Creating a 3D model of a surface with QGIS

The easiest method I have found for creating a 3D model from a digital elevation model (DEM) is with the QGIS plugin [DEMto3D]. Simply add the DEM into the plugin, and you can adjust the model’s base height, z exaggeration, etc., The model can take awhile to create if the DEM file is large. 
The plugin creates a STL file that can then be added into Meshlab or other 3D viewers for further manipulation. The model should also be easy to georeference based on obtaining the extent coordinates within QGIS. The plugin was designed for 3D printing landscapes. 


Submitting high resolution graphs and figures for publication from iWork’s Pages and Numbers

Recently I submitted a new manuscript for publication.  Within the manuscript I have several figures and line drawings that I created within Numbers and Pages.  Publishers typically require line drawings to be saved in Tiff format and have a resolution of 1200 dpi.

In the past, I copy and pasted my figures and line drawings into Keynote using a really big custom slide.  After scaling up the figure to match the large slide size,  I would then export the Keynote slide as a Tiff and then modify the image size setting and resolution within Photoshop.

This method requires many unnecessary steps.

The easy way is to print the Pages or Numbers document at 1200 dpi resolution and save it as a PDF file.  Then open up the PDF in Photoshop, select the page with the figure or line drawing that you are working on, crop the image, and then save as a Tiff.  That is it.  Repeat for each figure or line drawing.

With this method it is now really easy to use Pages to manage figures, tables, and line drawings for publication.  I typically have one Pages document that contains all of my text, and another Pages document that contains all of my figures, line drawings, and tables.

Productivity and National Novel Writing Month Competition?

Start your typewriters, computers, iPads, pencils, etc. November is the national novel writing month, or NoNaWritMo for short. Each November would be writers attempt to write that novel within a month. The goal is to reach 50,000 words in 30 days. That is 1667 words per day.

The NoNaWritMo competition started in 1999 and only 21 writers competed. The competition has grown exponentially and last years competition welcomed 341,375 participants of which 38,438 finished the 50,000 word goal a 11% rate of success. Published novels derived from the competition include Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants and Marissa Meyer’s Cinder.

The goal of NoNaWritMo is to just write. Lots of people have an idea for a novel, and if they just had that time to write they would produce a bestseller. This is also the problem with writing that thesis, dissertation, and journal article.

I encounter the dreaded writers block on occasion. It is also difficult to get back in the swing of writing after finishing field season. Writing is a different type of mental activity. This past field season I attempted to just write something everyday. I started an archaeology type novel, after all, I have plenty of good stories and people to base characters on. I also started writing this blog. It is difficult to do research based writing in the field, to much mental activity after a long day. So by writing, writing just anything, I was attempting to keep the mental activity of writing up in the hopes that it would improve and make me more productive in my research based writing.

The extracurricular writing has helped. Although it has been more difficult to keep up with fun writing while out of the field since there are so many manuscripts to write and finally finish. However, I think the idea of writing, and writing just anything, everyday, can help students with writing their term papers, and thesis or dissertations.

In honor of NoNaWritMo I started a writing challenge with students and colleagues. A few of my students and colleagues are a little past due in getting that chapter finished for a thesis, finishing a manuscript, and also finally writing that novel. For our competition, to keep it on a level playing field, I proposed that research base writing would count double. So to reach the 50,000 word goal for November a participant would have to write 25,000 words. Writing can consist of a mix of research and non research writing. The important thing is to just write everyday. My hope is that the participants will produce a few drafts of chapters, manuscripts, and a novel.

My wife and I are expecting our first baby the beginning of this month. Therefore it is easy to challenge my students, if I can write with a newborn in my arm than so can you! We will see how that works out! After writing this blog I can now add 601 words to my count for the day. Take that fellow NoNaWritMo competitors.

Keeping track of NoNaWritMo

To keep track of the competition’s progress, and to also provide extra motivation, I set up an iWorks Numbers spreadsheet within iCloud. Each participant has their on sheet to enter their word count for the day. I set formulas to add up the totals and I have an interacting bar chart to compare each participants progress. With the new iWorks you can collaborate together on the same document. Each participant is allowed to enter their own word count everyday. It is working great so far.

Forgiving Lance Armstrong?

Lance Armstrong was fueled to seven Tour de France victories by doping. His admission to Oprah of cheating only came after his lifetime ban from the sport by the U.S. anti-doping agency. Several of his former teammates also testified to doping, but Lance was the very last to admit his guilt.


Lance could have rode off into the sunset by keeping his mouth shut and ending his career after his 7th Tour de France title in 2005, but he had to try his 2.0 comeback. His explanation for his comeback was to increase cancer awareness. I am sure this was a partial reason, but I think it is a banner of deception.

