Games

The Fastest Way to Level Up in Skyrim

Banner Image - Leveling Up in Skyrim

I recently figured out an incredibly fast way of leveling up your character in Skyrim.  First, it pays to understand just how one levels up.  Skyrim contains 18 skills, each of which can independently level from 15 to 100.  Examples include One-Handed, which levels each time you use a one-handed weapon, and Light Armor, which levels each time your light armor is damaged in combat.

Each time one of your skills gains a level, your character will level up a little bit.  Therefore, the trick to leveling your character is to level at least one skill very quickly.

The skill of choice for quick leveling is Alchemy.  Each time you create a potion at an alchemy table your Alchemy level increases a little bit.  The magnitude of the increase is proportional to the value of the potion created.  In other words, create lots of powerful potions and level up fast.

This process is optimized once your Alchemy and Enchanting skills are leveled to 100 and all of their perks are learned.  This won’t happen all at once, but if you follow the steps below they will level quickly.  Once you max them out, repeat the steps below to optimize the process.

Potions are created by combining two or more ingredients that you discover wandering around Skyrim.  These include flowers you can pick, flying insects you can trap, and parts of enemies left behind like a Giant’s Toe.  You could collect these ingredients in the wilderness, but that approach is very slow.

Instead you should grow ingredients yourself.  You can do this in the Hearthfire DLC by building your own house.  Other guides have covered how to do this, so I’ll skip those details.  The key is to include two things in your house – a garden and a greenhouse.  You need to harvest three ingredients: creep cluster, mora tapinella, and scaly pholiota.  Each of these can be discovered or purchased on their own.

The benefit of planting in a garden and greenhouse is that you harvest three to five plants every time they grow.  Once you advance your alchemy skill to level 70, you can unlock the Green Thumb perk that doubles that amount.  That means 6 to 10 plants for each pot or plot that you plant in.  There is no faster way to collect ingredients.

The reason I choose these three ingredients is that they create the most powerful potion possible given the plants that you can grow at your house.  Plants regrow every three days, so mining them requires that you pick all of them out of your garden, go inside, pick all out of your greenhouse, then press Select and fast forward time three days.  Go outside, pick the plants from your garden, and repeat.

Before creating potions, you want to be wearing apparel that bestows the Fortify Alchemy bonus.  The four pieces of apparel that allow this bonus are your helmet/hood/circlet, bracers/gauntlets/gloves, amulets/necklaces, and rings.  You can max these out with a bouns of 29% stronger potions.  The bonuses stack, so you will want to be wearing all four pieces of equipment with the 29% bonus.

Any piece of equipment that does not already have a bonus attribute can be given one at an arcane enchanter, provided you have learned the enchantment by disenchanting a piece of equipment that possessed the bonus.  If you play the game for any amount of time, you can collect these four types of items in abundance, usually on bandits or others that you kill.  You can also find some in chests, smith your own, purchase them from merchants, or pickpocket them.  Pickpocketing will label your item as “stolen,” which means they can be confiscated if you get in trouble with the authorities, so better to avoid this option if possible.

The enchanting process is also going to require the most powerful soul gems – the Grand Soul Gems.  These can be purchased in bulk at the College of Winterhold in the Arcanaeum.  Buy all you can, fast forward two days so that the merchants’ inventories reset, then buy more.  You’ll need somewhere around 20 to make this work.

Once back in your house you are almost ready to enchant your apparel with the alchemy bonus.  You need to ensure your enchantments are as strong as possible, so you will want to use a Fortify Enchanting potion just before you enchant your equipment.  These can be created at the alchemy table by combining Blue Butterfly Wings and Snowberries.  The butterfly wings are easily farmed in your greenhouse, while snowberries are almost everywhere in snowy regions.  You can collect hundreds of these, especially once the Green Thumb perk is activated.

The next step is a loop.  Create four Fortify Enchantment potions.  Walk over to your enchanting table and use the potion.  Start the enchantment.  Take one of the helmets you’ve collected, select the Fortify Alchemy enchantment and the Grand Soul Gem, and create the new equipment.  It will give the equipment a 26% alchemy bonus, 1% higher than the maximum possible without the Fortify Enchantment potion.  Consume another potion, enchant the pendant, and continue until all four items have been enhanced.  Equip them, return the alchemy table and create four more Fortify Enchantment potions.  Because of your new equipment these will be stronger than before.  Continue the process until you have four pieces of equipment with the maximum 29% alchemy bonus.

Now start creating hundreds of Fortify Carry Weight potions by combining the creep cluster, mora tapinella and scaly pholiota you’ve been harvesting.  If your Alchemy level is already at level 100, make it legendary.  Use a perk point to activate the Alchemist perk immediately, then start creating potions.  At level 20, activate the Alchemist perk (again) and the Physician perk.  Activate the other perks at levels 30, 40, 60, 70, 80 and 100.  Once you’ve reached level 100, make the perk legendary again and repeat.

In leveling up the Alchemy skill so quickly, you will notice that your character’s level increases quickly as well.  You can gain about two levels each time your Alchemy skill goes from level 15 to level 100.

There are some other major benefits that accrue during this process.  Because the Fortify Carry Weight potions are so valuable, you can sell them off to merchants and make more money than you will ever need.

I also use this method to update my other skills’ levels.  I do this by maximizing my character’s level bar, then finding someone who can train me in a skill.  For example, Vilkas in Jorrvaskr in Whiterun can train you in Two-Handed combat.  You can level the skill five times at each character level.  Once you’ve trained five levels, level up your character, talk to Vilkas again and level up five times more.  With the right trainers (see other strategy guides to figure out which), you can raise all of your skills to level 90 without even using them once.

I wrote this quickly, so if anything is confusing let me know.  I can add more details or images to help the process along.  I hope this was helpful, and have fun exploring Skyrim!

 

Featured image: “TESV – Sunrise” by Eilian Parker, used under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 / text has been added atop original image.

Research

Techniques for Organizing, Curating, and Presenting Content on the Web

Banner Image - Working at Laptop

We live in a golden age of online research and communication. The number ways to obtain information, many of which I covered last week, is staggering. Of course, simply having information is not enough. We must also be able to effectively organize, synthesize, and present our findings.

For years, I used an almost embarassingly rudimentary tool for storing references – Microsoft Word. I would read an article, catagorize its content, summarize it, and provide a link in my document. This level of organization can be sufficient, but I found it less than ideal for several reasons. My work remained at a standstill until I could return to my computer and access Word. There was no way to peer into the articles without clicking on the links. All sorting had to be done by hand.

I researched several web-based alternatives and one service rose to the top – Diigo. With just a couple clicks, the Diigo browser applet can save an article to your personal online library. In addition, you can add your own summary, highlight sections that interest you, and attach comments. You have the option to tag your article manually or accept Diigo’s intelligent recommendations.

