Converting MP4 to MP3 with VLC

Have you ever wanted to convert a video file to an audio file? Like, maybe you wanted a small clip from TV show to use as a ringtone, or maybe your favorite band was on Conan or Kimmel and you wanted an audio version of their performance for your iPod or smartphone?

There are dozens of apps out there that claim to do that, but most of those websites seem scammy, as if the download is malware or the ads might infect your computer with some kind of virus. And even the legit apps often have some kind of toolbar or search engine they want to install.

But did you know that VLC, the malware-free Swiss Army knife of video players, can also convert video to audio?

Just open VLC and choose “Media” > “Convert/Save”:


In the window that appears, click “Add” and choose the video file(s) you want to convert:


Next, click the down arrow on the “Convert/Save” button and choose “Convert”:


On the next window, make sure the “Convert” radio button is selected, then choose the type of audio file you wish to create: OGG, MP3, MP4, FLAC or CD (WAV):


Choose an output destination, then press “Start”. VLC will appear to play the file: the main VLC window will appear, and the progress bar will move as if the video is playing at high speed, but no video will be displayed. When it reaches the end of the video, the conversion will be complete. You can then edit the audio in Adobe Audition (spendy, but awesome) or Audacity (free, but not as good as Audition).

By default, VLC will convert the audio to a 128kbps mp3. This is fine for things like ringtones.

If you’d like to convert at higher quality, select “Audio – MP3” at the previous step and then click the Options icon (the icon with the screwdriver and wrench). Click the “Audio Codec” tab:


Here you can adjust the bitrate as necessary. However, note that increasing the bitrate will not improve the converted file if the new file’s bitrate exceeds the original file. For instance, if the audio in the original file is 192kbps, editing the bitrate to 320kbps won’t make it sound any better; it’ll just make a larger file. You could, however, change VLC’s default bitrate from the 128kbps to 192kbps to get the best quality from the converted file.

A REALLY COOL Photograph

Wanna see something cool? Check out this picture:

Conrad Heyer

The man in the picture is Conrad Heyer. Heyer was born in Waldoboro, Maine. The picture was taken in 1852, when Heyer was 103. Since he was born in 1749. this picture is unique in that it’s a photograph of the earliest born human being. In other words, as far as anyone knows, there are no photographs of anyone born before Heyer was.

But there’s more. Heyer served in the Continental Army under George Washington. You know how Washington crossed the Delaware River to attack Hessians in Trenton, New Jersey on Christmas 1776? Washington-Crossing-the-Delaware

Yeah, Heyer was there. The eyes you see in the photograph above once gazed on George Washington himself! Which is pretty cool. It’s also a connection to a world we can’t imagine. Heyer was born in Maine back when Maine was still part of Massachusetts… and was barely explored by Europeans. The entire population of the United States was less than 2 million. If you wanted to go from point A to point B, horseback and walking were your only options, It’s likely that Heyer remembered even the Seven Years War, which came to an end when he was 14.

It kind of blows my mind that someone who fought with Washington lived long enough to be photographed. But there you are.

RANDOM CRUSH: Greta Gerwig

Greta Celeste Gerwig, born on August 4, 1983, is an American actress and filmmaker. She initially became popular through the mumblecore movement, but has since starred in “bigger” films, such as Whit Stillman’s Damsels in Distress and the godawful Arthur remake. She does voice work on the Adult Swim series China, IL, and also co-wrote her most recent film. Frances Ha.

To me, she seems to be the “thinking man’s Katee Sackhoff”… or, if you prefer, Katee Sackhoff for hipsters and\or film nerds. What do you think?

Et tu, Brute?

From the “This Is Why They Call It The Daily Fail” Department:

In the UK there’s a long-running TV show called University Challenge, in which teams from universities – especially posh schools like Oxford and Cambridge – answer ridiculously difficult questions for points. The team with the most points at the end of the show continues on in a knockout tournament not unlike March Madness.

Since 1994, the show has been hosted by TV personality Jeremy Paxman. And if you thought Alex Trebek was “snooty” and “condescending” when a Jeopardy! contestant gives a wrong answer… let’s just say that Paxman puts him to shame. This article in the Daily Mail refers to Paxman’s “withering put-downs” and “goading” of incorrect answers.

But it seems that Paxman got a comeuppance of sorts recently. A team from Claire College Oxford was asked to identify the composer of a snippet of classical music. They guessed, incorrectly, that it was by Bedrich Smetana. Paxman replied that it was Antonín Dvorak.

The problem? The music was from a piece by Dvorak, but the specific snippet the show played was actually an ancient plainchant (or, if you prefer, a Gregorian chant).

