Robert Lee is an academic fellow and entrepreneur-in-residence at CodeX - The Stanford Center for Legal Informatics. He advises startups on funding, intellectual property, incorporation, marketing and strategy issues, both at CodeX, and at flØwstate. Robert has served as CEO of Fly Online, an e-commerce portal that was acquired by Travelzoo, and VP of Intellevate, an enterprise software and services company that was acquired by CPA Global. He has also worked as a technology lawyer in Silicon Valley, has studied EECS, and is a published researcher in biochemistry and physiology. He earned his JD/MBA (law and business) from UC Berkeley and his BS/BA from Yale University. On weekends, Robert can be found foraging near the Northern California coast, both on the ocean side and on the land side, for abalone, rockfish and mushrooms. He is also an instructor with Performance Freediving and an innovation Advisor at Singularity University.

Apr 232015

As we briefly touched on above, exhalation is the key to mindful, relaxed breathing. So much so, that if you think about it, we naturally associate exhalation with serenity, security, and release of tension. There are all sorts of such cultural references to exhalation as being emotional release, as in Terry McMillan’s novel Waiting to Exhale.

One simple reason that exhalation equals relaxation is that it requires no muscular effort. You don’t have to actively push air out during exhalation— you can just passively let it out. Also, as we exhale, air pressure against the heart goes down, allowing it to more easily pump blood, and thus achieve a higher stroke volume. Thus the heart can beat fewer times per minute. Exhalation also engages our parasympathetic nervous system, which is the opposite of the fight-or-flight response. This is called the vagal response or relaxation response.

We can increase the benefits of exhalation by extending its length, somewhat counter-intuitively. We tend to think of inhalation as more important because we need air and oxygen. But we have enough air in our lungs to sustain us for several minutes, so an extended exhale phase of 8, 10, 15 or even 30 seconds barely cuts into our oxygen reserves. This concept is the essence of mindful breathing. A nice, relaxed exhale is like a massage or stress release for the lungs, an opportunity to chill out and let the accumulated stresses of the day flow out of the body. I like to start people off with an 8 second exhalation but the exact length doesn’t matter, and you certainly can do much more.

After we take the comfortable inhale with just the diapragm described above, we are ready to do the long, relaxed exhale. And we will want to exhale through the mouth, so that we can control the rate of flow of air with our lips or teeth. This is what allows us to slow the exhalation down substantially. You could use your nose, in that is possible to slowly exhale through the nose, but this requires us to concentrate a bit and eccentrically contract our breathing muscles. As an analogy, imagine that you are at the top of a pull-up position and then slowly let yourself down. This is an eccentric muscle contraction— working the muscles, not to do a pull-up (that would be a concentric muscle contraction), but to control how slowly you go down. An eccentric muscle contraction requires effort. By contrast, if you had a large rubber band under your feet to slowly let you down, you wouldn’t have to do any muscular work during the descent.

Exhaling through our lips or teeth is like having such a rubber band. You want to let the air slowly escape through pursed lips or mostly closed teeth. By doing this, we can easily control the rate of flow so that we get the 8 second exhalation that we want. So let’s try it. Take a normal, comfortable inhale, and exhale 2 3 4 5 6 7 8. Again— inhale and exhale 2 3 4 5 6 7 8. How far should you exhale? It doesn’t much matter, as long as you don’t go beyond the point of a passive exhale, that is, so don’t have to actively push the air out. Try it a few more times.

I bet you are feeling more relaxed already. And there you have it, 8 seconds of exhalation to achieve calm. I call it the 12 second meditation because it takes about 4 seconds for the rest of the breathing cycle, for a total of 12 seconds. If you were to read no further in this document, I think you already have learned something useful. Several breaths can be used for a minute long meditation, and several times more can be used for a five or ten minute meditation.

Some medical practitioners teach patients with emphysema and similar lung diseases to similarly exhale through pursued lips or closed teeth. This is because the airways of such patients are inflexible and tend to collapse easily. This is particularly problematic in the alveoli, which are essentially little balloons of thin tissue where blood circulates and exchanges oxygen and carbon dioxide with the lungs. Exhaling against a restricted flow induces back pressure. that can help the airways remain inflated during exhalation, thus better exchanging gases. While it has not been studied beyond this type of population, this effect might be beneficial for the rest of us as well.