Unfortunately, the Diigo mobile app is buggy. For storing and reading articles on the go, I like Pocket. While alternatives like Readability and Instapaper are certainly adequate, I prefer Pocket’s clean interface and stable design. Like Diigo, Pocket allows article tagging. Reposting to Facebook, Twitter, Evernote, Reddit, etc. is a breeze.

Because Pocket is better at logging and reading articles, while Diigo is better at annotating and sorting them, I bridge the two using a very cool application called If This Then That (IFTTT). Using a collection of simple “if this, then that” commands, you can create your own mobile recipes. For instance, you can command IFTTT to send you an email if your weather app says it is going to rain, or store results to a spreadsheet if certain items on Craig’s List go up for sale. My IFTTT recipe says that if I use the tag “diigo” on an article in Pocket, it will automatically appear in my Diigo library! For me, it’s a nice way to separate the “article search” and “deep research” aspects of the problem when I’m on the go.

If you are working with a group, there are a number of great options to help keep your content organized. One popular tool – if you’re willing to shell out a little coin – is Evernote. With Evernote, you and your collegues can create “notes,” which function a lot like Word documents.

Imagine attending a conference where interesting talks are happening simultaneously. Using Evernote, team members can attend different talks, summarize each in its own note, then tag and organize them into one or more “notebooks.” These can be shared privately with members of your network, quasi-publically with anyone possessing a generated link, or publically through social media sites. Evernote can also capture web articles, photos, handwritten notes, and offers attractive presentation capabilities.

If you’ve advanced to the task delegation stage, you may want to try BaseCamp. This service allows you to make to-do lists and assign who takes care of which item. Events and deadlines can be automatically linked to your personal calendar. BaseCamp also acts as a meeting point. It provides space to work collectively on documents. You can also schedule regular check-ins on topics of your choosing, like “What interesting things have you read in the last week?”

If you work within an organization, you may be able to disseminate your content through its blog, newsletter, website, or media team. For the less well-connected, you might try a personal blogging service like Tumblr, or one of the many image sharing sites like Pinterest. If you desire more control but don’t want to construct a website from scratch (like me), then creating a site through WordPress might be just the thing. Once you purchase your domain name and server space (from companies like BlueHost, pair Networks, etc.), all you have to do is install WordPress, select a theme, and customize using a large network of plug-in’s. One of the most useful is Yoast SEO, which optimizes your site for search engines.

Readership matters, and your content is more likely to be read if it contains images or videos. If you are unwilling to create your own, you can purchase some from sites like iStock and Shutterstock.

However, my preference is to avoid paying for images. The absolute best way to do this is through a copyright management system known as the Creative Commons (CC). People who are willing to let their images be used for free can assign to them a CC license that specifies how they may be used. You can then use Creative Commons Search to locate free images, music, and videos to incorporate into your own content.1You may notice that most of my banner images are taken from the Creative Commons and cited accordingly.

The popular photo sharing site Flickr has hundreds of millions of photos available under the Creative Commons. Pixabay has about a half million, but all can be used freely even for commercial applications. Personally, I have found it more efficient to search for images through Compfight, a web engine based off the Flickr API. In addtion to searching over the usual fields like keyword and text, Compfight also filters based on license, often the most useful field when assembling web content.

If all of this sounds like too much work and you’re willing to pay a monthly fee, you can try a service like Scoop.it, which uses a “selection engine” to scour the web for subject matter of your choosing. The real benefit of this service is that it curates your content for you, though you retain the ability to add information and edit the overall presentation. Once your content is conveniently organized, you can post it to all of your social media sites.

So in conclusion, these are some of the tools I prefer when organizing and presenting content on the web. No doubt I have missed many excellent alternatives, so if you have your own favorites, I invite you to share!

 

Featured image: “tech worker” by Wrote, used under CC BY-NC 2.0 / bottom of image has been cropped from original

Notes   [ + ]

1. You may notice that most of my banner images are taken from the Creative Commons and cited accordingly.
ClimateEnergyResearch

Supercharge Your Internet Research with These Essential Tips

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Several years ago I found myself in a room with people on the forefront of the climate movement. Among their ranks were journalists, advocates, and members of nonprofit organizations. These science communicators had gathered to address an issue each of them had been grappling with – how do I find all of the information that I need and communicate it with the people that need to hear it?

The questions seemed so fundamental that I had assumed everyone in attendance already knew the answers. I didn’t, of course, because I was the outsider. As an astrophysicist, research for me is relatively straightforward. There are a limited set of journals that cover our field and a convenient web interface, NASA’s Astrophysics Data System (ADS), to search across their articles.1Friends in other fields have sung the praises of similar programs like EndNote and Mendeley.  The program not only links users to all references in an article’s bibliography, but also reports which papers ended up citing that article. Smart engines could even recommend other papers to read based on your selections.

I have found tracking down information online in the realm of climate/energy policy to be more difficult. There are many more organizations doing independent research or running their own initiatives. Think tanks, NGOs, and government agencies are more likely to publish and promote on their own websites than through peer-reviewed journals. The impacts of climate change are so vast that they cut across traditional academic disciplines. They influence weather, oceans, atmospheres, ecosystems, human health, urban development, energy systems, breakthrough technologies, and many more.

When information is so widely dispersed, and we lack smart engines to find them automatically for us, what should our information collection strategy be? I don’t profess to have the “right answer” to this problem, should one even exist. But I’ve spent enough time gathering suggestions from others and trying them out for myself that I felt compelled to report some of the strategies and sources that have worked for me.

Before I begin, I want to comment that you can’t put everything together overnight. I’ve found that so much of the process is just keeping your ear to the ground. When an article I’m reading references an organization with which I’m unfamiliar, I jot it down. I visit their website, make a note about their mission and, if they have them, subscribe to their newsletter and Twitter feeds. I use Twitter lists to tag the feeds and keep them organized.

A great first source for content is Google, which offers among the best suite of tools for aggregating real-time news. Through Google News, you can personalize your news feed to return only the topics and regions you are interested in. The service allows you to specify whether you want content rarely, occasionally, sometimes, often, or always. Google Alerts goes a step further and contacts you when new information becomes available. Many news outlets offer the same capability.

If you are having difficulty deciding what’s important in the moment, the very cool newsmap may be the tool for you. Powered by Google’s search engine, newsmap visualizes the news by separating it into color-coded categories like World, National, Business, Technology, Sports, Entertainment, and Health. The color saturation reflects how old the story is, while the size shows how much it is being reported online. As with Google, you can filter by country and newsource. It’s a handy way to ascertain what’s hot right now.

