May 11

Source: NOAA Photo Library

Source: NOAA Photo Library

The El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is a natural climate pattern in the Pacific Ocean. During El Niño, or ENSO’s warm phase, a band of uncharacteristically warm ocean water spreads across the central and eastern-central portion of the Equatorial Pacific. In recent years, El Niño has been a bellwether for droughts, intense rainfall and many other severe storms and weather systems across the world–including increased rain across the southern U.S. Now, we can add tornado forecaster to El Niño’s resume.

A new study at Columbia University finds that tornadoes are milder during El Niño years. The report shows the states affected most by El Niño’s temperament are those in the Southwest, like Texas and Oklahoma. “We can forecast how active the spring tornado season will be based on the state of El Niño or La Niña in December or even earlier,” said lead author John Allen, a postdoctoral research scientist at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI), part of Columbia University’s Earth Institute.

Currently, the forecasts can’t predict exactly where the storms will touch down. Furthermore, their forecasts can’t predict if a wave of serious storms will break out at this time.  Allen wants to make this clear so that people don’t think all the scenarios are covered through the IRI’s analysis. However, Allen and his team believe it will still prove useful to governments and insurance agencies in preparation for the coming year.

Allen and his team anticipate releasing their own seasonal tornado forecasts. Currently, the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center’s tornado forecasts are about eight days in beforehand. Allen believes their team can forecast much farther in advance, “…you can actually forecast what the spring tornado season will be like.” This could be made possible if the team’s wish to combine their work with others in the field comes to fruition.

Instead of using erroneous old weather records, the team devised its own formula based on atmospheric pressure, wind shear and other conditions that can accompany bad weather. Theoretically, the formula could predict storm activity in the coming months.

Though the Columbia team would like to issue its tornado forecast next year, the ETA for this may be at least five years away. According to Storm Prediction Center meteorologist Ashton Simpson Cook, “We’ve already started on it, [sic] we’re in the beginning phase.”

Recently, IRI research discovered El Niño conditions over the Pacific, leading to believe this upcoming spring will be a milder storm season in the southern U.S. Additionally, El Niño conditions could prove to have an immense impact of California’s dire need for drought relief, as well as providing relief from severe winter weather in the northern Midwest. Some analysts outside of the IRI believe there is a high probability that the conditions could last through the fall.

May 8

Source: Inside Performance Baseball/Facebook

Source: Inside Performance Baseball/Facebook

For many around the world, a community is essential to one’s being. A community establishes a sense of camaraderie amongst otherwise strangers. It bonds people for the common good of seeing their community and people flourish. As generations evolve, communities have become less important in many regions–abandoning them altogether in some circumstances.

However, that isn’t the case in Northern Vancouver, British Columbia. The power of its community brought an essential baseball facility back from the brink of closing–helping propel the sport and the region’s athletes to new heights.


Inside Performance Baseball

Wes Taylor is the General Manager at Inside Performance Baseball, a position he’s held since 2012. The prior year, the massive facility was owned by another owner who may have been too ambitious with his endeavor. “His eyes were bigger than his stomach,” Taylor explains of how the ambitious training center closed within a year of opening.

However, Northern Vancouver couldn’t spare to lose a facility of this stature. On top of the “six or seven” little leagues the area has, it also serves as home to high school and a women’s fast pitch teams. Additionally, recreational leagues are a common activity for Vancouver residents.

“All the little leagues use the facility in the offseason. Where would they go? Where would they train if they didn’t have this place to go,” Taylor explained. Not only is that sentiment a driving factor for Inside Performance today. It also was the rallying cry for several parents in the community. Soon, local parents,myself included, banded together to buy the facility back from the bank. Some became active members, with Wes Taylor serving as the pivotal day-to-day figure. Others chose to donate as silent partners. In the end, the group of parents opted to donate the same amount, making this a true communal effort. In 2012, Inside Performance Baseball officially had been revived.