A long exhale can also help induce something called heart rate variability (HRV), which some scientists believe is an important metric of cardiovascular health. I will not go into the details of this metric, nor surmise whether HRV induced by this type of breathing is effective at promoting cardiovascular health in the way that proponents of HRV promote, but you can look up HRV for yourself.

Apr 232015

In this document, we will focus on the exhalation phase of breathing, and learn why an extended exhale is the key to relaxation, focus, and all the other benefits of mindful breathing. But it is first worth taking a quick detour into the mechanics of inhalation.

As a quick aside/experiment, if you happen to have some balloons handy, take one and blow it up with one breath as big as you can. Then, at the end of this chapter, blow up another balloon and see if it is bigger. While a bag of balloons is likely not standardized so that each balloon is exactly the same, this can be a fun thing to try. I almost always find that the second balloon is quite a bit bigger.

(3) Emily and Her Balloons, May 2015

Our lungs sit within the thoracic (chest) cavity. Expansion and contraction of that cavity, using our inspiratory breathing muscles, also makes the lungs expand and contract. There are three major sets of those breathing muscles that can expand that rib cage and cause inspiration. The diaphragm is the most important.

(1) The diaphragm is a dome-shaped structure of muscle and connective that sits at the bottom of our rib cage, below the lungs. When it contracts, it pulls downward, causing us to inhale. When it relaxes, it is passively pulled back up into the rib cage. The diaphragm moves the most air of any muscle group, and it is mechanically the most efficient breathing muscle. When we are calm, it is the diaphragm alone that moves. If you watch someone, especially a baby, sleeping, you can see only the belly going in and out. Diaphragm breathing is thus sometimes called “belly breathing”. Wikipedia has a nice animated .gif in its diaphragmatic breathing entry. Now please go ahead and try a few slow, relaxed belly breaths.

4. Diaphragm (in Green), Wikipedia, John Pierce








(2) While the diaphragm alone is perfectly adequate for normal, relaxed breathing, we do have other breathing muscles. The diaphragm moves the most air, followed by the intercostal, or rib cage muscles. There are two sets of intercostal muscles, the inspiratory and expiratory intercostal muscles. In other words, one set of muscles expands the rib cage and the other contracts it. The contracting muscles generally don’t need to be used, since we can just relax and let the air out. But if we want to actively push the air out, faster than normal, we can use the expiratory rib cage muscles. Note that the diaphragm can’t push air out like this this, but the abdominal muscles can. The diaphragm and the abdominals form agonist/antagonist sets of muscles the same way that the inspiratory and expiratory rib cage muscles do (we will refer to them as chest muscles). Now go ahead and add chest breathing to your belly breathing. Inhale slowly with the diaphragm, then add the chest. Try it a few times. You’ll notice that the chest muscles inhale far less air.

5. Thorax (Chest) & Intercostal Muscles, Grey’s Anatomy












(3) The third set of muscles moves a very small amount of air, and these muscles are rarely used in breathing. There are the trapezius or shoulder blade muscles. If you raise your shoulders and shoulder blades, this act expands the rib cage, just a bit, and thus more air is inhaled. Shoulder breathing is an inefficient and stressful way to breathe. But go ahead and try it. You won’t be able to move much air. Now go ahead and add shoulder breathing in sequence to the other two breathing muscles. Diaphragm, chest, and shoulders. Try it a few times.

  1. Scapulas (Shoulder Blades) & Trapezius, Grey’s Anatomy











There aren’t many situations you would breathe using the shoulders. There are only two I can think of. One is when you really need a full, maximal inhalation. This could be the last big breath you take for a freedive. It could also be before trying to blow out the candles on a birthday cake in just one breath, but its hard to imagine you would really need that small amount of extra air. The more likely, but still very unlikely, scenario is if you have your diaphragm temporarily cramped or spasmed, in other words, when you have the “wind knocked out of you”. Perhaps once or twice in your life you may have taken a blow to the area right between the thorax and abdomen while running around the playground or playing sports. When you get the wind knocked out of you, you have taken a blow to the solar plexus, which is a bundle of nerves and muscles in that region of the body. Such a blow can cause your diaphragm to cramp up, and thus inhibit your ability to breathe for several seconds. This can be quite concerting and cause a suffocating feeling, particularly because one is typically in a state of exertion at such a time. The solar plexus is associated with the Anahata chakra.