Over time, or perhaps through a mentor, you may discover that your field has its own news/reference engines. Lawyers gather their research through the library database LexisNexis. Climate and energy folks have the Global Reference on the Environment, Energy, and Natural Resources (GREENR). Environment & Energy Publishing reports all the top developments. The news and analysis website Responding to Climate Change (RTCC) provides the latest news regarding low carbon developments.

Another great way to be exposed to new content is through Flipboard2and Zite, which it recently acquired. After signing up, Flipboard presents you with an absurd number of topics to choose from. They range from the conventional (e.g. religion, technology, art) to the more specific (e.g. industrial design, startups, social justice). You select the topics that interest you and Flipboard scours the web to produce a curated magazine readable on most devices. You can also stumble upon new content using, well, StumbleUpon. It has the same idea, but rather than curating material, it randomly deposits you at relevant webpages until you press a button to “stumble” to the next one.  I have found a lot of really excellent content through this service.

Because the combined readership of an article or report is likely to possess more cumulative knowledge than the authors themselves, one should never discount the value of user comments. Sites like the New York Times and Ars Technica have great comment engines where user contributions can be elevated to “reader’s picks” or “editor’s picks”. It’s a great way to sample the wisdom of the masses and be exposed to a much broader perspective.

It literally took me years to assemble the repository of references I now possess. In the world of climate and energy policy, I found that information typically arrives in one of three forms – organizational reports, raw or lightly processed data, and independent projects.

Organizational reports are usually published by issue-focused research groups. For climate and energy, there are way more than I could name here. These include the National Academy of Sciences, the United States Global Change Research Program, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, Brookings, Energy Innovation, and many more.

Two of my personal favorites are the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication (4C) and the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication.  These academic centers were created to conduct unbiased social science research on how people engage with climate change. They discovered that people are more concerned about “global warming” than “climate change.”  They reported what weathercasters think about climate change and its impact on weather, and questioned whether the level of sciencific consensus on climate change ought to be communicated numerically or non-numerically.

The second form information arrives in is raw or processed datasets. Government agencies like NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are great resources here, as they have tons of images, datasets, and visualization tools that let you tell your own story from primary sources. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) and International Energy Agency (IEA) also offer tons of data to play around with.

Some groups are content to curate data in very specific ways. The Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE) categorizes state policies that promote renewable energy as either financial incentives or rules and regulations. Frack Track provides a self-described “geospatial policy tool” that analyzes and visualizes Pennsylvania’s new wave of gas development on the Marcellus shale. Wells, permitted sites, and locations of violations are provided on a map.

The third form is independent projects, a term that I’m admittedly using as something of a catchall. These include initiatives that aim to tell the story of climate change in unique ways. For example, for their project Atlantic Rising three friends started a journey to travel the 1-meter above sea level contour line to see what life would be like in a flooded world. They interacted with thousands of people in 22 countries gathering photos, film, and writings as they documented the changing lives of those along the rim.

Photographer John Weller believes the best way to protect the environment is by reminding people of nature’s visceral beauty. He spent a decade traveling to the rough waters of the Ross Sea, probably the last, undamaged ocean ecosystem left on earth. His stunning photographs of the region’s living creatures, both above and below the water, have been cataloged in the book The Last Ocean.

Finally, it is sometimes most useful to just speak to people personally. While conferences can be a great place to do this, these environments can be intimidating for newcomers to a field. There are some tricks you can employ to make this process go more smoothly, but I will reserve them for a future post.

Of course, simply having information is not enough. You must synthesize and deliver it to your audience in an effective way. This raises a whole new set of challenges that I will get into in my next post.

 

Featured image: “tech worker” by Wrote, used under CC BY-NC 2.0 / bottom of image has been cropped from original

Notes   [ + ]

1. Friends in other fields have sung the praises of similar programs like EndNote and Mendeley.
2. and Zite, which it recently acquired
AstrophysicsClimate

How Big Data is Transforming Science

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In the last 15 years, science has experienced a revolution. The emergence of sophisticated sensor networks, digital imagery, Internet search and social media posts, and the fact that pretty much everyone is walking around with a smartphone in their pocket has enabled data collection on unprecedented scales. New supercomputers with petabytes of storage, gigabytes of memory, tens of thousands of processors, and the ability to transfer data over high speed networks permit scientists to understand that data like never before.

Research conducted under this new Big Data paradigm (aka eScience) falls into two categories – simulation and correlation. In simulations, scientists assume a model for how a system operates. By perturbing the model’s parameters and initial conditions, it becomes possible to predict outcomes under a variety of conditions. This technique has been used to study climate models, turbulent flows, nuclear science, and much more.

The second approach – correlation – involves gathering massive amount of real data from a system, then studying it to discover hidden relationships (i.e. correlations) between measured values. One example would be studying which combination of factors like drought, temperature, per capita GDP, cell phone usage, local violence, food prices, and more affect the migratory behavior of human populations.

At Johns Hopkins University (JHU) I work within a research collective known the Institute for Data Intensive Engineering and Science (IDIES).  Our group specializes in using Big Data to solve problems in engineering and the physical and biological sciences. I attended the IDIES annual symposium on October 16, 2015 and heard presentations from researchers across a range of fields. In this article, I share some of their cutting edge research.

 

HEALTH

The United States spends a staggering $3.1 trillion in health care costs per year, or about 17% of GDP. Yet approximately 30% of that amount is wasted on unnecessary tests and diagnostic costs. Scientists are currently using Big Data to find new solutions that will maximize health returns while minimizing expense.

The costs of health care are more than just financial. They also include staff time and wait periods to process test results, often in environments where every minute matters. Dr. Daniel Robinson of JHU’s Department of Applied Mathematics & Statistics is working on processing vast quanties of hospital data through novel cost-reduction models in order to ultimately suggest a set of best practices.

On a more personal level, regular medical check-ups can be time consuming, expensive, and for some patients physically impossible. Without regular monitoring, it is difficult to detect warning signs of potentially fatal diseases. For example, Dr. Robinson has studied septic shock, a critical complication of sepsis that is the 13th leading cause of death in the United States, and the #1 cause within intensive care units. A better understanding of how symptoms like altered speech, elevated pain levels, and tiredness link to the risk of septic shock could say many lives.

Realizing this potential has two components. The first is data acquisition. New wearable devices like the Apple Watch, Fitbit, BodyGuardian, wearable textiles, and many others in development will enable real-time monitoring of a person’s vital statistics. These include heart rate, circadian rhythms, steps taken per day, energy expenditure, light exposure, vocal tone, and many more. These devices can also issue app-based surveys on a regular basis to check in on one’s condition.

Second, once scientists are able to determine which health statistics are indicative of which conditions, these monitors can suggest an appropriate course of action. This kind of individualized health care has been referred to as “precision medicine.” President Obama even promoted it in his 2015 State of the Union Address, and earned a bipartisan ovation in the process. A similar system is already working in Denmark where data culled from their electronic health network is helping predict when a person’s condition is about to worsen.

