Peter T. Chiang, Esq.

Retired San Francisco Bay Area Criminal Defense Lawyer

Off to College

It has been a week since my wife and I accompanied our oldest child to college. To say the least, it has been a difficult week for us all.

Since coming home, and even with another child at home, it hasn’t been the same. Something is just amiss but I suppose, given time, we’ll get used to it.

Frankly, it has been a lot harder than I expected; hard for us parents surely and as hard on our daughter.

Going away to college is usually the first time most kids go away from home for an extended period of time. In the beginning, homesickness naturally sets in.

I remember when I first went away to boarding school 6,000 miles away from home during my high school years; those first few nights, my pillow was always wet after the lights went out at the prescribed time.

Nowadays there are great tools available to stay in touch, instant messaging (IM), Facetime (FT), email, Skype, texting, etc. but during those days, none of these communication technologies was available. My parents and I had to write each other, letters, that is, and I would occasionally make a cassette tape recording to update them of my well being, or the lack of or ask them for money.

Phone calls were expensive in those days and there was no such thing as picking up the phone and direct-dial. We had to connect through a dedicated operator to do so and there were a few hoops to jump through just to make an overseas phone call from Vancouver, Canada to Hong Kong or vice versa.

Thanks to my boarding school years in high school, when I went away to college, it was nothing; nothing for me and my parents alike. It was business as usual. I was used to being away and being by myself. My parents too.

Being away to college is a quick way to grow up, become independent, and learn how to get along with roommates and others. While the formative years are the four years spent in high school, college is where big kids solidifies their values and learn who they really are. This is when the no-kidding growing up finally happens when parents aren’t around to help them, act as their crutches and do everything for them.

As our oldest came to find out, there are lots of parties to go to and many temptations out there and that is regardless of where one is attending college. College is college. Co-existing with classes and homework are the usual, excessive alcohol, casual sex, illicit drugs, all of which sadly are the rules rather than the exception. It is truly exceptional to know who you are and where the line is between good & bad and black & white.

During the first week of school and freshman orientation, most kids would want to find so-called anchor friends and attach themselves to others given the new and strange environment, just so they can “fit-in” or feel like they belong. It’s just our natural human instincts and being the pack “animals” that we are.

In truth, college is a long 4 year period (and in many cases, longer) and given the size of the student body at most colleges, there will be plenty of opportunities to meet people who are similarly situated, establish friendships, the kind of friendships that may last a lifetime, not just anchor friends and superficial friendships.

It’s always an adjustment, more so for some than others, not just for the students but also for the parents. Even with FT, IM, and all the technologies available out there (and they sure beat writing letters and making cassette tape recordings), it’s not quite the same.

Nevertheless, my wife and I along with our other child at home will get used to our oldest being away from home. At the same time, more slowly for some than others, the adjustment period will end and the new freshmen will get used to college life.

All of us will have to learn to adjust and adapt but as much as we will all do so given the passage of time, at least for me and my wife, the next school break when our daughter returns home is not coming nearly fast enough.











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“Football” Fever is Here

“Football” fever is here; the other kind of football and that’s why it is in quotations; not the American kind of football but soccer, well, you know what I mean.

Soccer as we know it in the States is really football. That’s how the rest of the world calls it and in may ways, for me, it’s still football, the correct name as it’s played using the feet, except for the goalie. The American version of football uses the hands primarily. Think about it.

I’ve been living in the U.S. for close to 35 years and by now I am used to the game being called soccer. And for the past 35 years, I didn’t pay too much attention to soccer even though I was an avid fan of the game growing up. The reason? The soccer as it’s played in the U.S. is such a pathetically low caliber game. It’s just plain slow and so boring. Puts me to sleep like baseball does.

The other reason had to do with a lack of TV coverage of the game. Surely, there are some Major League Soccer (MLS) games on TV, and getting to be more, but who wants to watch a slow, boring game, the way the Americans play it.

Things have changed. I am elated to find that in the Bay Area, Comcast now offers Fox Soccer Channel, 803 on the dial, showing primarily the English Premier League games and other high caliber games from leagues around the world such as La Liga (Spain), Serie A (Italy) and the Bundesliga (Germany).