To give a modern analogy, it was as if the show played the first ten seconds of the Fugees’ “Ready or Not” (which is nothing but a sample of an Enya song called “Boadicea”), and the team answered “Enya” but were told they were wrong because it was the Fugees:



Anyway, the Daily Fail wrote the linked article, gloating that Paxman had gotten it wrong. But within their article – ABOUT HOW PAXMAN WAS WRONG – lies this whopper:

(Click to embiggen)

For those too lazy to click the thumbnail, the Mail asserts that “St Gregory the Great is said to have standardized [plainchant] in the mid 18th century”.

Pope Gregory I lived from around AD 540 until March 12, 604. Which, you’ll note, is not the mid 1700s. I’m not sure how the hell the Mail managed to make such a huge error. At first I was thought “maybe the author was thinking ‘seventh’ century and accidentally added the ‘-teenth’ at the end”. But then, most of what Pope Gregory did – if he did what he did – would have been done in the sixth century. And although traditionalists have long asserted that Gregory was the man who made them part of the Western Church, many scholars are convinced that the chants weren’t invented until AD 750 (and in France, no less), and that the chants weren’t standardized until the 9th or 10th centuries, well after Gregory passed.

Either way… good job, Daily Fail!

UPDATE: They have since corrected the error, and added another Paxman screw up on University Challenge to the linked article.

Football and Baseball

I was hanging out at one of my regular message boards this week when I stumbled across a post entitled “Things you didn’t know were real until you were an adult”. Posters admitted to all sorts of youthful naivete, like thinking that lobotomies were something made up for books and movies, or that “Jews for Jesus” was just a Richard Belzer joke, or not knowing that “cavalry” and “Calvary” were two different words.

One of the posters – who is not a sports fan – admitted that he had no idea there were two teams named the “Giants”: a baseball team and a football team.

Yes, there are two sports teams called the “Giants”. What’s more, they originally played in the same city: from 1883 to 1957, the baseball team was the New York Giants. In 1925, the NFL’s New York Giants team was born. To avoid confusion, they were often called the “New York Football Giants”, something you still hear sportscasters like Joe Buck say from time to time, even though the baseball team moved to San Francisco in 1958.

In the early days of the NFL, it was common to name NFL teams after long-established baseball teams. The Pittsburgh Steelers, for example, were known as the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1933 to 1940. In 1934, there was an NFL team called the Cincinnati Reds. There was an NFL teams known as the New York Yankees (1926-1928), the Brooklyn Dodgers (1930-1943) and the Cleveland Indians (1931.) There were at least two baseball teams with the Washington Senators name, the inspiration for the Washington Senators football team, which played a single season in 1921… when the NFL was still called the American Professional Football Association.

But one of the most interesting stories of all – especially given the current controversy – involves the Washington Redskins. Four men bought the rights to a Boston team in 1932. They named their team after the Boston Braves, a local baseball team (which moved to Milwaukee in 1953 and then Atlanta in 1966).

As it turned out, the football team lost $46,000 in its first year, the equivalent of $805,000 in today’s money. So three of the investors bailed, leaving George Preston Marshall as the sole owner. The next year, Marshall hired a new head coach, a Native American named Lone Star Dietz. He also signed many Native American players. But the players objected to the “Braves” name, so Marshall named them the “Boston Redskins” instead. And the Native American players were apparently OK with this: the 1933 team photo featured the entire team in warpaint and feathers.

Continue reading “Football and Baseball”


SimonHey, y’all! Simon here! Wow… either the NFL has gone plum crazy or Simon is just in a TERRIBLE rut! I went 9-6 last week! Blech! That’s so NOT FABULOUS! Well, let me put on my Big Boy Pants and see if I can improve this week. After all, I’m still 103-59 for the year! 



New Orleans at Atlanta: I declare! I have never seen a team just give up on a game like the Falcons did last week! FOR SHAME, Durty Birds! FOR SHAME! Yes, your season is all but over, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still be fabulous! Too bad Breesus and the ‘Aints are coming to town this week. Even though this is one of the bitterest rivalries in the NFL, I expect the Falcons to roll over and play dead by the second quarter. Take the Saints to win this one handily!

Pittsburgh at Cleveland: Hey, speaking of bitter rivalries! The Boys from Steel Town travel to the Mistake By The Lake to renew their long-standing rivalry. This game all depends on which Steelers team shows up. If the Steelers team from the second quarter of last week’s game against the Lions – which gave up 27 points – shows up… the Browns win easily. But if the Steelers team from the second half of last week’s game shows up – the one that held Calvin Johnson to zero catches and Matt Stafford to 35 passing yards – then this one will be all Pittsburgh! I’m jumping back on the Steelers train for this one.