7. Chakras (yoga energy centers), Wikipedia, William Vroman









If you listen to such a person trying to breathe, you will typically hear a struggling, wheezing type of breath. This is because the person us breathing only with the chest and shoulder muscles, which tends to create a wheezing noise as one is trying to take a deep breath with muscles that can only take small breaths. If this ever happens to you, try to relax, realize that the diaphragm spasm will soon pass, and take comfort knowing that you can breath with your other muscles, just less efficiently.

Apr 102015

As stated above, breathing gives us information about a person’s emotional and cognitive state— “you seem stressed”. It also gives us control over these states— “slow down and take a deep breath”. Why? How does it do both?

The simple answer is that breathing is the one physiological function that is both autonomic and voluntary. An autonomic function is one that operates without conscious thought. We don’t have to think about it for it to happen. And just as importantly, we can’t affect it by thinking about it, at least not directly. One example of an autonomic function is digestion, which is autonomic except for chewing and swallowing. We don’t have to think to secrete acids in our stomach or to move food along our digestive system, and we can’t make these things happen by thinking about them. Our heart beating is another. We don’t have to think to make our heart beat, and we can’t make it beat faster, or stop beating, just by thinking about it. Our heart beat is also a great example of an autonomic physiological function that gives us feedback, that is, information, about our emotional and cognitive states, and a pretty instant one at that. A slow heart rate is indicative of relaxation, calm, serenity, or some combination. A fast heart rate is indicative of stress, anxiety, worry, physical exertion, or some combination. It is true that we can indirectly affect heart rate by some actions, that is, by thinking of or imagining a stressful situation, or by engaging in physical exertion. But we cannot directly affect the heart just by thinking “slow down” or “speed up”. Some exceptional individuals, after many years of intensive work with biofeedback techniques or study in the art of pranayama or qigong, can affect the heart in a somewhat voluntary manner. But the vast majority of us cannot. Voluntary actions, by contrast, are purely a product of the conscious mind. Walking or lifting an object doesn’t happen without consciously thinking about and executing the act.

Heart rate is a particularly interesting autonomic function to look at, because it tends to track very closely with breathing rate (also called respiratory rate). That is, pretty much every inner state associated with fast heart rate is associated with fast breathing rate, and the same with slow heart rate and slow breathing rate. Fast heart rate (HR) and fast breathing rate (BR) are associated with physical exertion/exercise, of course. They are also associated with the sympathetic nervous system, the so-called “fight or flight” response. In other words, fast HR and BR are associated with physical exertion, but they are also associated with preparation for physical exertion, that is, being placed on alert. So when we are startled by a loud noise or some other signal that calls for a possible rapid response, our nervous system amps up, adrenaline is released, and we are ready for “flight or fight”. When we have decided that the threat or other call to action has passed, our parasympathetic nervous system kicks in, we relax, and our HR and BR slow.

Breathing, as discussed above, is both autonomic and voluntary, and it is the only physiological function that is both. For one, we don’t have to think about it for it to happen, it happens automatically all the time. But we can also stop breathing any time we want. We can do this for a good 30 seconds, or with some practice, a few minutes, before the autonomic system interceded and starts trying to force us to breath. We can also easily speed our breathing, even though we may not be nervous, anxious, or exercising, in other words, even if we don’t really need to.

Thus breathing lies at the fascinating intersection of autonomic and voluntary control. This is profound enough to be worth reflecting on for a moment. In dolphins, by contrast, breathing is purely voluntary— to them, breathing is like walking. And in most land mammals, it is the opposite— breathing is purely autonomic. Since they have no voluntary control over their breathing, they will quickly drown if placed underwater.

Like our HR, out BR rate tells us a lot about our state of mind. But unlike our HR, because we can so easily control our BR, we can readily and rapidly affect that state of mind in just a few seconds, by taking over our breathing and doing it in a mindfulway. Not only can we affect the rate of breathing, we can play with other factors — duration and depth of the inhale and exhale, for instance, to affect our inner states. So take a deep breath, as we are about to learn about taking a deep breath, literally.

2. Human & Dolphin, Wikipedia, US Navy

Enduring Freedom

Apr 102015

The 12 Second Meditation: Mindful Breathing for Stress Management & Performance

© 2015, Robert H Lee,

The author is a published researcher in the field of physiology, and has worked as an advisor to many life science companies. He has a BS in biochemistry from Yale University, a JD/MBA from UC Berkeley, and was a research fellow in Law, Science & Technology at Stanford University. He has also worked as an instructor for Performance Freediving.