Since my new discovery, I have been watching (too much) 803 almost every chance I get when I am in front of the TV. Furthermore, NBC is broadcasting quite a few English Premier League games on its network and also its new sports channel, 723 on the dial where I live.

The English Premier League is by far  my favorite. They play a super fast and highly up-tempo game, the way the game is supposed to be played. It’s an exciting game to watch.

Sorry, MLS, you can’t get me to watch a MLS game even if you pay me (actually, depends on how much), and I certainly won’t waste my time going to a game, not until the caliber of play is brought up, way up.

With the soccer interest on the rise in the U.S. leading to a ten fold increase in TV coverage of the English Premier League, perhaps that will bring up the popularity of the game in this country and more importantly, raise the caliber of play here. Raising the bar of the game here will take a while and will take even more money. Everything costs money, of course.

Soccer is (still) a developing sport in this country with too much sponsorship money going to the other competing sports such as the big three: football, basketball and baseball. Baseball puts me to sleep (did I say that already) but that’s another story. I love football, the American version, and basketball too, almost as much as the English Premier League.

A work colleague asked me once if I had to choose between watching the Superbowl and the World Cup Final on a simultaneous broadcast, which would I choose? I did not hesitate in replying that I would watch the World Cup Final over the Superbowl; not even close. He was stunned by my answer as in how could anybody watch a lousy soccer game over the Superbowl?

The answer, my friend, is that once you’ve watched how the soccer powerhouses play the game, i.e. the Brits, the Spaniards, the Germans, the Dutch, the Argentinians, the Brazilians and the likes, you’ll know what I mean and, I’bet that you too will prefer to watch a high caliber soccer game over the Superbowl.

Meanwhile, soccer fever is finally here for many of us with so many Premier League games being shown on TV this season. It brings back fond memories of years past, before the league’s name was changed to the Barclay’s Premier League, with teams like Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and two of my favorites from way back when, Tottenham and West Ham United.

In recent years I hardly even turned on the TV to watch anything but now there is a game changer. I will be staying tuned for some of these games, as many as I can catch on the tube. Yes, in HD too.



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Independence Hall, the Constitution & Gun Control

I was in Philadelphia a couple of days ago and went to the Independence Hall for a bit of sightseeing. Saw the Liberty Bell too and all the historical stuff at the Independence National Historical Park near downtown Philadelphia. The building represents a symbol of a nation to come.


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While I was there, the front page news on CNN had to do with the murder of an Australian man who was in the U.S. on a college baseball scholarship. This young man was out jogging in Duncan, Oklahoma, when he was gunned down by three teenagers who had nothing else to do and decided to kill somebody at random just for fun. That is what one of the boys told the police when they were arrested.

At the Independence Hall, I couldn’t help but wonder what this nation’s founding fathers would think if they were here today, specifically with respect to the gun violence that has become so prevalent in the nation they founded. The Independence Hall is where the U.S. Constitution was drafted, debated and signed, and yes, that included the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms.

Did the founding fathers foresee that the gun lobbying groups have gotten to be the 800 pound gorilla that they have evolved into and that over the years, the Second Amendment has been interpreted to include the right to possess AK-47′s, fully automatic and other assault weapons not to mention one can buy firearms in most states without much of a barrier, including the necessary and thorough background checks?

I am not into hunting but I respect the right of hunters to own firearms to hunt and subsist as well as the right of the citizens to possess firearms in order to protect themselves and against tyranny. Pure and simple, I believe [emphasis added] that was the original intent of the Second Amendment.

Instead, this country has become the laughing stock of the rest of the world thanks to the gun violence and ridiculously loose gun laws and loopholes on the books.

Following the murder of this young Australian college student, a former Australian Deputy Prime Minister is advising the citizens of Australia to better think twice before coming to the U.S. for any purpose, school, business or just to play tourist. I have family and friends from around the world and they couldn’t help but wonder about the same thing.