Coming Together for the Community

The local parents came together to support their children as well as the long line of athletic talent in the region. Now in operation for nearly four years, Inside Performance will never be a Fortune 500 company, as Taylor describes. Instead, every dollar earned goes back into the center so it can benefit the athletes in need. “We all have a reason for keeping it going, the main reason being there isn’t another facility like this in the lower mainland of Vancouver,” Taylor explains. “It has to stay open. It’s a priority for us.”

While he doesn’t want to give direct credit to Inside Performance, Taylor has noticed an uptick in baseball and softball sign ups in the years since reviving the facility.

With seasons starting now, Inside Performance heads into its slow season. Winter is where the most business occurs, while the summer is often home to players looking to hone their skills after a rough start as well as the late-to-start-training rec leaguers. Now, Taylor continues to give credit to many community members including Brooks McNiven, Manuel Fonseca, Bill Ireland, Marty Dome, and Blair Peters as some of those that made this all possible for Northern Vancouver’s community.

Apr 29

NFL Logo Credit Matt McGee

The NFL recently announced that it will become a taxable entity, ending its long-standing and long-debated tax-exempt status. After facing many forms of crisis over the last few seasons, the NFL took a voluntary measure to end one that had been lingering for quite some time. In fact, Commissioner Roger Goodell said by changing the league’s tax status, the league would eliminate a “distraction.”

Although this changes the NFL in some capacity, the true ramifications are not all that severe. The NFL made the smart business decision for two main reasons:


Less Transparency, More Public Praise

When the league went through its most recent stretch of negative PR surrounding domestic violence, player safety and the Washington name debate, Roger Goodell’s enormous salary was one of the first points brought up. Last year, Goodell’s reported salary was $44 million, while the prior year was $30 million. Other league executives’ salaries also had to be disclosed as part of the league’s prior tax status. Now, as a private business, the league and its owners won’t have to defend Goodell’s competency or pay. Additionally, it is expected that the commissioner’s salary will continue to rise through the years. Now the NFL won’t have to make it public information.

Another perk to the NFL’s change is the uptick in public praise. While Congress appears to remain skeptical of the league’s intentions, public perception will most likely improve in this regard. In recent years, retired Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) estimated is his that pro sports exemptions cost the American taxpayers $91 million a year. With the average American pining for any financial relief they can find, taking a portion of a sports league’s taxes off their books is certainly welcomed.


Beat the Government to the First Punch

Many in the public and private sector wondered how the NFL and other sports leagues even qualified for tax-exemption in the first place (1966’s AFL-NFL merger is the large reason). With so much pressure on the league for its handling of player safety and off the field transgressions, the NFL faced mounting pressure from Congress on both sides of the aisle. In recent years, Senator Coburn and Cory Booker (D-NJ) brought forth similar legislation to end the NFL and other sports league from benefitting from the current standard.

By following in Major League Baseball’s 2007 decision, only a few major sports leagues in America still operate as a 501 (c)(6)–leaving the NFL and LPGA as two of the remaining leagues. Additionally by dropping its status, the league will join the ranks of its players and teams that have paid taxes throughout the years. Additionally, the league is expected to only pay out $109 million in taxes over the next decade.

While this certainly avoids further congressional pressure on the subject, many on the hill probably won’t be satisfied enough. This may have taken the league out of the crosshairs on this subject, but many more remain–though it will be easier for the league to deal with under its new tax status.

By beating the government to the punch, the league took an appropriate step to cut down on negative PR while removing some transparency from the public. Essentially, nothing will change for the league besides its tax filing. Certainly, this won’t end the league’s woes but for now it does ensure one less “distraction” for the NFL and the famous shield.

Apr 21

Since 2011’s Margin Call succeeded with its day and date release through video on demand (VOD), the strategy and platform has grown to become a viable option for indie and big release productions. Other movies demonstrated the platform’s power as well. The Interview turned controversy into cash for Sony after its large screen release got squashed–raking in $40 million before landing on Netflix 30 days after its VOD release. Currently, indie horror film It Follows is showing that the “compressed window” strategy that closely runs theatre and VOD releases can result in massive earnings and exposure for indies that otherwise could drown behind small marketing budgets and limited release.