Assumption of Risk

While you should not find the breathing activities described in this document to be strenuous, you hereby assume all risks by participating in these activities. The physical activities described in Chapter 5 are only examples, and in no way are prescribed for the reader. You should use your own judgment in selecting and engaging in such activities. Purchase of the digital product, available at, is limited to a one-person license associated with the email address stamped on the cover of this document.

Additional products at and

This Document Makes No Health or Medical Claims


Breathing is fundamental to life. We can do without food for weeks, water for days, but air for only minutes. In pranayama yoga, the term “prana” (Sanksrit: प्राण) literally means “life force”. In a sense, breath is life.

When we observe breathing, in ourselves and in others, we have a window into the emotional and cognitive states of a person. And by being mindful of our breathing, that is, by changing its quality and its rhythm, we can also powerfully affect those emotional and cognitive states. There is a specific scientific reason why breathing gives us both information and control over ourselves in a way that no other physiological function does. It is a subject we will explore in depth.

When you are stressed or anxious, you are told to “take a deep breath”. This is great advice. In these pages, you will learn why this advice works. You will also learn the how, as in how to affect your breathing for the better, and be able to take that generic advice many levels deeper. You will be able to use your new found breathing skills in a way that will help you cope with stress, be more focused, unlock your creativity and even to find meaning and purpose. And you can achieve these benefits by doing just one extended breath, about 12 seconds. You will begin to think of mindful breathing as a newly found super power.

It certainly has been mine. I have studied that act of breathing, as a scientist and as an athlete, for many years. And while there have been times when I have not been particularly diligent about exercise or eating right, I have remained in remarkable health. I have never missed a day of school or work due to illness. I can only attribute this good fortune to the core breathing constitution I acquired at a young age, and later developed further through the sport of breath-hold freediving. I have had minor illnesses such as the cold or the flu, I’ve even had pneumonia, but none of these has ever made me weak enough to need to spend the day in bed. Also, my weight and body composition have remained unchanged since high school.

1. The Author in Middle Age










The sport of freediving has allowed me to study and experience the intricacies of breathing on a granular level. After years of participating in and teaching the sport, I began to explore ways in which I could apply my breathing knowledge gained through freediving to other aspects of life. And this is what I am sharing with you today.

Being mindful of your breathing, that is, by gaining awareness of your breathing and consciously attending to it, is profoundly useful in at least four ways. (1) Mindful breathing will allow you to relieve everyday stress. That is, by using mindful breathing as part of your daily routine, you will be able to reduce the amount of chronic, nagging stress that intrudes on your daily live. In much the way we are taught to exercise or take regular walks at work, mindful breathing will reduce this nagging stress. Within days, you will notice changes in your mood, and these changes should translate into increased, happiness, longevity, and health. (2) Mindful breathing will allow you to reduce event-triggered stress. If a particular event, such as an incident with an abrasive co-worker, gets your blood pressure up and triggers a “flight or fight” reflex, you can use the techniques contained her to immediately attend to and reduce this spike of stress, far more effectively than the standard “take a deep breath” advice.

(3) Mindful breathing will allow you more effectively execute an upcoming performance or. Similar to (2), an anticipated performance such as making a speech or an athletic competition can be a stress-inducing event. The anxiety that accompanies this will often impair performance. If you can attend to and control this anxiety, you will be able to perform better. (4) Mindful breathing also serves as a gateway to meditation and other arts that we think of as taking a lot of willpower and focus. Have you ever wanted to practice yoga, tai chi (qigong), or any other mind-body art that seems difficult to learn, perhaps because of the effort, perhaps because you don’t even know where to start? The breathing skills taught in these pages comprise the simplest and easiest meditation practice you will ever encounter. After just a few minutes you will have learned a satisfying and useful form of meditation. Think of mindful breathing as an opening to these other practices.

Finally, after you have learned all of the above, you can use your new breathing skills to try the art of breath-hold survival. This counts as #5, and is entirely optional. Learning to hold your breath for an extended period of time is in no way a necessary component of the art of effective breathing. And it is certainly not likely that you will ever need to escape a sinking ship or survive a 15 meter (50 foot) wave surfing wipeout by holding your breath for several minutes. But after the lessons taught here, you might find that you will want to try. Just as a yogi might want to demonstrate an impressive new pose, both as a challenge to self and to show off a little to friends, doing an improbably long breath hold is certainly an noticeable way of demonstrating breath mastery.