Dr. Jung Hee Seo (JHU – Mechanical Engineering) is using Big Data to predict when somebody is about to suffer an aneurysm. Because of the vast variety of aneurysm classifications, large data sets are critical for robust predictions. Dr. Seo intends to use his results to build an automated aneurysm hemodynamics simulation and risk data hub. Dr. Hong Kai Ji (JHU – Biostatistics) is doing similar research to predict genome-wide regulatory element activities.

 

MATERIALS SCIENCE

The development of new materials is critical to the advancement of technology. Yet one might be surprised to learn just how little we know about our materials. For example, of the 50,000 to 70,000 known inorganic compounds, we only have elastic constants for about 200, dielectric constrants for 300-400, and superconductivity properties for about 1000.

This lack of knowledge almost guarantees that there are better materials out there for numerous applications, e.g. a compound that would help batteries be less corrosive while having higher energy densities. In the past, we’ve lost years simply because we didn’t know what our materials were capable of. For example, lithium iron phosphate was first synthesized in 1977, but we only learned it was useful in cathodes in 1997. Magnesium diboride was synthesized in 1952, but was only recognized as a superconductor in 2001.

Dr. Kristin Persson (UC Berkeley) and her team have been using Big Data to solve this problem in an new way. They create quantum mechanical models of a material’s structure, then probe their properties using computationally expensive simulations on supercomputers. Their work has resulted in The Materials Project.  Through an online interface, researchers now have unprecendented access to the properties of tens of thousands of materials. They are also provided open analysis tools that can inspire the design of novel materials.

 

CLIMATE

Another area where Big Data is playing a large role is in climate prediction. The challenge is using a combination of data points to generate forecasts for weather data across the world. For example, by measuring properties like temperature, wind speed, and humidity across the planet as a function of time, can we predict the weather in, say, Jordan?

Answering this question can be done either by using preconstructed models of climate behavior or by using statistical regression techniques. Dr. Ben Zaitchik (JHU – Earth & Planetary Sciences) and his team have attempted to answer that question by developing a web platform that allows the user to select both climate predictors and a statistical learning method (e.g. artificial neural networks, random forests, etc.) to generate a climate forecast. The application, which is fed by a massive spatial and temporal climate database, is slated to be released to the public in December.

Because local climate is driven by global factors, simulations at high resolution with numerous climate properties for both oceans and atmospheres can be absolutely gigantic. These are especially important since the cost of anchoring sensors to collect real ocean data can exceed tens of thousands of dollars per location.

 

URBAN HOUSING

Housing vacancy lies at the heart of Baltimore City’s problems. JHU assistant professor Tamas Budavári (Applied Mathematics & Statistics) has teamed up with the city to better understand the causes of the vacancy phenomenon. By utilizing over a hundred publicly available datasets, they have developed an amazing system of “blacklight maps” that allow users to visually inspect all aspects of the problem. By incorporating information like water, gas, and electricity consumption, postal records, parking violations, crime reports, and cell phone usage (are calls being made at 2pm or 2am?) we can begin to learn which factors correlate with vacancy, then take cost effective actions to alleviate the problem.

 

WHAT’S NEXT?

As Big Data proliferates, the potential for collaborative science increases in extraordinary ways. To this end, agencies like the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are pushing for data to become just as large a part of the citation network as journal articles. Their new initiative, Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K), is designed to enable biomedical research to be treated as a data-intensive digital research enterprise.  If data from different research teams can be integrated, indexed, and standardized, it offers the opportunity for the entire research enterprise to become more efficient and less expensive, ultimately creating opportunities for more scientists to launch research initiatives.

My personal research uses Big Data to solve a problem caused by Big Data. In a world in which researchers have more data as their fingertips than ever before, the uncertainty caused by small sample sizes has decreased.  As this so-called statistical noise drops, the dominant source of error is systematic noise. Like a scale that is improperly calibrated, systematic noise inhibits scientists from obtaining results that are both precise and accurate, regardless of how many measurements are taken.

In my dissertation, I developed a method to minimize noise in large data sets provided we have some knowledge about the distributions from which the signal and noise were drawn. By understanding the signal and noise correlations between different points in space, we can draw statistical conclusions about the most likely value of the signal given the data. The more correlations (i.e. points) that are used, the better our answer will be. However, large numbers of points require powerful computational resources. To get my answers, I needed to parallelize my operations over multiple processors in an environment with massive amounts (e.g. ~ 1TB) of memory.

Fortunately, our ability to process Big Data has recently taken a big step forward. Thanks to a $30 million grant from the state of Maryland, a new system called the Maryland Advanced Research Computing Center (MARCC) has just come online. This joint venture between JHU and the University of Maryland at College Park has created a collaborative research center that allows users to remotely access over 19,000 processors, 50 1TB RAM nodes with 48 cores, and 17 petabytes of storage capacity. By hosting the system under one roof, users share savings in facility costs and management, and work within a standardized environment. Turnaround time for researchers accustomed to smaller clusters will be drastically reduced. Scientists also have the option of colocating their own computing systems within the facility to reduce network transmission costs.

The era of Big Data in science, which started with the Sloan Digital Sky Survey in 2000, is now in full force. These are exciting times, and I cannot wait to see the fruits this new paradigm will bear for all of us.

 

Featured image: “server rack zoomed in” by CWCS Managed Hosting, used under CC BY 2.0 / image of server has been slightly windowed, “big data” words added

ClimatePolitics

Debunking the Notion That Climate Scientists Are Just in it for the Money

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The principle of American democracy is rooted in the “marketplace of ideas,” a notion that public policies are best developed through the honest and open deliberation of a wide variety of ideas. But the “marketplace” has strained of late. Our national challenges have grown more complex and the voices opining on them more numerous. From health care to energy policy to net neutrality, resolving modern problems requires more than an application of philosophy – it demands scientific literacy and an understanding of our national scientific apparatus.

Unfortunately, instead of facilitating discourse there are many who are content to muddy the waters. One of the worst offenders is conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh. During his June 22, 2011 edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show he spoke once again on one of his “pet peeve issues,” climate change. Limbaugh, who has long rejected the consensus scientific conclusion that that Earth’s climate is changing and that human beings are responsible, was offering a new explanation for climate scientists’ behavior.

“They’ve been paid,” Limbaugh argued. “Their entire lifestyles, their standard of living depends on their grants that they get to conduct the studies, and they only get the money if they come up with the right result.”

One might be willing to dismiss such an inflammatory statement as isolated bloviation from one of media’s biggest loudmouths, if only it were an isolated incident. It is far from that. Similar statements have been made by authors, pundits, politicians, and even a handful of disgruntled scientists. In a speech to New Hampshire businessmen, former Texas governor and Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry echoed Limbaugh’s remarks referencing “a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling in to their projects.”