In short, the United States as a country has become a dangerous place to be thanks to the intense lobbying efforts of pro gun groups and the quagmire of politics-as-usual in this country. So this country remains the butt of jokes for the rest of the world when it comes to gun violence and the safety (the lack of) for its citizens.

My idea of gun control is not about taking guns away or changing the Constitution to take away the citizens’ right to bear arms. It is about having responsible gun control laws to include background checks, mental health checks, tracking system and accountability in place so that the firearms don’t fall into the hands of the criminals and those with mental illnesses.

The Second Amendment was once debated and drafted by the founding fathers of this country right there in Philadelphia in what’s now known as the Independence Hall. I highly doubt the founding fathers foresaw how the words of the Second Amendment have, especially in recent years, caused so much grief and mayhem in this country thanks to the intense gun lobbying efforts, the laughable gun laws, the incompetence and unwillingness of the politicians to do the right thing.

Our politicians need to start growing some backbones and fortitude to right this ship and cure this gun violence disease that has become, sadly, so iconic and symbolic of this nation.

The founding fathers wouldn’t have it any other way.







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Talk Radio

I can’t remember exactly when KGO Radio went to the mostly all news format; probably close to 2 years ago but who cares? I have boycotted listening to KGO ever since.

These days I am not much of a radio talk show listener; perhaps thanks to KGO changing its format and firing some of the great radio talk personalities; names like Dr. Bill or Bill Wattenberg, Gil Gross, John Rothmann, Len Tillem and the late Gene Burns.

For whatever reasons, the only talk show host spared from their all-star line up was Ronn Owens. To this date, he still occupies the morning 9-12 time slot during weekdays on KGO.

Back in the days, I used to listen to these radio personalities any chance I could get, while driving, walking the dog and sometimes even sitting around the house.

With the format changes (yes, I understand it’s a business decision), and as much as Ronn Owens is one of my all time favorite radio talk show hosts, as I said, I have boycotted listening to KGO ever since.

Surely, there are some sporadic syndicated talk shows and others thrown in there during off peak and weekend hours but who wants to listen to someone broadcasting from and talking about some issues in, say, Nashville or Phoenix. I want to listen to radio talk, not just on national issues, but also issues affecting the Bay Area, by local (yes, local) talk personalities.

If I want to tune in to the news when I am driving or just catching up on some breaking news, I’d tune to 740 or KCBS anyway as they have always been an all news station as far back as I can remember. Besides, KCBS has always done a much better job reporting the news than KGO anyway.

More often than not, nowadays when I am driving, I’d have my radio tuned to music on FM or music on my iPod, or Pandora over the internet.

For talk radio, I have since switched to 910, not far from 810 on the AM dial. I don’t even have an idea what the station identifier is but I go there because many of the great former KGO talk personalities have found a home there. Good for them and smart for 910 to do so. There is a loyal and huge following for these local voices.

The late Gene Burns was one of them who found a home on 910.  Over the years, Gene Burns, along with Ronn Owens, have been my favorite radio talk show hosts. I don’t think Gene made it on the air at 910 as he suffered a stroke not long after he was fired by KGO.

Yesterday I googled the name Gene Burns to see what his condition might be and when I could expect him back on the airwaves. Sadly, I saw the article on sfgate reporting his death instead.

Apparently, Gene passed away in May of this year. He will be missed by many, myself included. What a great voice, what an intellect and what a superb radio talk show host !

That leaves Ronn Owens, my other all time favorite radio personality, but as much as I liked listening to him, sorry, Ronn, I am not going back to 810. Maybe I’d do podcast instead without going there if I really want to listen to Ronn. That’s what I usually do with Dr. Bill anyway. Podcast, that is, and skip the ads.

910 talk radio will be just fine for me as long as they have the former 810 radio personalities, and that’s when I am not on Pandora instead.







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The Dry Lake Effect

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When one hears the term “dry lake”, most people would think about the dry lake bed near Edwards AFB that was used for space shuttle landings (still can’t believe the space shuttles are no more.)

