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.


Archaeology is a Science with a Little s

A saying of one of my professors at the University of Oklahoma was that archaeology was a science with a little s. What he meant with this statement was that archaeologists can never know for certain what happened in the past. We do not have a time machine. Instead archaeologists use science to better interpret the past.

Scientific methods in archaeology such as radiocarbon dating, sourcing materials, dendrochronology, etc. give archaeologist more accurate data to interpret the past. Science in archaeology also holds archaeologists accountable in their story telling by making sure the story is told from a perspective so that other researchers can judge the value of the story. This is the theoretical framework of archaeology.

There are many different theories used in archaeology such as cultural transmission, evolutionary ecology, agency theory, optimal foraging theory, etc. Each theory has its advantages and weaknesses in interpreting the archaeological record. However, in the development and use of theory – the manner in which the archaeological record is interpreted and used to tell a story – other researchers can examine the data to see if the information fits with the perspective of the theory or story teller.

A recent problem within the field of archaeology is the extreme use of post-modern theory. This has been labelled as post-processual theory to signify a change from the more scientific approach of processual archaeology. In post-processual theory, the individual perspective is the center and there are many different possible interpretations of the archaeological record. The problem with this perspective is that there is no accountability, and it does not progress our understanding of the past.

Many researchers now label themselves as processual+. This simply means archaeology should also study intangible aspects of the archaeological record such as identity while also holding onto a scientific perspective. In these types of studies often a science perspective is used as a yard stick to more objectively document intangible aspects of past culture. For example, I am using GIS to objectively measure prominent locations on the landscape, defined as differences in elevations over a given distance, to ascertain if rock art localities and campsites are more frequently associated with prominent places than would be expected. This allows me to get at an intangible aspect of past culture within a scientific framework.

Archaeology is best situated within a scientific framework, but also allowing for more subjective interpretations that can be actively debated due to well-defined perspectives. This is the essence of archaeology as a science with a little s.

GIS in Archaeology

Geographical Information Systems (GIS) is a necessary tool for all researchers in the field of archaeology regardless of area of expertise. Archaeology above all things is a science of material culture and a critical facet of understanding material culture is interpreting the relationship between material culture across the landscape and also how material culture is related to different components of the landscape. Archaeology is like a great detective story, it is an attempt to understand pieces of an unknown puzzle.

A key principle in the geographical sciences is that the closer things are to each other the more related they will be.

Archaeologists use this principle to understand past human behavior by mapping in the location of sites, their features and artifacts. By examining the spatial distribution of artifacts and sites – archaeologists can then interpret past spatial behaviors at a site, and the different types of activities that took place across a region and within their territories.

There are 4 key benefits of using GIS in archaeology:

1). Examining spatial patterns across a site or region for interpreting past behavior. Included within GIS packages are powerful spatial statistics.
2). Correlating the relationship between sites, or individual artifacts within sites to the landscape. The landscape in GIS can be modeled with such things as elevation, distribution of water, location of lithic resources, most prominent landmarks, etc.
3). Making pretty maps. A lot of archaeologists stop at this level of expertise, and this is an important aspect. Archaeology is a visual science and making great maps are important for displaying the location of artifacts and sites on the landscape.
4). Managing data. The story of archaeology is told across space and time. GIS offers a great database function to manage information that is tied to a place on earth. Artifacts collected in the field occur from a particular place with an x,y,z coordinate, however, intangible information can also be tied to space, such as an oral history told by an elder about a particular site or place.


ArcGIS: is the most popular commercial software coded by ESRI out of Redlands, California. It is very expensive, but most universities do have an academic license for this software. The main benefit of ArcGIS is that it is easy to use, and this is the main type of software taught at universities.

Grass GIS and QGIS: Grass GIS was developed by the U.S. Army with the help of several universities and other federal agencies. This software is free! It has been around a long time and is now a lot more user friendly to start up and use. There is more of a learning curve in getting started, but for coders I feels this software offers many more benefits to developing add-on specific applications than for ArcGIS.

Caveat: I am not a coder, but have learned to work through the specific commands of the software.