Statements such as these are not only slanderous, they are dangerous. Climate change is one of the greatest global challenges of our generation. It promises to deliver a warmer climate, droughts, floods, food and water scarcity, rising sea levels, and the death of 25-50% of Earth’s species (just to name a few) if not properly mitigated.

It is for these reasons that the profoundly misleading assaults on scientists’ basic integrity are so worrisome. The need to restore public faith in our scientific institutions warrants a substantive clarification about both the roles scientists play in society and the actual manner in which their research is funded.

In general, there are two classes of scientist – public and private. Public climate scientists are employed by government institutions like NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NASA’s premiere climatologist, Dr. James Hansen, explains how public scientists are compensated saying, “Our salaries do not depend on how much research the government funds. Government scientists get paid for working 40 hours week, regardless of how long they work.”

Furthermore, to prevent against politically motivated terminations public scientists receive considerable protection from being fired. In such an environment scientists have little to fear from publishing results that cut across the grain since neither their compensation nor their job security depends on it.

Private climate scientists, on the other hand, are often employed by universities and must actively seek their own research funding.  One common source is America’s collection of federal science agencies. There are many, but one of the most prominent is the National Science Foundation, an agency which supports about 20% of all federally funded basic research conducted in US universities.  Its funding process is typical of agencies of this kind, so it is worth examining its appropriations process in greater detail.

Scientists apply for research grants by first submitting a research proposal.  According to NSF criteria, successful proposals must demonstrate that their prospective research be of high academic quality, have high and hopefully broad significance, and preferably be transformative.  Proposals are merit-reviewed by a panel of independent experts in the field and the top submissions receive grants to continue their work.  This process is highly competitive.  Of the approximately 45,000 proposals received each year, the NSF only funds about 11,500.

One noteworthy observation is that a plausible alternative to the theory to human-driven climate change satisfies all of these criteria.  According to the National Academy of Sciences, between 97% and 98% of climate scientists actively publishing in the field currently agree with the conclusion that global climate change is occurring and is caused by human activity. Clearly, a plausible alternative would constitute a great scientific advancement, one which would likely have ramifications beyond climate science itself.  So not only are “climate skeptics” not penalized in the grant process, if their proposals demonstrate legitimate scientific merit they might actually receive preferential treatment.

There are other factors that weigh in a climate skeptic’s favor. First, any scientist who can debunk a scientific paradigm (as Einstein did with his general theory of relativity) in favor of a better theory will earn prestige and a likely place for his name in science textbooks.  This is a huge incentive to challenge the status quo.  Second, if a professor has tenure, then he needn’t fear reprisal from his employer for conducting controversial research.  Third, because review panels are comprised of a broad selection of experts, one can expect a representative plurality of opinions to be held by appropriators, which mitigates consensus groupthink.  Fourth, scientists are skeptical by nature.  They assume their knowledge is incomplete and are always acting to refine it. Scientists will tell you that one of the most exciting events for them is when an experimental result completely defies theoretical expectation.  It is in these moments that new truths are often revealed.  Scientists yearn for these moments. They do not penalize the search for them.

The final point I’ll make about the public grant process is simple common sense.  It’s functionally impossible for allocators to only fund “pro-climate change” research when the results of that research are unknown until it is conducted.  And even if you suspect incoming research proposals must tacitly accept anthropogenic global climate change a priori, meta-publication data gathered by Skeptical Scientist, an organization dedicated to explaining peer reviewed climate change research, reveals that approximately half of climate research papers do not explicitly endorse the consensus opinion, but rather function primarily as fact-finding missions.  Those missions in total have created the consensus opinion, but scientists did not have to assume it before receiving their funding.

The other method by which private scientists obtain research support is by courting private donors and corporations who have a vested interest in it.  For lots of basic research, this process of pitching for funds is a huge hassle.  As the Microsoft computer scientist and Turing Award winner Jim Gray once put it, “Sometimes you have to kiss a lot of frogs before one turns into a prince.”

Except in certain cases the prince comes to you. Mitigating climate change requires a reorganization of large sectors of our economy. Consequently, corporations that stand to suffer financially in the transition have a strong incentive to spread disinformation themselves or fund others willing to do so.

In such cases, the exact opposite of Limbaugh’s argument is proven true. Scientists willing to research alternatives to anthropogenic climate change often receive funding because they reject the consensus opinion. In fact, research from the Global Warming Policy Foundation has found that in an analysis of 900 papers supporting climate change skepticism, 90% of the authors were linked to ExxonMobil.

As Dr. Hansen argues, “Perhaps, instead of questioning the motives of scientists, you should turn around and check the interests (motives) of the people who have pushed you to become so agitated.”

Once the public understands the true manner in which climate science is funded, it will ultimately need to ask itself which is more likely – that A) 97% of all active climate scientists have independently come together to collectively pull the wool over the world’s eyes and perpetrate the greatest scientific hoax of all time for unclear motives or B) moneyed interests like oil and coal companies who stand to lose profit in a world that addresses climate change are spreading doubt and disinformation as a means to forestall action.

Given the current state of media in the United States, the condition in which we find ourselves is not altogether surprising. Thinner margins have driven many newspapers and other news outlets to lay off dedicated science reporters. In the era of the 24-hour news cycle, ratings reign supreme and viewers are more likely to tune into conflict and controversy than a nuanced discussion of the facts. Even when climate science is given the coverage it deserves, the media will often mistake journalistic balance with “hearing all sides of an issue.” Granting climate skeptics equal air time with members of the 97% majority is akin to presenting the opinions of an Auschwitz survivor alongside someone who argues the Holocaust never happened.

Ultimately, it will fall upon scientists to lift the haze of misunderstanding that surrounds their work. They will need to be more vocal in communicating not just the science, but the process of practicing science. Only when the public gains an understanding of the scientific process will the baseless claim of Limbaugh and his sympathizers be exposed be exposed as the myth that it is.

 

Featured image: “Dollar Sign in Space – Illustration” by DonkeyHotey, used under CC BY 2.0 / slightly modified and black borders added to original

Pro Wrestling

Ranking All 89 Matches in the G1 Climax 25

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Over the last month, I watched every match in New Japan Pro Wrestling’s annual round-robin tournament, the G1 Climax. This was arguably the undertaking of an insane person. If this is indeed the case, my ranking of every match in the tournament that follows is of little consequence. But for those that have partaken or will partake in G1 Climax 25, I think this may be useful.

The 2015 tournament featured Block A and Block B, each with 10 wrestlers who all faced each other once. That’s nine matches per person, or 90 in total (actually 89 when you discount Shinsuke Nakamua’s injury-based forfeit over Michael Elgin). There were five matches per night, spread over 18 nights. The night a match occurred has been placed in parentheses.