In this case, I am referring to Lake Tahoe as the dry lake, not that the lake is dry; hardly, but I am talking about the high altitude and the thin, dry air surrounding the Lake Tahoe area.

My family and I just returned from spending a few days of R & R in the Lake Tahoe area.

It didn’t start out too well (to put it mildly) as we showed up at the rental home and found that it had not been cleaned. Called up the owner but he didn’t get back to me till hours later. Not happy about that.

Being in somewhat of a bind, my wife and I proceeded to clean the house using whatever supplies we could find but most of which we bought from a Safeway store nearby. What a way to start out what was supposed to be a relaxing vacation, playing house cleaners !

The cleaning took about an hour, maybe a little more. Not happy at all (or did I say that already?)

Finally (hours later), the owner called back and apologized, offered the reasons (or excuse) why the house had not been cleaned. Whatever.

I wasn’t going to let that sour our family vacation. Tried but couldn’t help it. It did.

The next few days, we spent our time sitting around the house (the house that wasn’t cleaned and serviced to begin with), heading to the lake front, i.e. beaches, eating out, kayaking, hiking, rafting down the Truckee River and all the usual stuff people do up in the Lake Tahoe area.

All good except, well, keep in mind Lake Tahoe is a lake sitting about 6,000 feet above sea level. Being up there reminds me why I hate traveling to Denver, which I do from time to time. Denver is about 5,300 feet above sea level and very dry. Certainly not my cup of tea.

Don’t get me wrong. Lake Tahoe is beautiful but between the crowds in town (the Tahoe City area), the horrendous traffic to & from the Bay Area, the dryness and the high altitude, it’s not without issues for some people.

The altitude, the dryness and the thin air did cause us to abort a planned hiking trip at Squaw. The hiking terrain was moderately difficult and presented some issues for our pooch – the hike would have also taken us from 6,000 to over 8,500 feet in elevation.

The whole time I was up there, my lips were chapped. As a matter of fact, days after we are back to sea level, I am still using Vaseline and other lip balms to ‘lube” my lips back to health.  Just glad to be back at home in the Bay Area and, ah, sea level, and breathing more dense and not-so-dry air for a change.

All in all, our vacation was very good (“very good” only because I got to spend quality time with my wife and children and not because of being at “the Lake”), well, minus the house cleaning, the crowds, the traffic, the mediocre restaurants (and even more consistently mediocre service), the high altitude and oh, the dry air.

Just something to keep in mind next time we go up to Lake Tahoe, I suppose, if we go at all.





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Going Postal

The urban dictionary defines the word “postal” as:

Gone crazy or insane; irrational. Came into use after a number of workplace shootings by disgruntled U.S. post office workers.

It’s not fair to post office workers even though the slang or usage of the word came into popular culture after “a number of workplace shootings by disgruntled U.S. post office workers.”

By and large, most post office workers or postal workers are good and hard working people. I respect what they do and the services they provide.

This morning I had to go postal, as in mailing a package at the post office, so off I went. There was a short line; only 4 people in front of me. Must be my lucky day.

The first customer walked up to the counter with a bunch of packages (by the way, only one counter out of the four was opened.) As my luck would have it, this lady didn’t fill out any of the necessary forms required for her packages so she had to fill them out one at a time.

Normally the postal worker would have the person step aside, fill the forms out, while he/she helps the next customer. No, in this case, the postal worker, a lady behind the counter, just had her customer fill out all the forms on the spot while she went about her business of doing other things around the postal place.

The rest of us in line just waited, and the line behind me was building, building and building.

10 minutes later, this lady with all the packages and forms to fill out was done. It took a lot longer as she was taking her time and practicing her best penmanship on the spot but at least she was done.


The next person, another lady in her 40′s or so, walked up with her son. She had to mail a package. When told how much it was, she went into a long exchange of how much other methods were going to cost and how long it would take to get to the intended destination, and so on & so forth. That took another five minutes, at least, or so it seemed.

Then she settled on one mode of delivery for her package, then was told it’d be over $40 so she broke out a $100 bill. The postal worker said she didn’t have change so another long conversation ensued (hey, let’s get to know one another some more while everybody waits.)