I have been using Grass GIS for several years now and prefer it over ArcGIS for some functions, but I use both in combination. I was attracted to Grass GIS early on due it’s availability on Macs – ArcGIS only works on PCs. Another big difference between ArcGIS and Grass GIS is how it handles files. In ArcGIS different types of files can be scattered all across the hard drive of a computer. I have spent countless hours for an important source of data that I have put in a subfolder and can not relocate. If you are working on a map with a data source and move that file in an organization attempt to clean up your hard drive, then ArcGIS will not be able to display the information on the map. Although in recent versions of ArcGIS, ArcGIS will automatically load other data sources within the same map if you can locate one of the files and if the data sets are within the same folder. In contrast, Grass GIS stores your datasets within its specific folder structure system associated with a particular map and projection. Therefore, you are less likely to lose data on the computer, but it is a more rigid system and requires that all of the data is in the correct projection and set geographic boundary. I spent a lot of time figuring this out about Grass GIS.

QGIS (Quantum GIS) is a more user friendly shell for GIS and works with Grass. It is also open sourced it works on most platforms including a mobile Android version. If you are interested in Grass GIS then you will also use QGIS.

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.

Total station for elevation control

Using an EDM (Total Station) for elevations only.

I discovered this trick when several of our transits and levels were damaged and stopped working.

Set Up:

No need to set up over a grid point. Simply set up the total station anywhere at the site. Make sure that it is level. Then shoot to a known elevation point. Add or subtract this difference in elevation to the total station’s instrument height. Sometimes it can make it easier to zero out the HI for the total station to know how much to add or subtract to the total station HI. Then reshoot to the known elevation point to confirm that the resulting elevation is the correct elevation of that known point. You can also shoot to other elevation points to confirm the elevation accuracy. This method is easy to use, and there are no calculations necessary to subtract the elevation from the HI of a transit or level from the stadia rod. The total station does all of this for you. This method also works great when there are dramatic elevation differences at the site.

Special Note: The total station also works great around camp for star gazing at night.

Post-PC or Original Hipster?

I am converting to using an ipad as my main research tool over a laptop or desktop computer.
After all my iPad and iPhone for that matter has a lot more power and ability than my first iMac or iBook computer that had only a 3G hard drive.

Caveat: I still use my MacBook Pro or Windows desktop for statistics, GIS, formatting manuscripts, and backing up data.

Why convert to a Post-PC device?

First off it is really cool being able to work from anywhere, and not to worry about battery power for most of the day. The other critical factor for me is that I think the iPad is the single greatest computer device ever invented. My mother uses an ipad and knows nothing about computers. I like how intimate it is to work on an ipad, it is more like working with a pen and paper at your favorite desk or table. I am also convinced I will read and write more since there are fewer distractions – as long as not too many games are downloaded anyway.

My Favorite Apps

Endnote: excellent reference and PDF manager, this app really makes it possible for me to leave the desktop behind.

Pages: only significant word processor on the market, I do enjoy using this app and having it sync with my desktop version, but I am waiting for the ipad version of Scrievner.

Numbers: only significant spreadsheet app on the market.

Keynote: only significant presentation app on the market; I prefer Keynote over PowerPoint on my desktop, I do not like the changes in format presentations go through converting from the desktop to ipad version.

Goodreader: best pdf reader app; I like the ability to export highlighted sections and notes that I then copy and paste into my notes section within Endnote. I typically open my PDF attached in Endnote into Goodreader due to Endnote’s limited PDF annotation capabilities.

Bento: great and easy to use database. I think it is quicker to enter data on my ipad than on a desktop spreadsheet or database.

Scrievner and Papers a winning combo

This past month I switched from Endnote to the reference manager Papers. Papers unlike Endnote X6 syncs your pdf library with your iPad or iPhone. And Papers is a lot cheaper than endnote. I have also enjoyed the search capabilities of Papers over endnote, and Papers does a better job of importing PDFs and finding the citation information automatically. Papers also allows for in-text citations, and you can insert citations while working within any program.

I have also been using Scrievner for the past year, which is a word processing program built for how you actually write. It is constructed on the philosophy of working on sections of a paper rather than the whole paper. You simply create sections, and then can reorganize the sections at a later date. It is both writing, organizing, and outlining at the same time. It also has a nice project goal feature that monitors the writers’ number of words at each writing session until the project is complete.

Both programs work on a Mac or PC and were created by independent developers. Papers was recently purchased by Springer publishing, and I assume Papers will be an important competitor to Endnote in the future.