As the tournament progressed, I tried my best to assess how each match ranked in comparison to all the others. This was quite challenging for a number of reasons. First, my frame of mind changed from day-to-day, and even from hour-to-hour. A match I enjoyed on Wednesday night, I might have found dull on a Saturday afternoon. Second, since most of these were watched late at night, I got sleepy during parts, which affected both my immediate perception and…Third, my memory. As I write this, for example, I have no idea what happened in the Kojima vs. Anderson match. The best I could do is recall the feeling I had while watching it. If that didn’t work, I tried to figure out how good the match was relative to Kojima’s other matches, or Anderson’s other matches. Fourth, as impartial as I tried to be, I have my favorites. I am a huge fan of Kota Ibushi and Michael Elgin, for example. On the other hand, NJPW could have axed Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Yujiro Takahashi and my life would have been a better place. These biases have unquestionably crept into this ranking.

Of course, even if I had been able to watch every match with no bias and perfect mental and spiritual clarity, these are still going to be my opinions. I will not argue that my rankings are “correct” and everyone else’s are “garbage”, or any other Internet trolling thing of the sort. If you have AJ Styles vs. Tenzan at #42 rather than #62, hell, you might very well be right. Again, Mike Specian = imperfect.

With those disclaimers out of the way, I have separated the G1 Climax 25 matches into four categories. The first eight matches I deem as “absolute must-see”. Each of these is a legitimate match-of-the-year contender. You should go out of your way to see them. The second category is “don’t miss”. These are all very good to great matches that don’t quite reach the elite level. The third category offers solid efforts that aren’t a waste of your time, but which for the most part were not particularly memorable. The final category is the bottom-of-the-barrel fare. While there is some decent stuff in there, we only have so many hours in the day so…prioritize, I guess.

 

Match-of-the-Year Candidates

  1. Tanahashi vs. AJ Styles (17)
  2. Tanahashi vs. Ibushi (1)
  3. Ibushi vs. AJ Styles (5)
  4. Tanahashi vs. Shibata (13)
  5. Ishii vs. Elgin (18)
  6. Naito vs. Ibushi (11)
  7. Shibata vs. Ibushi (7)
  8. Elgin vs. Goto (16)

Excellent

  1. Goto vs. Ishii (14)
  2. Nakamura vs. Goto (10)
  3. Goto vs. Okada (8)
  4. AJ Styles vs. Shibata (1)
  5. Nakamura vs. Okada (18)
  6. Anderson vs. Elgin (14)
  7. Naito vs. Tanahashi (5)
  8. Shibata vs. Naito (3)
  9. Okada vs. Ishii (12)
  10. Okada vs. Honma (4)
  11. Nakamura vs. Ishii (8)
  12. AJ Styles vs. Bad Luck Fale (15)
  13. Takahashi vs. Honma (18)
  14. Okada vs. Takahashi (14)
  15. Elgin vs. Honma (8)
  16. Ishii vs. Nagata (10)
  17. Naito vs. AJ Styles (7)

Pretty Good

  1. Honma vs. Ishii (16)
  2. Shibata vs. Makabe (5)
  3. Nagata vs. Kojima (14)
  4. Nakamura vs. Honma (14)
  5. Okada vs. Nagata (16)
  6. AJ Styles vs. Yano (3)
  7. Okada vs. Elgin (2)
  8. Anderson vs. Honma (12)
  9. Ishii vs. Anderson (5)
  10. Ibushi vs. Makabe (17)
  11. Okada vs. Anderson (10)
  12. Goto vs. Honma (6)
  13. Anderson vs. Nakamura (2)
  14. AJ Styles vs. Makabe (11)
  15. Nagata vs. Goto (18)
  16. Tenzan vs. Shibata (15)
  17. Yano vs. Shibata (11)
  18. Bad Luck Fale vs. Tanahashi (7)
  19. Kojima vs. Elgin (4)
  20. Anderson vs. Nagata (8)
  21. Tanahashi vs. Yano (9)
  22. Tanahashi vs. Makabe (15)
  23. Gallows vs. Naito (15)
  24. Yano vs Tenzan (5)
  25. Tanahashi vs. Tenzan (3)
  26. Nakamura vs. Nagata (4)
  27. Tenzan vs. Naito (17)
  28. Makabe vs. Gallows (13)
  29. Elgin vs. Nagata (12)
  30. Nakamura vs. Kojima (16)
  31. Okada vs. Kojima (6)
  32. Elgin vs. Takahashi (10)
  33. AJ Styles vs. Tenzan (13)
  34. Makabe vs Naito (9)
  35. AJ Styles vs. Gallows (9)
  36. Kojima vs. Anderson (18)
  37. Naito vs. Bad Luck Fale (1)
  38. Naito vs. Yano (13)
  39. Gallows vs. Yano (7)
  40. Ibushi vs. Tenzan (9)
  41. Takahashi vs. Kojima (8)
  42. Shibata vs. Bad Luck Fale (9)
  43. Nakamura vs. Takahashi (12)
  44. Bad Luck Fale vs. Gallows (5)

Decent to “Just There”

  1. Bad Luck Fale vs. Makabe (3)
  2. Makabe vs. Yano (1)
  3. Anderson vs. Goto (4)
  4. Nagata vs. Honma (2)
  5. Ibushi vs. Gallows (3)
  6. Takahashi vs. Nagata (6)
  7. Goto vs. Kojima (12)
  8. Gallows vs. Shibata (17)
  9. Yano vs. Ibushi (15)
  10. Yano vs. Bad Luck Fale (17)
  11. Tanahashi vs. Gallows (11)
  12. Bad Luck Fale vs. Ibushi (13)
  13. Makabe vs. Tenzan (7)
  14. Kojima vs. Honma (10)
  15. Anderson vs. Takahashi (16)
  16. Ishii vs. Takahashi (4)
  17. Ishii vs. Kojima (2)
  18. Goto vs. Takahashi (2)
  19. Tenzan vs. Gallows (1)
  20. Bad Luck Fale vs. Tenzan (11)
Pro Wrestling

Ring of Honor Results, Spoilers and Live Impressions from July 25 TV Taping in Baltimore

Banner Image - ROH

Ring of Honor taped four episodes of TV on Saturday, July 25, 2015 at the William J Myers Pavilion in Baltimore, MD. These tapings come hot off the heels of the Death Before Dishonor iPPV the night before. The crowd was into it. Attendence was about 70% that of the night before. Before the show, the Young Bucks, Moose, and Maria were available for autograph signings and photographs. Ring of Honor did not announce when they would be returning to Baltimore.