Long story short, this time, the customer was asked to put the package aside and told to come back after getting change at the bank next door.

By now, 20 minutes later, I was getting to the point of running out of patience, well, almost. Had I known sending my package would take more than 20 minutes at the get-go, I would have said adios, see you later and come back at another time or better yet, send my wife to run this errand (save this great idea for next time.)

However, by this time, my mind-set was that I had already spent 20 minutes in line and if I leave now, I would have wasted those precious 20 minutes. Better stay put and wait rather than to leave. Yep, it’s gonna go fast from here.

Sure, if you say so.

The next lady (It’s harping-on-ladies-day today) walked up and she had to mail a priority box. No problems, right?


She asked about different ways to mail it (c’mon, shouldn’t putting your stuff in a USPS Priority Box to start with clue yourself in already) and the postal worker responded with a dissertation of the numerous modes of delivery.

The customer then decided on the cheapest. The problem was that one is not allowed to use the USPS Priority Box unless it’s intended to be sent USPS Priority.

So this lady said forget it and walked away after wasting yet another 10 minutes at the counter arguing with the postal worker. I think by now, the postal worker was running out of patience herself and perhaps about to go postal. Let’s hope not.

Well, actually the guy behind me was cussing and moaning out loud. He looked poised and ready to go postal himself. Anytime now.

By now, I was seriously thinking about walking out, not for my lack of patience but I was afraid somebody may go postal, that I would become a victim and get caught in the middle of a cross fire.

The last lady in front of me walked up (told you, it’s pounding-on-ladies-day today.) She only had a couple of envelopes to mail and they were already stamped. Great; finally, it’s gonna go quick.

Well, not exactly. Wrong script.

She handed the two envelopes to the worker behind the counter but oh no, that was not it. Not that easy.

At this point, Clint would say, “go ahead, make my day!” She did.

She proceeded to ask about some stamps that she wanted to purchase. Not just any good old stamps but she wanted this particular one, you know, the ones with the pretty pattern, the ones with flowers.


Unfortunately, all the ones she wanted weren’t available; out front anyway.

The postal lady had to go to the back to retrieve some but then she disappeared for almost 10 minutes just to find this customer her stamps; the ones with some stupid flowers on the stamps.

Finally, yes, finally, Hallelujah; she got her stamps, paid and went on her way.

45  minutes and a “short line” later,  it was my turn. About bloody time.

I walked up to the counter very quickly fearing the lady who went to the bank for change may be back and beat me to the counter (if so and by now, a sure way for me to go postal myself.)

I put my package on the scale, asked for media mail (it was a book), swiped my credit card and got on my way. Total time: less than 1 minute.

On my way out, I looked behind me and thought I saw fumes coming out of the head of the guy in line behind me. He was obviously very upset that he had been waiting in line close to 45 minutes, well,  45 + 1 minute.

I wasted no time hurrying out the door fearing that this guy may just snap at any moment and seriously go postal, the urban dictionary variety.

That’d ruin my day. Even Clint wouldn’t like it.

After this morning at the postal place, I now have a much better understanding of the word “postal” and if nothing else, I have a much better appreciation of its meaning.

Next time I am definitely sending my wife.

Go postal, honey!











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The Circle of Fifths

The Circle of Fifths; might as well be the esoteric 5th Dimension to me and no, not the band either, as I struggled with the Circle of 5th’s last night.

It turns out the fifths only refer to the letters (5) but that there are actually seven (7) keys which separate them which makes them fifths. Whatever.

I guess it’s a difficult concept to grasp as it is piano theory and I remember from my school days that theory is always hard, regardless of the subject matter.

As I said before, I am using the Alfred’s Adult All-in-One Course Level 1, eventually level 2 and 3, as my instruction book along with this Scales, Chords, Arpeggios & Cadences book.

I have other books in my music library but sometimes less is best and in this case, it most certainly is. Having more books to turn to has proven to be more confusing that it’s worth so I am sticking with these two, which is more than adequate for my needs.