76 percent of homes in America currently use DVR, Netflix and/or other VOD services to stream content to their screens. As the number rises with each year, more and more services have come onto the scene to allow independent film and television makers a viable platform to host their productions on Hulu, iTunes, Vudu and countless other services. Now, Walla enters the fray with some incredible options that makes the process easier for content creators, as well as providing viewers with some often hard to find content.

What is Walla?

Walla is a service striving to make global aggregation and distribution a simpler process. Its proprietary tools leverage technology to resolve VOD issues while reducing costs for platform delivery. In turn, this should make the process much more efficient for creators while holding them accountable for producing high-quality content that will pass stringent quality checks employed by streaming platforms. If content passes the quality check, Walla ensures that movies and TV shows should reach iTunes distribution within 30 days. Additionally, with established agreements with top VOD distribution services in place, it can provide Distribution as a Service (DaaS) with ease to up to 110 territories.

During the initial phase, Walla’s Studio Service will guide you through the uploading process that offers an incredible ease of use for the client at the speed they prefer. Once uploaded, a quality check of your content will begin. Once completed, all the platforms your work qualifies for will become options to launch on. If there is a service you wish to be added to that you don’t qualify for, Walla will instruct you on how to reach that goal. After you make your distribution decisions, Walla handles the rest of the work.


With clear-cut pricing and no hidden fees, content creators can understand just what they are getting into. In addition to low, one-time fees clients are guaranteed to receive prompt payment each month that they can track in near real-time through the company’s sales reporting. With transparency as its goal, Walla strives to have clients know exactly what is going on with their project on each platform. Once you have your sales stats for the month, Walla will deliver prompt payments on time, every month.

Walla in the News

Walla’s name received a nice boost in April courtesy of two exciting pieces of news. First, the company announced a partnership with premiere South Korean distributor CJ Entertainment. The partnership brings the South Korean content to Facebook–including a 48 hour free streaming of the film Friend II: The Legacy. Furthering the month’s good news, Walla also launched support for the new iTunes Store Package from Compressor to make delivery to the iTunes Store simpler. It remains to be seen how Walla further impacts distribution, though the recent news bodes well for the service.

Have you tried Walla? What are your thoughts on Walla and VOD as a whole?

Apr 10

Scotland uses whisky for more reasons than to imbibe it. Its £4.3 billion (US$6.8 billion) whisky industry provides year round access to a highly viable source of power. Highlanders take clean energy seriously and have found at least two ways to take their most popular export and make it renewable.

Image of scotland and clean energy

Rothes in Speyside Bioenergy Plant

This bioenergy plant uses whisky by-product to create power, so much power that it provides electricity to 9000 homes. The Rothes Project, a joint venture of Helius Energy Plc, Rabo Project Equity BV, and the Combination of Rothes Distillers Limited (CoRD), burns the “draff” (used grains in the distilling process) with wood chips to generate electricity.

50 of the 100 whisky distilleries are in Speyside so the by-products of Glenlivet, Chivas Regal, Grouse and 9 other whiskies are used at the plant.

Celtic Renewables

Edinburgh company Celtic Renewables, founded by Professor Martin Tangney, Head of Biofuel Research Centre at Edinburgh Napier University, has presented proof that they can transform distillery waste into biofuel. Celtic Renewables combines draff, barley which aids in fermentation, and pot ale (the yeast heated during distillation) to produce biobutanol.  Biobutanol, a “drop-in fuel”, can be introduced to a car’s gas tank without conversion and blended with diesel and biodiesel for planes. This bio-fuel generates clean energy for cars and planes and is a direct substitute for fossil fuels.

Though the developments with whisky as energy are remarkable, Scotland also uses clean energy in the form of wind, wave and tide power. In fact, the country’s renewable generation is approximately 32% of UK’s total renewable generation and 40.3% of Scotland’s electricity came from renewables as of 2012 (not just from spirits). And with approximately 3 million tons of whisky waste by-product discarded by the industry each year, whisky serves as yet another, ingenious source of clean energy for the Isles.