Apr 102015

The 12 Second Meditation: Mindful Breathing for Stress Management & Performance

Available for free across multiple web pages (click on right arrow above) or for $2 in pdf, below

Breath Holding: Getting to 3 Minutes

These products do not qualify you to carry out or supervise breath holds in water, but give you an introduction to short breath holds on land. I do not provide breath hold info for free online so as to create a gateway to warn of the risks.


(1) $2: The 12 Second Meditation pdf,

(2) $39: The 12 Second Meditation pdf + webinar,

(3) $17: Breath Holding: Getting to 3 Minutes pdf + (1),

(4) $96: Breath Holding: Getting to 3 Minutes pdf + webinar + (2),

Some Freediving Videos

(1) My favorite freediving video

Kirk Krack chilling underwater and perfect bubble rings. Freediving not as extreme competitive sport, but meditative, contemplative way of enjoying the ocean. Filmed by Ren Chapman.

(2) Freefall

The most viewed freediving video of all time.

(3) GoPro’s Whale Fantasia

Mandy, Erin, and Ashleigh also chilling underwater, with humpback whales

(4) Blackout

The video ends abruptly because the cameraman had to go any rescue the diver! Also filmed by Ren Chapman.

Plus, my video podcast from the 2014 Bulletproof Conference.

Some great photographers who specialize in freediving

(1) Joakim Hjelm

(2) Courtney Platt

(3) Logan Mock-Bunting

Freediving schools certified by Performance Freediving

Garo Hachigian’s California Freedive Academy & Shell Eisenberg’s Hawaii Classes

Ted Harty’s Immersion Freediving

Jan 152015

Please join us 8PM Thurs Jan 22 at the AEORC outdoor center for a talk by Robert H Lee on breath control, its role in emotion and focus, and applications to freediving, surf survival, and CA abalone diving.

Robert is Research Fellow in Law, Science & Technology at Stanford and an instructor with Performance Freediving. You can see a preview of his lecture here:
Here is an article on a freediving competition he worked on (he’s in pics 6 and 12):
His personal website:
If you are not familiar with Stanford campus, I suggest you write to me for parking/directions. And allocate at extra 20 min! The campus is confusing. I also plan on having a quick dinner at Coho (Tressider Union) at 7.
PS If you do not have a Stanford affiliation I strongly suggest you meet me at Coho at 7:30. Technically you are supposed to pay a $5 gym entrance fee to attend, but I may be able to sneak you in if you are with me.
Aug 102014



Tomales Dinner 2013

Have you ever wanted to try abalone diving or spearfishing on the North Coast? Are you a bit intimidated by the cold, murky waters, the waves, the sharks, and other conditions that make Northern California free diving challenging and at times dangerous?

Fl0wstate has the unique ability to provide you with a concierge guided experience that will allow you to tryout this sport in the utmost comfort and safety.

Two nights of glamping in Sonoma.

All equipment, meals and transportation from SF provided.

We will teach you the techniques, show you the best spots, and inform you of the regulations.

The only thing we can’t do is actually catch the abalone for you, as this is strictly against regulations. Expert watermen with unparalleled safety training and who can hold their breath for well over five minutes will be watching you at all times to ensure your comfort and safety.

Typical itinerary:

Arrive in Sonoma Fri afternoon at a farmhouse with comfortable camping and facilities, or similar location. Lecture on equipment, diving and safety techniques. Dinner provided.

Saturday morning, have a light breakfast then head off to the coast at a reasonable hour. Spend about four hours getting suited up and then diving. Clean up and go back to the farmhouse. Learn how to clean your catch, and then cook up a fabulous seafood dinner together..

Sunday starts off the same as Saturday. After the dive, we can head back to the farmhouse to clean our catch again, or head directly back to SF where you can share your bounty with friends and family.

Of course we cannot control dive conditions. If conditions are not diveable, we will take you out again for free, except for a small charge for additional housing. Although we cannot guarantee your catch, our outfit has never failed to catch at least something.


1-2 people: $3000 all inclusive except for fishing licenses which you buy for yourselves.

$1000 per additional diver. Non-divers can tag along for $250.