There are other books out there such as those by Scott Houston, the Piano Guy. I saw first him in a PBS program. Some people might poo poo his method of teaching how to play the piano, which is to play like the pros using chords with the left hand and melody with the right, as in disregard the bass clef, sight reading and play the piano using fake books instead.

Much to the chagrin of most (traditional) piano teachers, I actually think Mr. Houston deserves a lot of credit. He has gotten more adults into learning how to play the piano because his method has de-mystified the instrument somewhat and made the whole thing less intimidating, not to mention many people are able to enjoy playing the piano that they would not have attempted otherwise.

I was one of those until he planted the seed in me after watching his program on TV years ago.

That’s just the way I want to play, much like what Scott Houston advocates, but I will take it a step further. I still want to learn the theory and establish a good foundation such as sight reading, scales, proper fingering (sort of) to complete the chord-learning that Mr. Houston preaches.

Sure, I want to play like the pros as I have no desire to learn how to play the piano the traditional way but I want to leave the door open. Who knows, someday I may want to play a Chopin piece or a Bach but to do that, I’d need to know how to read music and play the bass clef too (in a traditional manner). Just an option but one which requires a proper foundation to build upon.

With that in mind, I have stopped my urge to jump right into playing my favorite songs right away using Mr. Houston’s method. Instead, for the time being, I am focusing on learning the basics, proper fingering, reading music, and all that jazz (sure, playing jazz would be nice too someday) which forces me to have faith in & stick with my two instructional books…for now.

Building a solid foundation from the get-go is exactly what I am trying to do. The songs, and there is a long list & getting longer, can wait.

For now.



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Make Texting While Driving a Crime


I have had it up to here (my hand gesturing up to my neck right below the chin)!

Two days in a row now, I have experienced a close call driving next to another driver who was texting while driving; and in one case, on a freeway going at 70 mph.

I was driving on 280 yesterday near San Bruno when a car in the lane to the left a little bit ahead of mine was noticeably having trouble staying in the lane. The car was swerving and straddling the divider. I stepped on the gas pedal with the full intention of passing this car quickly fearing it was a drunk driver or, as I guessed correctly, somebody texting.

When I pulled next to this car, the driver, a young girl, had both hands on the steering wheel, but in her case, both hands were close to each other near the 12 0′clock position on the steering wheel. Why? Just so she could hold her phone in her hands while texting and driving. At 70 mph, no less !

After I passed her and as I looked at my rear view mirror, her car was still swerving like she was driving drunk. Heck, maybe she was too on top of texting.

The day before, I was on El Camino Real trying to make a left hand turn at a traffic light when I saw a car fast approaching in my rear view mirror, seemingly with no intention of stopping. I kept a close eye on it and was ready to hit my gas pedal at any time to get out of his way.  As he got a little closer, I saw that the driver wasn’t looking at the road but instead he was looking down at his lap, probably at his phone.

Thankfully, he looked up when it counted and stomped on his brakes at the last minute. It saved my day, my well being and my car to say the least. After he stopped, he looked back down again, obviously looking at his phone or something. Go figure.

These mobile phones are supposed to enhance our lives but instead they have become a liability for many people. One of the first things personal injury lawyers do is to subpoena the drivers’ cell phone records in automobile accidents. Nowadays chances are they’ll find that the use of cell phones is the culprit in many of these accidents.

As a criminal defense lawyer, I’ve represented a fair share of people driving under the influence. You know what? The driving behavior, the inattentiveness and yes, the negligence, of people driving while texting or looking at their phones is no different than those driving under the influence. They are just as dangerous and equally so by every standard of measurements.

As a Joe citizen having to share the road with these people, I am worried this is reaching a point of becoming an epidemic. Actually, I think it already has. I sure don’t want to fall victim to such irresponsible (& inexplicable) behavior, myself and my family included.

Perhaps the legislators should seriously look into making texting or using the phone in any manner while behind the wheel a misdemeanor at a minimum, much like DUI is a misdemeanor (in most cases).

Many years ago, DUI was akin to getting a traffic ticket. Making DUI a crime certainly did not stop people from driving under the influence. Far from it.

