Stanford Th Jan 22 8PM: role of breath in emotion + surf survival

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.

Abalone Diving



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:

An Adolescence in Silicon Valley

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



Freediving Lecture Class at Stanford, June 4 & 5 evenings

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

Like Holokai Adventure on Facebook







diver snorkel

Freediving Lecture Class at Stanford, Th May 9 and Fri May 10 (evenings)

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

Like Holokai Adventure on Facebook







diver snorkel

The Cove – Academy Award 2010 – Best Feature Length Documentary

My good friends Kirk and Mandy, who I teach freediving with every now and again, did a top-secret project a few years ago, and yes, it was this film. If you don’t remember, it was the film about the cover in Japan where they capture dolphins for dolphin shows and slaughter the rest. It was produced by the Ocean Preservation Society, directed by Louis Psihoyos, and funded by Jim Clark (of Netscape fame).

You can find plenty of clips and trailers for the movie online. They needed Kirk and Mandy to (1)freedive with dolphins and whales and (2)set up some hydrophones at the bottom of the eponymous cove, and freediving was the quickest was to do it.








DVD on Amazon
Blu Ray DVD on Amazon
Instant Movie on Amazon

The Infinite Emotions of Coffee (and Chocolate)

Last year I attended a coffee tasting at Google Research. It was hosted by Alon Halvey. He was once CS professor at University of Washington, and now is at Google. He also like coffee. A lot. His website is, because he thinks a macchiatone is a the best coffee drink. It is somewhere between a cappuccino and a macchiato (in terms of the amount of milk).

I think Alon likes the macchiatone in the way that I like dark milk chocolate (I made that term up). Milk chocolate can indeed by cloying and too sweet, but dark chocolate can be overwhelming and bitter. Some chocolate companies have started making a new kind of milk chocolate that has a high % of cacao and just a tiny bit of milk to take the edge off. It’s like a cup of tea with one teaspoon of sugar instead of 16 (I think that’s about how many are in a bottle of Snapple).

Alon’s book is an account of his coffee philosophy and travels. The book jacket has a review by Vincent Cerf!

In future, I’ll probably be writing more on tea and chocolate, because I know those things better.

Paperback on Amazon

Kindle on Amazon

Our First Live Event is Tonight! Northern California Seafood Foraging @Stanford Th Feb 21 6PM

Northern California Seafood Foraging @Stanford GSB Th Feb 21

Mendo21_1200 diver snorkel

Please join Local Food Lab and Stanford GSB Farm Club for a presentation on seafood foraging on the Northern California coast. The presenters will discuss breath hold freediving for abalone and urchin, digging/trapping crabs, clams and other invertebrates, and collecting seaweed. Other forms of foraging, such as mushrooming, will be discussed briefly.

Presenters will include: Kacie Loparto of

Robert Lee, Research Fellow at Stanford and instructor with Performance Freediving,

The presentation will be Th Feb 21, 6-7:30PM at Stanford Graduate School of Business, C105 (Class of 1968 Building, Room 105). Parking is free after 4PM. The business school has an excellent eatery on site if you want to get food before the event.

There will be foodie give aways as well!

abalone diver


Laptop Backpacks – Incase CL55412 Heathered Backpack

Earlier this month, Square (Jack Dorsey’s credit card company) had a tech talk/recruiting event on campus. Not surprisingly, these tech companies are very keen on hiring Stanford CS students, so they’re throwing all sorts of events on campus. Square gave me this excellent backpack for helping to recruit students to the event.

This really is an excellent, excellent laptop case, great for biking around campus or riding the bus. It is large enough for 17″laptops like the MacBook Pro, with two large compartments, and many distinct, easy to access pockets for notebooks, phones, accessories, etc. It is incredibly handy and easy to use, and retails for about $100. I can’t recommend this backpack enough, and many other online reviewers, such as TechHive, agree.


Incase Heathered Backpack on Amazon






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The Perfect Pushup

The fitness industry is rife with fads, whether they be products (e.g., the thigh master) or exercise trends (Zumba, Taibo, etc.). I don’t think trends are entirely bad. There’s nothing wrong with seeking a variety of fitness and exercise modes, as long as you don’t think the latest one is the be all and end all of exercise modes, instead of a way of just introducing some variety. Nonetheless I am wary of the trends in fitness, since they are mostly a way of creating change for the sake of change, much like the fashion system.

One trendy fitness product that I think is very innovative and useful however, so much so that I paid the premium to buy the product early on, is the Perfect Pushup and its variants. There was a major TV infomercial campaign for the Perfect Pushup a few years ago, and while I didn’t order from TV, I went to a sporting goods store a few weeks later and purchased them.

perfect pushup

The PP is a set of two pushups handles that allow you to rotate your shoulders in the anterior direction as you do the pushup. Because of the anatomy of the shoulder, full arm extension require anterior shoulder rotation. Even with regular pushups and bench presses, you do a slight anterior shoulder rotation as part of the proper form of doing the exercises. The PP takes this to the next logical step, allowing for much greater rotation. It also allows you to engage your lats and other muscles groups that are hard to recruit when doing conventional pushups. The Perfect Pushup and its imitators generally run about $30.

I can attest that after two months of using the PP about twice a week, I was able to do 20 one-arm pushups with either arm (I had previously been able to do only a few). I think that’s a great testimonial.

Perfect Pushup Version 2 on Amazon

Perfect Pushups Travel Version Amazon

Various Perfect Pushup Versions on Amazon