If you are serious about your diving, we strongly suggest you arrange to do the lecture at least a week or two in advance, and also throw in a pool training session for no additional charge. This will considerably improve your in water comfort and increase your chances for diving success.

Discounts for freedivers certified by PFI, FII, or AIDA.

For more info, check out the recent NYT article:

Also see videos such as:

Jan 032014

On October 18, 2013, I attended a conference hosted by Y-Combinator, the world’s premiere tech incubator (and perhaps the only truly successful one in terms of impact and ROI). It was also the day I turned N+15  years old (see FB for the value of N). I wasn’t going to tell anyone at the conference this, for fear that they would revoke my free invitation on the spot. By being N+15 years old, I am at least  years beyond the age of prime productivity in this youth-obsessed place. Therefore, such an event, put on for free by YC, would be wasted on me. The conference included talks by, and interviews of, Silicon Valley luminaries such as Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey. People flew in from all over the world to drink in the wisdom of these famous entrepreneurs. I think only one or two of the speakers was over the age of 40. It was one of those entrepreneurial events that was entertaining and inspiring, though I’m not sure how usefully it actually was.

Silicon Valley places enormous value on the creativity, energy and disruptive ability of the young. A decade ago, the hot companies of Silicon Valley focused on 20-somethings and teenagers, today, they cater to pre-teens and are often founded by teenagers. Peter Thiel, the first angel investor in Facebook, sort of believes that you are over the hill if you are over 20, There is room for people my age in Silicon Valley, but only for those who have had enormous success in their 20s or 30s. Otherwise you are essentially invisible, if you can afford to live here at all (without that enormous success). Regardless of age, Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurial community have an very adolescent approach to life and work. In fact, startup companies are almost by definition adolescent. The entrepreneurial maven Steve Blank defines a startup company sa an entity searching for a business model, in contrast to mature companies, which execute on already validated business models. And what is adolescence, after all, but a search for identity, for selfhood?

Adolescence certainly isn’t all or inherently bad. Adolescence is a uniquely modern invention, as childhood is a uniquely human one. And they are both necessary to becoming a productive, modern adult. These years, devoted to self-growth, exploration and play allow us to become smarter and more capable than we could ever be without them. An extended adolescence is a source of competitive advantage for those who can afford to ahve one. But there is certainly something troubling, at least to most people, about a perpetual adolescence. Perhaps if we were infinite creatures, in terms of abilities or life span, then perpetual adolescent would make sense. But there is something somewhat unsettling about the reification of perpetual adolescence, although of course, the old order always finds something troubling of the new order. adon’t have kids and I have never been married. I have never had a real career, but an assortment of desultory, odd jobs. I don’t own a home. I don’t have any real skills or expertise. Now, I suppose I am a responsible sort of adolescent– adolescents do differ. I have never been to jail and I’m far from broke, but I am very adolescent nonetheless– even in terms of body and health, and this is an unalloyed good, I suppose. I have hardly been sick a day in my life, I am the same weight that I was in high school, and I can still run fast enough to play ultimate frisbee with the kids on Stanford campus. I have been so fortunate in this regard, that even if I came down with a terminal illness tomorrow and died soon thereafter, I would say I got a good deal in life with regard to physical health.

I have spent the past few months since the YC conference thinking about how I could, should or might change things. Moving, to almost anywhere else in the US or abroad, could be part of this. I would be able to afford to buy a home and the male/female ratio wouldn’t be so skewed. I might find it easier to find a long-term relationship and a stable, bounded livelihood– in contrast to the obsessive, boundary-less, change-the-world attitude of Silicon Valley work culture Should I try to acquire some of these external accouterments of adulthood and see where they lead me? Or should I just accept that perpetual adolescence is part of my character. The only reason I can afford to continue living in the SF Bay Area is that I am extremely frugal, and that I have cheap hobbies like spearfishing and cooking big vats of lentil soup, and that seems rather adolescent as well.