To make using the phone (texting, talking or browsing the web, etc.) behind the wheel a crime won’t stop people from doing it either but at least it’d be a good start. If nothing else, it’d serve as a better deterrent than the current law on the books, which is nothing but a slap on those proverbial texting hands.


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A Piano Journal

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I have added a blog category of “Music to My Ears” in the hopes of keeping (somewhat) a journal of my piano-learning journey and talking about music, the piano variety in particular.

Will see how long this lasts; I mean the blogging and the journal on my piano playing. As for the actual piano learning portion, right now I feel pretty motivated to learn & play till I drop, well, so to speak.

First of all, at age 52, I am starting very late in the game but then again, I have no expectations to become a concert pianist or anything close to it. It’ll never happen for a host of reasons, age, time, lack of talent & aptitude, etc, but regardless, it’s certainly not the reason I wanted to tackle those 88 keys in the first place.

Second, I am teaching myself piano using this book called the Alfred’s Adult All-In-One Course Level 1. It’s the same book that my kids first used when they took piano lessons years ago from a piano teacher. I am only a few pages into the book but so far, so good.

Third, I am steering clear and away from the traditional way of learning, which entails playing a lot of classical tunes. I have no (read: zero) desire playing classical music.

All I want to do is to play some current pop or light rock hits and most of all, I would like to be able to play some of my favorite tunes from the 70′s; not just to play but hopefully someday, play well enough to sing along (when nobody is around, of course.)

That said, it’s much easier said than done. I’d like to put in a couple of hours a day practicing but time is a rare commodity as most people with children around the house would agree.

The other thing is that I seem to be spending more time looking for inspiration anywhere and everywhere, admiring how some people are able to play beautiful music on the piano all over the web. I am also spending too much time reading and studying piano learning methodology and strategy and not enough time physically hitting or pounding the keys on the piano or keyboard.

Why? I think I know why. I am still quite intimidated by the piano and the 88 black & white keys. Also, the few times I started playing and trying to learn a few chords, it’s much harder than I thought. My fingers feel stiff and my wrists hurt after a while. It’s definitely old age. Excuse it’s not but that’s what it is.

Even though I already have a baby grand and another full keyboard at home, recently I added a 61-key keyboard to practice on, perhaps thinking that it’s a little less intimidating to see fewer keys. Perhaps. Actually, the portable keyboard makes it easier to haul it anywhere around the house and make it more conducive to practicing. Let’s hope.

No worries. I am going to charge ahead and spend a little time practicing on a daily basis. Every little bit helps. As they say (don’t have a clue who “they” are), practice makes perfect. Sure, but in my case, it won’t be perfect, and far from it by any standards. At my age, I already know.

At least the hope is that over a period of time, a long time, it’ll allow me to play some music using fake books. I know, I know, the traditional pianists would jeer & sneer at these sacrilegious books, but ask me if I care. I just want to be able to “fake” my way through.

Speaking of fake books, it’s actually the reason I want to learn how to play the piano. That is, to play like the pros, the ones you see in a lounge while you sip on a cocktail or something. These are not the traditional pianists (although some probably went through the traditional training & upbringing) but rather, they play with a rock/pop/jazz/blues style, a style which I want to emulate and learn.

Anything but classical, paleeez!

In the end, I just want to play the music I like on a piano and carry a tune along with it. Most of all, playing like the pros is the one and only reason why I want to play the piano, aside from the fact that I just love the beautiful sound a piano makes.

Sorry, Mozart and Chopin. Hate to break the news to you. It’s most definitely not because of you and those supposedly wonderful tunes you composed so many years ago. If I had to play classical music, learn to play the piano the traditional way (no offense to traditional piano teachers) and play all those Chopin or Mozart tunes, I wouldn’t even bother getting started. Maybe I’d just take on guitar or drums instead.

It’s still very early in my piano-learning journey and in baseball parlance, I am still in the 1st inning.

Actually, not even that;  just warming up the arms before the start of the game is more like it.




