Going Bigger with Continental’s Terra Trail tubeless gravel tires

Bigger is better

I submitted my name for the Dirty Kanza lottery in the hope of riding in the world’s premier 200-mile gravel bike race. After watching several YouTube videos and reading articles about the race, it was clear to me bigger tires were better to resist puncture and to navigate over the sharp chert rocks of Kansas’ Flint Hills.

As an archaeologist on the Southern Plains, I have studied prehistoric stone tools crafted from these rocks, and my fingers can attest to their sharpness. I have cut myself several times while making prehistoric tools for replication experiments.

I decided to upgrade from Stan’s No Tubes The Raven 700×35 tire to the larger Continental Terra Trail 700X40 tire. I ride on a Specialized Diverge road bike and regularly switch between a road and gravel wheel set. My gravel wheels are Stan’s No Tubes Grail S1. These rims can fit road tires between 25 to 32mm at tire pressures up to 115, and wider gravel tires with pressures below 45psi.

The new Continental Terra Trail tubeless tire
The new Continental Terra Trail tubeless tire

I have used Continental’s Gator Skin road tires and appreciate their puncture resistance. The Terra Trail, along with Terra Speed are Continental’s first tubeless gravel-specific tires — released in August 2019. The Terra Trail tires have a slightly more aggressive knob pattern for muddier condition compared to the Terra Speed; otherwise, the two tires have the same BlackChill Compound thread, a ProTection layer, 3 plies 180 TPI in the sidewall, and 4 plies 240 TPI under the tread.

I was shocked by how easy it was to mount the Terra Trail tires. A combination of sheer will, an arm pumping cardiovascular workout, and luck typically are needed to install tubeless tires without an air compressor. I almost gave up trying to get the bead to stick with the Raven tires. I had to purchase a special bike pump that can compress air until the valve is released, and it still was a chore mounting the Raven tires even with the new pump.

After placing the Terra Trail tires, with new sealant, on the rims, I was ready for a workout to get the new tires’ beads to set with my special pump. To my surprise, however, I just started pumping, and I immediately heard the popping sounds of the beads sitting. I did not need to use the air compressor function of the pump.

After a maiden voyage, I can report that I thoroughly enjoyed having the broader tires to provide more stability for navigating my local gravel trails.

Difference between the broader Continental Terra Speed 700x40mm (top) and The Raven 700x35mm (bottom) tires.
Difference between the broader Continental Terra Speed 700x40mm (top) and The Raven 700x35mm (bottom) tires.
Continental Terra Trail tires mounted on bike.
Continental Terra Trail tires mounted on bike.

I did not get into the Dirty Kanza for this year, but I am looking forward to using these tires in the 100 mile Caprock Gravel Grind in Southland, Texas, and other races this year.

My Research Using the Highlights App

A simple and productive workflow system

Photo by Josh Sorenson from Pexels

Over the last five years, I have transitioned to using my iPad as my main computer for note-taking, writing, and research. A big snag in my academic workflow, however, was managing my PDF research documents, notes, and citation information. I believe I have tested every combination of citation manager (e.g., Endnote, Mendeley, Papers, Bookends, Zotero), word processor or text editor, and note-taking app imaginable to create a seamless workflow.

I really dislike citation managers. I want to use them to help manage my research information, but they fall short on the iPad for in-text citations, extraction of highlighted notes, PDF reading, etc. Most of the citation managers also require a subscription fee to house your PDFs and notes on their servers for syncing between devices. In addition, many of the citation managers (e.g., Mendeley, Papers) have been purchased by large academic publishing houses that often restrict access to the academic literature.

When the Highlights app was made available for beta testing on the iPad, I immediately signed up. I had used Highlights on my Mac and really enjoyed its ability to extract highlighted texts and annotations to create markdown style notes for research. Highlights’ also has the unique ability, amongst PDF apps, to extract citation information from the journal article if it contains a digital object identifier (DOI) number. Your research notes, therefore, can also automatically contain the associated journal article’s citation information.


After a few years of development, Highlights is now available for purchase on the App Store, and I would like to share how I have been using Highlights in my research system.

First, I have abandoned citation managers, and have moved all of my research PDF documents into the Highlights folder within iCloud Drive. I really like this setup since all of my PDFs are now on my iCloud Drive, and not managed by another service that I have to pay an additional subscription fee.

My research related reading now takes place within the Highlights app. I highlight the text I want to come back too as well as add my own note annotations as I am reading. Before closing the research article, I typically export the notes into Ulysses, my writing app of choice, for storage and reference. If I need to quickly refer back to the PDF document directly, I simply follow a page URL link embedded within the reference note and it pulls up the original PDF within the Highlights folder.