Why did Lance finally admit to doping? He wants to compete, he wants to race, and he wants to test himself. He won several triathlon events in 2012. Recently, he attempted to compete in a masters swimming event in his hometown of Austin, Texas, but had to withdraw due to the USADA reminding masters swimming to abide by its ruling.

Lance withdraws from Masters Swim Meet

Why can’t Lance just stop competing and walk from the public spot light?

Lance is a self-deceiver. People and athletes in particular that lie and lie to themselves are more successful. I came across this concept and the importance of self-deception from listening to a Radiolab podcast on deception.

For athletes the act of self-deception can reduce stress levels and increase pain tolerance, which helps in motivation and performance (Starek and Keating 1991). Athletes that believe in themselves and have higher unrealistic performance expectations of themselves are more successful. This is not a surprising characteristic. We hear it all the time from athletes “psyching themselves up for an event”. Athletes before an event start to focus and tell themselves that they are the best and that they will win. There can be no doubt. This activity of getting ready for an event is self-deception. It ignores the reality for most athletes that they will lose. However, to actually be successful you have to think you will win and that you are the best.

Forty collegiate swimmers were given a self-deception test (Starek and Keating 1991). An example of a question is “Have you ever questioned your sexual adequacy?”. People that answer no are self-deceiving themselves, and in contrast people that answer yes to this question are being more realistic. This is based on the idea that self-deceivers lie to themselves and other people to keep up their social appearance to conform to social norms. In this study of forty swimmers, those swimmers who scored higher on the self-deception test more likely qualified for the national swimming championships than non self-deceivers. Therefore, the act of self-deception is a quality for success.


Was self-deception an important factor in Lance’ victory over cancer. Remember, Lance was given less than a 40% chance to live. He had brain surgery and one of his testicles were removed.

If children have the ability to ignore all odds and percentages, then maybe we can all learn from them. When you think about it, what other choice is there but to hope? We have two options, medically and emotionally: give up, or Fight Like Hell.”
― Lance Armstrong

I think self-deception was a very important reason Lance survived cancer. He maintained hope, and probably thought to himself that since I am a great athlete I will be able to beat cancer. I am different than other people, I will be able to beat the odds. We will never no for sure, an intimate struggle to survive cancer likely required several different self-deceptions to survive that kind of hell.

Can we forgive Lance Armstrong? It is very hard to forgive a person who lied, cheated, and used cancer as a shield against incrimination. Millions of people looked up to Lance, which also included thousands people inflicted with cancer who saw Lance as a ray of hope, a symbol of possibility- that yes I can battle cancer and survive.

Lance deceived us, but he also deceived himself. He deceived himself in that it would be okay to try a comeback 2.0, that he could continue to keep up a lie. However, his crazy self-deception made him a successful athlete and also allowed him to survive cancer.

I do believe most cyclists during Lance’s era were taking some kind of PED. Lance and his team just did it better, and for a competitor like Lance, all Lance had to do was self-deceive and incorporate PEDs into the training regime. Lance may have thought to himself that I am special, I deserve to win, I beat cancer, I am racing for a better cause than any of the other cyclists, therefore, it is ok that I do PEDs, after all everybody else is doing it. Lies upon lies became a tangled mess that Lance believed would be okay because the cause was just.

I forgive Lance Armstrong. He didn’t have to admit his guilt. He confessed to doping so that he could continue to compete. Deep down I believe all that Lance wanted to do was compete with himself and against other people and he risked and lost his whole integrity in the process. Self-deception is a tricky slope.

Cited Reference

Starek and Keating 1991. Self-Deception and Its Relationship to Success in Competition. BASIC AND APPLIED SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY 12:145-155.

My Life as a Cowboys Fan

My first memory of football and the Dallas Cowboys was at the age of 6.

It was the 1981 Cowboys vs. 49ers Championship game.

What I remember about the game is more of feelings, I remember asking questions about what was going on in the game, the rules, what would happen if the Cowboys won. I must have enjoyed watching it because it was with my parents and other family. But I also remember being intrinsically hooked to the game. Ever since that game football and more importantly the Dallas Cowboys have been a part of my life.


I grew up with early 1980s Cowboys’ football. Players like Danny White, Randy White, Drew Pearson, Tony Hill, and Tony Dorsett.

I remember when Bill Bates joined the team as an overachieving and undersized linebacker.

The Cowboys of my early youth were good, but could never get over the hump especially with teams like the Redskins and 49ers. I really enjoyed those Cowboy teams, it was more about the struggle.

I was hooked and totally immersed into the Cowboys. I remember, it was the fourth or fifth grade, and I bet another kid that Dallas was going to beat the Redskins that week. The Cowboys lost, and I cried after the game. My parents told me if I continued to take the game this seriously that I would not be allowed to watch it anymore.