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Retirement from Law Practice

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It has already been mentioned on my Home page. I recently decided to retire from law practice.

It was not an easy decision but there are just too many things I’d like to do in life; too much to do and too little time.

Something happened this past year and changed my outlook in life and one which I touched on in my blog previously. Let me diverge a bit again here as it all started with running. Let me explain.

I started running in March of last year in order to lose weight but odds were that I would fail once again as I did for the past 15 years. It got to the point that my wife was tired of hearing my proclamation that I was going to get fit again. To her and everybody else, it was just another Boy Cried Wolf story.

This time was different. My father passed away in April of last year, a month after I took up (yet again) running. Granted, he was 88 years old, never spent a day in the hospital his entire life and passed away peacefully, but what does his passing have to do with my running & ah, semi-retiring from law practice? Quite a bit, I think.

A couple of months before his passing, I visited my dad at his home in Shanghai. He told me I was getting heavy and he was worried since I have a heavy burden and responsibility raising my family, much as he undoubtedly felt the solemn responsibility and burden in supporting his; mom, my 3 brothers, 1 sister and me. I heeded his advice and continued exercising after I got home from visiting him and my mother.

Still, history would tell me that I was destined to fail yet once again, and that I would certainly not stick with my running long enough. My dad’s passing a month after I started had a lot to do with my sticking with it and pushing me over the hump. I stuck with it this time and he was right; I have a family to raise and I’ve got to do it for them.

Over a year later, and what a year it has been as my mother also passed away at the age of 85 in April of this year; my outlook in life continued to evolve or perhaps it has simply matured. Surely, my parents are gone but life goes on and I need to take care of the next generation. Such is the circle of life. There is a job to do but plenty of life to enjoy.

Fearing that I may slip back into my former self, somebody who was 40 lbs heavier and well on his way to many ailments with age, I am using this as plenty of motivation to stay on track and not go back. I have continued to run and erg, a great work-out combination and a 1-2 punch in staying fit.

That said, running, working out, and staying healthy do take time and time is a rare commodity when it comes to those having kids at home, something all parents can attest.

And that brings me to work. As much as I love being a criminal defense lawyer along with my professional flying, I have decided life is just too short to be working a second job, full throttle no less. My law practice has been my second career since 1997; it’s a job that I enjoy but a second job nonetheless.

Even though I tried to practice at my own pace and dictated my own schedule but soon, my practice got very busy for me. Most people would consider it a success but to me, it became a precursor to retiring from law practice altogether.

As much as I’d love to continue practicing criminal law at that pace, it was taking time away from my family and other competing interests; yes, there are other competing interests.

Spending time with my family is always at the top of my priority list, a list within my bucket list so to speak, but one of those competing interests I talked about earlier has to do with a desire of mine for a long time. Since the beginning of my adult life, I have harbored a secret yearning to play the piano. I’ve always thought what a wonderful musical instrument that is and the sound is just amazing in many ways, shapes or forms.

I have decided in order for me to learn how to play the piano and still be able to spend the time I want to spend with my family, something has got to give. After all, there are only 24 hours in a day and I strive to spend 7 to 8 of those sleeping.

That leaves 16 to 17 hours to do all the things I need and want to do, including first and foremost, spending time with my wife and children, playing chauffeur for my kids, flying professionally, running, working-out and erg-ing  just to name a few.

And guess what? Doing the math, there’s not a whole lot of time left in the day to do other things.

Not to mention I’d still like to read an interesting book from time to time, watch a little sports on TV and get back to learning Spanish, something that I started last year but then became an on & off affair. I’d like to make it an on & on affair moving forward so that in time, I can converse in a new language.

As an ancillary benefit, there is ample proof from research that learning how to play a musical instrument and a new language are both good for the aging brain.

So the decision to go into retirement from law practice didn’t come easy.

Life is just too short to try to do everything and all too often and for far too many people, nothing gets done and only regrets in the end. I don’t want to be one of those people nor find myself in that position.

So a new note sounds off (probably starting with the “Middle C”) and let a new chapter begin.








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© Peter T. Chiang, Esq.