I currently have over 1500 PDF documents in my Highlights folder. To find a key piece of information from a journal article or book that I can not remember while researching, I use PDF Search. I have set up the PDF Search app to index my Highlights folder. PDF Search uses AI to search through your PDFs for related terms and then ranks the results. PDF Search is an excellent replacement for cataloging your research documents rather than using a clunky citation manager database.


The only thing I am missing from my research system, that citation managers provide, is the ability to insert formatted citations into my document. I have been doing this manually through copy and paste and formatting the citations to fit the journal’s formatting requirements. This is a worthy trade-off for me at this point to have a more flexible and fast research system rather than trying to fit my workflow with a citation manager.

Burrowing Owl Spotted!

Adventures of Quarantine Hiking

Burrowing owl spotted on hike with my six-year-old son. Image photographed with and IPhone 11 Max Pro 2x lens.
Burrowing owl spotted on hike with my six-year-old son. Image photographed with and IPhone 11 Max Pro 2x lens.

At the end of a long hike, at least long in the eyes of a six-year-old, my son made an exciting discovery.

At the conclusion, after ~1.5 miles of rest stops to watch ducks and pick mesquite beans out of decaying pods lying on the ground, my son spotted a very camouflaged burrowing owl Speotyto cunicularia poking its head out of a prairie dog hole.

Burrowing owls are the only owls active day and night, and this one was keeping a watchful eye on us. I was able to approach the hole a few meters away to get a photograph before it ducked back into the safety of underground.

I feel these little discoveries make a difference to be closer to nature when friends have to stay six feet away.

Finding the Path of Least Resistance

A positive academic discussion

Photo by James Wheeler from Pexels

A paper by Marcos Llobera titled “Memory at your feet: Modeling the agency of past trails” presents a new GIS simulation package, NetSim, to account for the effect of past trails on the movement of people across the landscape.

To walk the same way is to reiterate something deep; to move through the same space the same way is a means of becoming the same person, thinking the same thoughts.

Indeed, knowledge of the landscape through cultural practice is heritage and identity.

While most people would agree that existing paths must have influenced later ones, it remains very challenging to establish the magnitude and scope of such influence in any precise manner.

Very true. I think Llobera’s attempt to simulate the impact of prior trails, however, is an important intellectual step forward beyond just looking at least-cost pathway analysis.

Llobera, Marcos. 2020. Memory at your feet: Modeling the agency of past trails. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 29: 102177.

What Heritage Pattern Do We Weave?

Positive academic discussions

Photo by Skitterphoto from Pexels

People construct their heritage from multiple layers of identity-based meaning. My visit to Pompeii was viewed through the lens of an archaeologist with no direct ancestral connections. Others may find a visit to Pompeii, the equivalent of punching a ticket to Disneyland. Some my regard Pompeii as a home to cultural ancestors. A feeling of shared heritage.

Paul Ramírez, in his paper “What Can We Weave? Authority, Reconstructing, and Negotiating Heritages Through Archaeological Open-Air Museums” uses the analogy of weaving a textile to get at the complexity of heritage.

I refer instead to images of weaving such as strands, threads, fibres, and baskets. Ultimately, this imagery is utilized to holistically consider the many aspects and agents that take part in heritage work, in the process.

Ramírez goes on to say that

The weavers of heritage are numerous and with their designs in mind. These designs become images that aim to fulfill differing needs and desires as brands.

I think using the idea of interweaving strands of thread to get at the complexity of heritage is an interesting idea. From this perspective, I wonder what the overall pattern is? If everybody is weaving their aspect of heritage, than how can we develop a finished product with a recognizable design. Is it abstract art?

In this analogy, I think it is the authorized heritage experts that layout the design of the textile to fit in conflicting notions of heritage. Undoubtedly a biased process, but one we rely upon for a cohesive public narrative.

Another important aspect of the paper is the discussion of heritage as related to open-air archaeology sites. Ramírez offers the intriguing idea that open-air archaeology sites, where archaeological research is still uncovering the heritage of the past, create places where people can participate in multiple heritages. I do think it becomes a type of scientific heritage, but one that changes as archaeologists unearth new information.


Ramírez, Paul Edward Montgomery. 2020. What Can We Weave? Authority, Reconstructing, and Negotiating Heritages Through Archaeological Open-Air Museums. Archaeologies: Journal of the World Archaeological Congress 16: 1-27.

Smith, Laurajane. 2006. Uses of Heritage. Routledge, London.