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Jay Lethal retained the Television Championship against Hanson, but Roderick Strong, Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly are hot on his tail. The split between Adam Cole and The Kingdom seems official. Cole joined Kyle O’Reilly to reform Future Shock. They couldn’t grab the Tag Team Championsips from The Addiction, though, due to outside interference from Taven, Bennett and Maria. The Young Bucks defeated Roppongi Vice, but the Addiction jumped them afterwards. A big tag team war between the Young Bucks, reDRagon & Adam Cole vs. The Kingdom, the Addiction & Chris Sabin seems likely.

The Briscoes, ACH, War Machine, Moose, and Roderick Strong all picked up wins and gained momentum. Adam Page called out and laid out Jay Brisoce, signaling the start of a feud. Dalton Castle defeated Silas Young, but Silas wants another match where if he wins, he gets Dalton’s Boys. Caprice Coleman defeated Cedric Alexander after Moose interfered. Cheeseburger got revenge on Brutal Bob.

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Dark Match: Mandy Leon beat Deonna Purrazzo.

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EPISODE 1

Match 1: ACH vs. Watanabe – This was ACH’s fast sytle versus Watanabe’s strong style. They meshed well and the crowd was evenly split. ACH won with 450 splash in nine minutes. Solid opener.

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Match 2: The House of Truth (Donovan Dijak & J. Diesel) with Truth Martini vs. War Machine – Jay Lethal was on commentary. This was a hard hitting, War Machine-style match. Their power won out in the end. They threw Dijak out of the ring and hit Fallout on Diesel for the pin in six minutes. Lethal and Hanson yelled at each other after the match to set up their ROH TV Title match later in the evening.

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Match 3: Adam Page (with BJ Whitmer & Colby Corino) vs. G(?) Hughes – Page squashed him in one minute with the Vertebreaker. BJ Whitmer grabbed the microphone to a chorus of boos.

BJ WHITMER

What? You don’t want to hear what I’ve got to say? Well too bad, because I’m the one with the microphone! Adam, that’s exactly what I’m talking about, that right there. This aggressiveness, this mean streak is what’s taking you to the next level. You proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are the future of this company when you beat ACH at Death Before Dishonor. And now tonight he comes out and Ring of Honor gives him that ham and egger? Are you ready to make a statement? Are you ready to call out the man?

ADAM PAGE

Jay Briscoe, get out here, get in this ring and man up!

Jay Briscoe was nowhere to be found. BJ antagonized Corino at the announce desk, yelling at him to do his job. Corino stood and removed his jacket, but Nigel McGuinness intervened and forced Corino to the back.

CROWD

Let them fight! Let them fight!

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Match 4: The Kingdom (Matt Taven & Michael Bennett) with Maria vs. reDRagon – Adam Cole was on commentary. This match featured fun, fluid action throughout, as you would expect from these two teams. When Kyle O’Reilly fell deep into the middle rope (like Ambrose does), Bennett struck him in the face from the floor. Taven climbed to the top turnbuckle and with Bennett hit Hail Mary on O’Reilly on the floor. With O’Reilly eliminated, they did the same to Bobby Fish in the ring to earn the pinfall in 14 minutes. Good match!

After the match, the Kingdom attempted another piledriver but Adam Cole stopped them. Michael Bennett asked Cole what he was doing. Kyle O’Reilly stumbles up besides Adam Cole. The men shake hands.

CROWD

Future Shock! Future Shock!

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EPISODE 2

Match 1: Silas Young vs. Dalton Castle – As Castle disrobed, Silas mumbled, “unbelievable”. Dalton immeidately attacked Silas with bad intent. Dalton got the pin in nine minutes with Fair Winds. Fun match!

SILAS

Dalton, I’m getting damn, damn tired of this.

CROWD

Shut up!

SILAS

There ain’t gonna be any shutting up, because I say what I want to say because I’m a real man. I don’t worry if I offend somebody or if they think I’m a bad person. Dalton Castle, I don’t like what you do with these boys. I don’t like your lifestyle that you lead with them. These boys need to learn to be men.

You ain’t good enough to beat me on your own. You ain’t never beat me on your own. So one more shot, and when I beat you, I get those boys.

CROWD

Ooooooo!

SILAS

Believe me I’m gonna beat you. When I beat you those boys are going to be mine and I’m going to teach them how to be real men.

CROWD

Silas wants boys!  Silas wants boys!

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Bobby Fish came out for ringside interview with Kevin Kelly. I couldn’t hear what they were talking about.

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Match 2: Moose (with Stokely Hathaway) vs. Will Ferrara – Moose won in three minutes with the big spear.

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Match 3: Roppongi Vice vs. The Young Bucks – The Bucks won in 13 minutes with More Bang for Your Buck after hitting a bunch of superkicks. This was exactly what you would expect. It was a fun candy car crash with all the usual spots.

After the match, the Addiction with Chris Sabin jumped the Young Bucks from behind. They used atheltic tape to bind Matt Jackson to the top rope while they beat on Nick. They kicked Matt in the face and gut. The Addicition nailed the Indytaker on Nick as Nigel McGuinness looked on disappointed.

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Internet-Exclusive Future of Honor Match – Nuclear Kaasarole (Chase Brown & Peter Kaasa) vs. Punisher Martinez & QT Marshall – This match had a different commentary team. Kaasa is a powerful dude who looks like a smaller Scott Steiner. The man definitely has talent. He performed a fallaway slam/moonsault combination and pinned QT after a senton.

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EPISODE 3

Match 1: The Briscoes vs. The Bloodbound Warriors – Each team wrestled their own style. It was a fun Briscoes match, but nothing beyond that. The Briscoes got the pin in nine minutes after a Froggy Bow.

Adam Page came to the entrance ramp with The Decade.

PAGE

There he is, Jay Brisoce! Two weeks ago I stood in that ring and called you out and you were nowhere to be found.   I don’t know if you’re going deaf or if you’re just stupid. What’s that motto? Man up? Maybe that don’t mean nothing. Maybe you’re another liar.

JAY BRISCOE

Yo, hold up, young boy. Listen to me, no offense brother, but I don’t even know who the hell you are. Hey, hey, pretty boy, I’ll tell you this. If you’re looking for a fight you don’t have to look too far, brother. We can do this right now.

BJ WHITMER

No no no, Jay, you need to pump your brakes. This isn’t going to happen right here, not right now. But I have an idea. How about next week right here on TV we give you the opportunity to man up when you go one-on-one with Adam Page!

JAY BRISCOE

Oh, so that’s your name? Adam Page. Well next week you’re going to get your ass whoopped.

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Match 2: Donovan Dijak (with Truth Martini and J. Diesel) vs Roderick Strong – This match featured a lot of good, back-and-forth strikes. Roddy looked no worse for wear after his 60-minute match the night before. In eight minutes, after trading some fun near falls, Strong hit the double-knee gutbuster/Sick Kick combination for the pin.