Tampa Bay at Detroit: Y’all remember that movie How Stella Got Her Groove Back? That was stupid! I mean, as soon as they showed that handsome Taye Diggs taking his shirt off in the commercial, we all knew how Stella got her groove back! Having said that, the Lions will get their groove back after the second half shellacking they got last week in Pittsburgh. I just don’t think there’s any way the hapless Bucs can win this one!

Minnesota at Green Bay: Well, even with the QB situation in Green Bay – get well soon, Aaron… you hunka hunka sexy man! – I still think they beat the Vikings at home. It’s hard to win at Lambeau, and even if the Packers are all beat up, they’ve still got the skillz to win!

San Diego at Kansas City: Well, well. Last week we learned that the Chiefs are mortal after all. If this game was played in San Diego, I think it’d be close. But when Arrowhead is rockin’, visiting teams shouldn’t come knockin’! Take the Chiefs to rebound this week!

Continue reading “SIMON’S PICKS – WEEK 12”

David Bowie’s Eyes

Ask a hundred people to name a physical feature of David Bowie and almost all of them will say that he “has different colored eyes”:


Here’s the thing though… Bowie doesn’t have different color eyes. That’s a medical condition called heterochromia iridum, which is usually just shortened to heterochromia. Instead, as the picture above clearly demonstrates, one of his pupils is permanently dilated, a condition known as anisocoria. And the reason his eyes are like that… is because of a girl.

In 1962, when Bowie was 14, he fell for a girl named Carol Goldsmith. Problem was, his best friend, George Underwood, fell for her too.

According to Bowie, he got the date with Goldsmith. The next day, Bowie went to school and bragged to everyone about it, and the jealous Underwood punched him.

According to Underwood, he’d gotten the date with Goldsmith, and Bowie was jealous of him. So Bowie called Underwood on the day of the date and made up some story about how Goldsmith couldn’t make it. Underwood believed him, and made other plans. Goldsmith waited for Underwood for an hour and, of course, was furious when he didn’t show up. So she went out with Bowie instead. When Underwood found out that he’d been double-crossed, he punched Bowie.

Whatever actually happened, Underwood’s punch landed so that his knuckle hit Bowie in the left eye. This badly tore the sphincter muscles in his eye (oh, grow up), preventing the pupil from closing. Doctors were able to save his eye, but the dilation was permanent.

As proof of the old “bros before hos” maxim, Bowie and Underwood remained friends after the incident. Underwood played in a few of Bowie’s early bands, and ended up becoming a graphic designer. He did the covers for Bowie’s Hunky Dory and The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars albums, as well as several Bowie posters, flyers and book covers. You can see several of Underwood’s works on his website here.

There are, however, several celebrities that do have heterochromia iridum. Kate Bosworth’s eyes are particularly striking:


English actress Alice Eve’s eyes are two slightly different shades of blue:


Wikipedia also lists Dan Aykroyd, Elizabeth Berkley, Henry Cavill, Benedict Cumberbatch, Robert Downey, Jr., Mila Kunis, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Simon Pegg, Jane Seymour, Kiefer Sutherland, Christopher Walken, and Alyson Hannigan as having the condition.

EDIT: Sadly, David Bowie died two years ago. However, I recently found a picture of him, taken at age 14 before the infamous fight, that shows him with identical eyes:

David Bowie at 14



SimonHey, y’all! It’s Simon here! Sorry these picks are so late! I went out with the boys last night to do a lil’ hootin’ an’ hollerin’, and daddy has been busy doing some upgrades for his clients. So the picks this week are just that: a list of picks. I went 8-6 last week, which is just TERRIBLE! Let’s see if I can improve on my 94-53 record for the season!


Indianapolis at Tennessee: I’m picking the Colts in this game!

New York Jets at Buffalo: Take the J-E-T-S, Jets!

Baltimore at Chicago: The Bears will win at home!

Cleveland at Cincinnati: Take the Bengals!

Washington at Philadelphia: Take the Eagles!

Detroit at Pittsburgh: Take the Lions (‘though I hope the Steelers win!)

Atlanta at Tampa Bay: Hold your nose and take the Falcons!

Arizona at Jacksonville: Take the Cardinals!

Oakland at Houston: Take the Raiders for the upset!

San Diego at Miami: Take the Chargers, even though they’re playing on the East Coast!

San Francisco at New Orleans: Take the Saints all the way to town!

Green Bay at New York Giants: Take the Giants. At least they have a QB!

Minnesota at Seattle: Take the Seahawks!

Kansas City at Denver: Another upset: take the Chiefs!

New England at Carolina: Wow! Take the Patriots (but just barely!)