Use-Wear Analysis and Post-Depositional Impacts

An Academic Paper Review

Photo by Kenneth Carpina from Pexels
Photo by Kenneth Carpina from Pexels

In my continuing review of the recent literature concerning use-wear analysis of stone tools, I encountered an excellent paper by Werner (2018). In this paper, Werner reports on the impact of post-depositional damage in accurately identifying use-wear traces on stone tools.

Werner summarizes very well the current status of use-wear research:

First, the formation of use-wear is not yet completely understood.

Second, there has arguably been an overemphasis on the study of flint/chert assemblages leaving use-wear on non-flint tool-stones underexamined.

Third, many aspects of the burial environment are known to be capable of interfering with the interpretability of use-traces.

Lastly, the majority of use-wear analyses remain inherently subjective, difficult to reproduce and independently verify.

To address 3 and 4, Werner conducts a post-depositional experiment using a laser confocal microscope. This microscope is capable of capturing measurements to quantify changes in use-wear traces after post-depositional impacts.

The experiment:

Werner used 10 dacite flakes, gray volcanic stone, in a sawing motion on wood covered in bark, dry antler, dry hide, and dry grass stems and leaves for 40 minutes each. These used flakes were than placed in a sieve with sand and shaken for 30, 60, and 90 minutes.

Werner found that post-depositional damage in this experiment was correlated with the amount of shaking time. By 90 minutes, post-depositional damage obliterated most of the original use-wear traces.

Key findings:

Antler and wood use-wear traces were the most impacted from post-depositional damage.

Polish from use on plant material is distinctive and can more easily be identified even with post-depositional impacts.

Experiments such as these are important, as Werner states:

The likely reality is that lightly and moderately damaged assemblages are analyzed routinely, either knowingly or unknowingly.


Werner, J Jeffrey. 2018. An experimental investigation of the effects of post-depositional damage on current quantitative use-wear methods. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 17: 597-604.

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. 

Integrating Endnote with Ulysses III

As an academic researcher it saves a lot of time to use a bibliography database to automatically output citations in the correct format. Although Pages and Word have direct plug-in capability and is easy to use, often I find myself working in a text editor such as Ulysses III.

Currently I am using Endnote X6, however, it is likely other bibliography databases that have a scan paper function will work as well. To insert citations into Ulysses III so that Endnote will recognize them follow the format guides below.

Steps for generating bibliography with Endnote

  1. Save finished paper as Word .rtf
  2. Open up Endnote, and select Tools > Format Paper. Navigate to the saved file and Endnote will scan the paper and generate a new .rtf file with a bibliography in your chosen Endnote style.

Formatting guide for inserting citations into Ulysses III:

Copy each desired reference within Endnote and then \ Paste reference within Ulysses III.  To avoid using the backslash you can also modify {} as a markup symbol

Ulysses III tips

For author and date:
\{Hurst, 2002 #1796}

Results example:
(Hurst 2002)

For multiple citations:
\{Hurst, 2002 #1796}\{Hurst, 2010 #1636}
\{Hurst, 2010 #1636}\{Johnson, 2011 #739}

Results example:
(Hurst 2002, 2010)
(Hurst 2010; Johnson et al., 2011)

Add prefix to citation:
\{e.g.,\Hurst, 2010 #1636}

Results example:

(e.g., Hurst 2010)

Note:  To get the prefix citation to work you must add the backslash within the RTF document prior to Endnote scanning.  Ulysses removes \ on export to RTF.

Add page numbers:

\{Hurst, 2010 #1636:23-30}

Results example:

(e.g., Hurst, 2010:23-30)

Year only:

Hurst states \{, 2010 #1636} the following

Results example:

Hurst states (2010) the following

Bulletproof espresso

Bulletproof espresso

Bulletproof coffee consists of blending organic coffee, grass fed butter, and MCT oil into a rich and creamy drink. The benefits are introducing your body to healthy fats that increases clarity and helps to maintain weight through a healthy metabolism.
While I am not sold on the health benefits, it does make a delicious drink.

I enjoy espresso on occasion and I wanted to develop a method that incorporates the idea of bulletproof coffee, and at the same time reduce the time and number of steps necessary to make the drink. This is really easy, and all you need is the ability to make espresso. I have used this method with my pump driven machine, and I think it will also work with a pressure driven machine or a stovetop.

Simply add the grass fed butter directly with the espresso coffee into the filter. I typically only use one spoon scoop of butter. Then run your machine. The result is a buttery rich espresso. The final step is to add a couple tablespoons of the MCT oil. Voilà

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.