Jay Lethal immediately jumped into the ring as Dijak and Diesel held Strong. Lethal trashtalked Roddy, but as he turned his back to go for the Lethal Injection, Roderick fought out. War Machine ran out to support Strong and they run off the House of Truth. Roderick yelled to Lethal, “You can’t beat me!”

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The generic ROH logo appeared on the big screen, which is usually indicitive of a jobber coming out. Instead, we got shocked!

Match 3: Future Shock (Adam Cole & Kyle O’Reilly) vs. The Addiction (“Almighty” Christopher Daniels & Kazarian) for the ROH Tag Team Championships – The crowd popped HUGE when Future Shock came out. The fans remembered! After some back and forth mat wrestling, Future Shock hit the first tag team combo manuevers, indicating that they are still a cohesive unit! Adam Cole began to do the “Adam Cole, bay bay!” pose, but Kyle stopped him so they could pose together and yell, “Future Shock!”

CROWD

Future Shock! Future Shock!

The Addiction worked over Adam Cole. Cole was denied the hot tag, had a small rally, but the Addiction maintained control. Eventually Cole locked Kazarian in the Figure 4. Kazarian reversed it, but O’Reilly jumped on Kazarian and applied the arm bar. Daniels jumped on O’Reilly with a crossface. Creative spot!

Kyle O’Reilly got the hot tag and locked Kazarian in the arm bar. When Daniels tried to break it up, O’Reilly locked him in the ankle lock! Future Shock hit Total Elimination. Kazarian kicked Adam Cole in the groin and suplexed him off the top.

O’Reilly interjected with an arm bar, which prompted The Kingdom to run down to the ring. Matt Taven kicked Kyle in the head, but in a dramatic move O’Reilly managed to get a quick roll-up on Daniels for a LONG count, but Taven was distracting referee Todd Sinclair. Kazarian broke up the pin attempt by kicking O’Reilly in the head. O’Reilly stumbled into the rope where Taven gave him another shot. Kazarian rolled O’Reilly up, grabbed the tights, but only a two count! This is getting really good.

Michael Bennett jumped onto the ring apron and excoriated Todd Sinclair for his slow count. Adam Cole walked over to Bennett and asked, “What are you doing!?” The Addication grabbed Cole and hit a suplex into a double-knee gutbuster for the three count in 13 minutes. Maria held O’Reilly’s leg impeding his ability to break up the pin. Really fun stuff! Well worth watching.

After the match, The Kingdom beat down Kyle O’Reilly which drew out Bobby Fish. Out came the Young Bucks! They went straight after The Addiction and the melee was on! The Bucks hit stereo superkicks and Topes. The Young Bucks and reDRagon cleared the ring. This looks to set up an 8- or 10-man tag with The Addiction, The Kingdom and/or Chris Sabin vs. reDRagon, the Young Bucks and/or Adam Cole.

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EPISODE 4

Match 1: Adam Page (with BJ Whitmer & Colby Corino) vs. Jay Briscoe – Jay Briscoe extended his hand to Adam Page.

PAGE

I’m Adam Page. I’m in the Decade and the Decade doesn’t shake hands.

Page slapped Briscoe in the face. Briscoe laughed and extended his hand again. Page slapped him again and we’re off! This match was wrestled with high intensity. After about a minute, Colby Corino grabbed BJ’s crutch and looked to hit Briscoe with it. Briscoe stalked Colby giving Page enough time to throw a chair in Jay’s face. The referee called for the bell after two minutes, giving the DQ victory to Briscoe.

The Decade filled the ring with chairs. Page gave Briscoe the Vertebreaker on the chairs. Mark Briscoe raced to the ring to drive the Decade off. Jay Briscoe recovered and took the microphone.

JAY BRISCOE

You must have a death wish, boy, because your ass is gonna die.

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Cedric Alexander came to the ring with Veda Scott. His opponent Caprice Coleman followed.

CEDRIC

           (to Caprice)
I am the only man in Ring of Honor to beat Moose…TWICE! Beating you does nothing for me, so we will make our exit. Have a good night. Enjoy the rest of your evening.

COLEMAN

I’m sorry. I apologize. Maybe I should be talking to the one with the most hair on their chest. Hey, Veda! You’re going a great job winning matches for him! You’re doing a great job.

Match 2: Cedric Alexander vs. Caprice Coleman – After a competitive sequence, Veda grabbed Coleman’s ankle. Veda tried to further distract Caprice, which drew out Stokely Hathaway. Stokely grabbed Veda to remove her from ringside, which drew the referee’s attention. On the other side of the ring, Cedric obtained a wrench. Moose ran down and pulled the wrench out of Cedric’s hand. This distracted Cedric just long enough for Coleman to hit a massive top rope leg drop to earn the pin at the eight minute mark. The crowd led a Moose chant.

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Match 3: Brutal Bob Evans vs. Cheeseburger – Bob dominated with Cheeseburger getting in a few hope spots. Bob set up a table on the outside and went to sidewalk slam Cheeseburger throught it from the apron. Cheeseburger floated back into the ring, and struck Bob in the face, driving him through the table! Bob was unable to make the 20 count. Your winner in six minutes is Cheeseburger! Bob’s protestations of “No! No!” elicited a sea of Yes! chants from the crowd.

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Bobby Fish came to the commentator’s table for the main event.

Match 4: Jay Lethal (with Truth Martini) vs. Hanson for the ROH TV Championship – The crowd chanted for both men. After Hanson absolutely pummelled Lethal, Lethal hit a springboard dropkick, sending Hanson to the outside. Lethal hit three Topes sending Hanson over the barricade and into the front row.

Lethal grabbed Hanson’s beard and jumped over the top rope with it. Lethal blocked Hanson’s bronco buster with a foot to the groin. Lethal hit the Macho Man elbow but Hanson kicked out at one. Jay Lethal went for the Lethal Injection, but Hanson sidestepped and went for his own Lethal Injection! It was a little awkward, but he hit the elbow (as opposed to the cutter), which lit up the crowd!

Hanson performed a top rop moonsault but Lethal got his knees up. Lethal went for another Lethal Injection, but Hanson avoided it. Hanson immediately went for a spin kick, but Lethal ducked, hit a massive superkick followed by two Lethal Injections. Your winner in 11 minutes is Jay Lethal. This was another really good match. Jay Lethal is on such a roll lately. Hanson totally held up his end of the match.

Kyle O’Reilly ran to the ring and Bobby Fish joined him on the apron. Lethal held up both titles.

BOBBY FISH

Your day is almost over.

JAY LETHAL

Your day will never come!

Roderick Strong hit the ring. Lethal and Truth bailed.

RODERICK

Count the days. I’m going to embarrass you, Jay.

BOBBY FISH

        (to Lethal)
You are not a finisher!

JAY LETHAL

I am the greatest!