The following is a bit of an aside, but ironic enough that I feel that I write about it. I could have come to Silicon Valley in the 1980s, since I actually wanted to go to Stanford for college. I was simply too passive to even apply over my mother’s objections. If the commercial Internet had existed back then, maybe the pictures of sunny Stanford campus and barely-minority status of Asians in the Bay Area given me some resolve. Mind you, my mother didn’t forbid me from applying to Stanford, she merely discouraged me from it. To think that some people come from such abusive homes that they need to drop out of school and run away– I couldn’t even muster up enough initiative to go to the fancy college I wanted to go to. In fact, high school was such a waste of time for me that if I had been very proactive, I would have skipped several years of high school and come to Silicon Valley as a preteen. If I had come to Stanford at the typical age of 17 going on 18, I would have been in Jerry Yang’s class as an undergraduate. I am not suggesting in any way I would have become a success like him, far from it. But I could have become his secretary or personal assistant– I’m not kidding about this. And it would have been a much more productive path than going to an Ivy League school (which I care not to name) and then drifting out here after college, with no network or career direction. And not only was Silicon Valley much cheaper and less economically-stratified at that time, it had an authentic technology/geek ethos that has been diluted today– by the success of the commercial Internet and the masses of IPO and VC money. An ambitious 20-something in 1980 or even 1990 did not buy a one-way ticket to SF. S/he bought a plane ticket to LA or NY. I moved to SF after college in the 90s for its lifestyle and counter culture, not because of ambition. Today, someone like me might move to Portland or Seattle instead. I grew up in NY, I left NY, and now the Bay Area has become the new NY in terms of ambition, status-seeking, and cost-of-living. As a former generation of youngsters went to NYC to work in high-paying Wall Street jobs of dubious social value, the current one comes to SF with a mobile or Web 2.0 software company of dubious social value, in hopes of a huge exit.


A few more random thoughts:

Pasted below are some pics of the famous and semi-famous people I met the week of my birthday.

If you had asked me, when I was 8 years old, what I wanted to become, I would have said scientist and academic. I think this is pretty telling. My Myers Briggs type is INTP, which is kind of the absent-minded professor type. In the Star Wars Myers Briggs archetyping, I am Yoda. When I was a child and teen, I assumed I would go to grad school and study something esoteric. I’m not entirely sure why I didn’t, but procrastination was certainlt part of it. Perhaps I should pickup this thread again, go and study something nerdy and obscure, such as synthetic biology, and move into some version of an ivory tower.

Tonight, Fri, I had coffee with a friend, then went to a bookstore and then Cost Plus to buy some artisnanal chocolate and teaware. Then I went home, made dinner, and wrote this. I’m terrible at making social plans, which I think I should have locked into some productive routine early on, such as raising kids or working in a lab.

Since my N+15 birthday has passed and I haven’t resolved these issues, I’m giving myself this entire year, until my N+1 birthday minus one day, to things out. Stay tuned.

2013-10-19 10.59.142013-10-19 16.54.01 2013-10-19 16.52.49










2013-10-22 14.27.25



May 202013

Hello Friends:

We’re excited to get the summer started with a freediving class at Stanford Graduate School of Business, Tues June 4 and Wed June 5, 6:30-9:30PM, Room E103. You need to attend both sessions, not just one, to cover all the material.

Pool sessions (near Stanford) and ocean sessions (Sonoma and Catalina Island) will be scheduled at the above sessions, depending on people’s schedules.

No payment or deposit required in advance (fee is $150), but please RSVP.

We will be doing breathholds in class on June 4, so don’t eat a large dinner right before class. There is a great restaurant on site, so you can grab some food when we take a break after the breathing sessions.

Visitor parking is free at Stanford after 4PM. Turn off of Campus Loop Dr into the garage underneath the business school building. Stanford campus can be confusing, so allocate extra mins for driving on campus and parking.

Questions and RSVP to Robert Lee:

haida at

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diver snorkel

Apr 152013

Hello Friends:

We’re excited to get the summer started with a freediving class at Stanford Graduate School of Business, May 9 and 10, 6:30-9:30PM, Room E103. You need to attend both sessions, not just one, to cover all the material. The exact classroom number will be posted here soon. If there is enough demand, I will do makeup sessions.

Pool sessions (near Stanford) and ocean sessions (Sonoma and Catalina Island) will be scheduled at the above sessions, depending on people’s schedules.

No payment or deposit required in advance (fee is $150), but please try to RSVP.

We will be doing breathholds in class on May 9, so don’t eat a large dinner right before class. There is a great restaurant on site, so you can grab some food when we take a break after the breathing sessions.

Visitor parking is free at Stanford after 4PM. Turn off of Campus Loop Dr into the garage underneath the business school building. Stanford campus can be confusing, so allocate extra mins for driving on campus and parking.

Questions and RSVP to Robert Lee:

haida at

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