I recall the last Monday night game of one season, it was the Cowboys vs. the Dolphins and Dan Marino. Dallas needed the win to get into the playoffs. My mom picked me up early from a cub scouts meeting so I could watch the game. Unfortunately they lost.

The mid to late 1980s were really bad. After the retirement of Danny White, quarterbacks such as Gary Hogeboom took the reins. I remember my Dad would start singing after an inevitable interception “Gary H o o g a b o o o u u u u m”.

Then Jerry Jones bought the team and that was the last of Coach Laundry. A disappointing way to go out. But I really got excited with Jimmy Johnson as coach.

The 1988 season was my favorite year. I watched every single game. The Cowboys drafted Troy Aikman from UCLA and Steve Walsh from the University of Miami. The Cowboys only won one game all year, and that was a victory over the Redskins with Steve Walsh at the helm. The excitement and enthusiasm of the new coach and young players was infectious. I was thankful to the Vikings with the Hershel Walker trade which built a good part of the 1990s Cowboys team.

The early 1990s were the glory years. Watching young players such as Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irving develop into hall of famers was amazing to watch. Winning Super Bowls seemed easy at that point.


However, since 1996 Dallas has been through a plethora of coaches and quarterbacks trying to recreate the magic of the early 1990s teams. It is not so easy to win Super Bowls

I have tried given up watching the Cowboys many times. During the 1997-1998 seasons I was a ski lift operator in Montana living in the mountains with no TV. This about kicked my habit of the Cowboys. Then I started grad school in pursuit of my PhD in Anthropology. I wouldn’t allow myself time to spend a Sunday watching the Cowboys if I had not made much progress with my research.

But here I am now. Almost 40 years old. I followed the last Cowboys draft in April and was happy and surprised with the new draft class of Frederick, Williams, and Escobar.

I wish I could stop watching them. I have a lot more things to do. I have manuscripts to write and publish, spend time with my wife, and we have our first baby coming this fall. Yet, here it is the start of the season and I can’t wait. Will the offense line solidify with Frederick? Will the new 4-3 defense allow Ware to become the best DE in the league? All questions that I want to see answered and I do not want to miss a thing.

It feels like watching the Cowboys is in my DNA. Watching and talking about the Cowboys with my Dad was an important part of my life. It will be interesting to see if my love of the Cowboys is culturally transmitted to my son. Being a fan of a team like this is so much more than just watching the game.


Teaching Anthropology

I taught an introductory course in anthropology for several years while finishing up my Phd at the University of Oklahoma. I have taught other classes in archaeology including Great Discoveries, North American Archaeology, and World Heritage sites. I feel that I have had the greatest impact on students in my Intro to Anthropology classes. Most of these students were only taking the course to satisfy a humanities credit. However, for most of them this course was and will be their only exposure to the concepts of culture, cultural diversity, identity, the concept of race, human evolution, past cultures, and modern cultures. These are all extremely important topics that I believe all Americans should be exposed to as part of their general education.

I was listening to NPR early in the morning while driving to a dig site to meet the crew at 6:45 a.m. The radio had my full attention for over an hour. One of the news segments discussed the controversy of Mexican-American classes being taught in Arizona. I think ethnic study classes are great for providing students with a sense of history and identity.

However, rather than teach specific ethnic classes why not give anthropology a try? Teaching the four subfield approach of anthropology in either Middle School or High School curriculum would provide all students with a holistic view on culture. In biological anthropology students would learn about the origins of our species, and how race is not a valid biological concept. The archaeological section of the class would demonstrate the long history of the creation and change in cultures throughout the world. From linguistics, students could learn how language shapes culture and is a marker of identity. Cultural anthropology would enlighten students to the diversity in modern cultures and how this diversity is a hallmark of our species, and how culture continuously changes and impacts our daily lives.

The lack of cultural awareness, and knowledge of our history as a species for graduating seniors is sad. U.S History taught in high schools typically focuses only on the recent Euroamerican time period with very little mention of past Native American groups and the over 12,000 years of Native American history. At my high school in Oklahoma we had only a half of a semester devoted to Oklahoma history taught by a coach, and the other half was Drivers Ed. We also spent a lot of that semester outside playing softball.

Teaching evolution in schools would be a sensitive subject in many states, but students need this education regardless if it conflicts with their religious beliefs. Studying evolution would demonstrate to students that even though we have many different beliefs today, we all come from the same place. Evolution is often poorly misunderstood and students with different religious belief systems could become better educated about evolution rather than assuming incorrectly that evolution equates to “survival of the fittest” or that “humans evolved from monkeys”.

Conflicts over education normally boils down to conflicts over identity. The development of ethnic classes is important to show the importance and value of cultures that do not dominate culture today. I argue that anthropology can enlighten students to cultural awareness from a broader perspective than more specific ethnic courses, and that this is a necessary part of the education system for all students.