The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Monday, July 07, 2008

The amazing disappearing ERP cards

Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) cards have magical properties. They can vanish on their own, into thin air. To prove the point, all you have to do is leave one in public view, with an open window, or in any other way accessible, turn your back, count to a hundred, and look back again. It will have vanished.

Now, the relevant Ministry was unavailable for comment at the time of going to press, but they have been coy about just how they managed to instil their apparently ordinary pieces of inexpensively made - but dear to buy - plastic, with such magical abilities. I was unable to get an answer from them as to when they managed to do such magical research, or how much government money was required to imbue such simple looking plastic with such special abilities.

In the absence of government insight on the issue I consulted the SEER of the household of the Cawleys (my wife). She pointed to the evident fact that ERP was EXPENSIVE - and that this might have imbued the plastic cards with the magical ability to disappear of their own accord.

Now, my post may have become in whimsy, but there is a seriousness to it. A friend of ours is a Harley-Davidson riding lady, who has repeatedly experienced the magical properties of her ERP cards. Every single time that she has forgotten to take her ERP card from its holder on her motorbike, someone else has kindly remembered and taken it instead.

Now, you might wonder in what downtrodden areas she has been parking her bike, so that it is stolen from, every time she forgets to take her card with her. Well, such downtrodden areas as City Hall and Plaza Singapura, for instance. She only forgets to take her card with her occasionally but she has become very disturbed to note that EVERY SINGLE TIME it has been STOLEN.

This should give us all pause. A bike is not a very big thing. An ERP card is an even smaller thing. Yet, every time she has parked her bike, in an "upper class" area, as it is usually parked, and forgotten to take her ERP card from its holder, it has been stolen before she gets back to her bike. That could only occur if a sub-group of people were specifically checking other peoples' vehicles for means of access to their ERP cards. A casual passerby of a parked bike, would not notice if an ERP card was present or not. Only someone looking for them would do so. The same goes for any car with an open window. Only someone looking for cards to steal would notice.

Yet, it has happened to her every time she has parked her bike and failed to keep her card with her. That should prompt us to re-evaluate the idea that Singapore is a "low crime" country. Perhaps some categories of crime are quite high - such as theft. Our family, for instance, has been stolen from three times in the past few years. The police did nothing - but that is another story. Our friend did not report the thefts to the police. She thought, probably, it would not do any good to do so. How many other people, in Singapore, are victims of theft, but never report it? It could be quite a few if our friend's experience is typical.

Think about this, too. The most likely thief of an ERP card, is someone else with a vehicle, for then they could make direct use of it. Yet, that means they have enough money to buy a vehicle in the first place - which, in a Singaporean high vehicle tax environment means they have a fair amount of money. Yet, these people are still motivated enough to steal ERP cards from other vehicle owners. (This presupposes that there is no black market in stolen ERP cards going on).

Our friend's experience shows that thieves are sufficiently common that one is certain to pass a parked vehicle in a few hours away from it - and that anything that can be stolen from it, will.

I am left to wonder what is the true crime situation in Singapore. What percentage of thefts and other "minor" crimes are going unreported? For that matter, what percentage of more serious crimes are going unreported?

One learns, after a while, that a lot in Singapore is about image. Singapore has the image of virtual crimelessness...but anyone who has been here long enough can only doubt that. Our friend would be the first to laugh at the suggestion that criminals are a rarity in Singapore (unless, of course, it is the same thief stalking her about Singapore!).

Perhaps it would do everyone well to be aware of this.

Don't forget your ERP cards.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and seven months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, five years exactly, and Tiarnan, twenty-eight months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, wunderkind, wonderkind, genio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 8:55 PM 


Blogger Miao said...

Speaking of thieves, I am reminded of a painful experience I had. My friend and I were at a restaurant, and, as it was extremely crowded, we only managed to find seats after a terribly long wait. Our table was very small and there was barely enough space for us to eat. I placed my bag on the floor, leaning closely against the leg of my chair, as it was rather uncomfortable to eat with an unwieldy bag on my lap. After the meal, just as I was getting ready to pay, I saw that MY WHOLE BAG WAS ALREADY GONE. You can imagine just how shocked I was. Whoever stole it, took advantage of the fact that there was a confusing crowd in the restaurant (there were customers milling in and out every now and then, and many waiters walking around) and stole it right under my nose, while I was engrossed in eating. And nobody noticed who did it. I don't know if there was really no one who saw the culprit or if people just don't want to get involved. It was very upsetting, and in total I lost around eight hundred dollars' worth of items - including a brand new handphone that my brothers bought for me as a birthday gift, and three books that I was planning to return to the library on that day itself. (The thief didn't return them for me either - but I wasn't expecting him/her to do so in the first place.) I know it was partly my fault for being so careless, but I still couldn't believe that the thief was so bold - after all, ANYONE could have seen him/her.

I called the police and the restaurant staff tried to help, but in the end the thief was never caught. Now I am constantly paranoid about losing my valuables - I'd check my bag every 15 minutes or so, to see if my handphone and my wallet are still around.

I am sure there are many petty crimes (or acts of dishonesty) in Singapore - e.g., not returning a wallet you found, pilfering little things like ERP cards, etc. Singaporeans' kiasu mindset is probably at work here - even for those who can afford buying vehicles, they want to scrimp and save as much as possible, even at the expense of others - after all, little amounts add up to a great amount in the long run. I also remember how you have encountered taxi drivers who tried to cheat you of a few extra pennies. I wonder if such trends also exist in other countries?

Do remind your friend to keep her ERP card everytime she parks her motorbike. Make it a habit. I hope she doesn't suffer any more losses!

11:04 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you, Miao, for your account of theft. It seems that theft is very common, here, in Singapore. You have experienced it. My friend has experienced it multiple times - and so have we. Do you know, someone once even stole our child's stroller from outside our flat, when Ainan was a baby? People actually steal BABY accessories in Singapore. It was a shock, I can tell you.

Best wishes

11:15 AM  
Blogger Miao said...

I once heard an account from my friend: She has a handicapped Malay neighbour who kept her wheelchair outside her house, along the corridor. One day her wheelchair suddenly went missing. The Malay neighbour immediately suspected that it was stolen by a Chinese immigrant who rented an apartment next door, because ever since this Chinese immigrant moved in, things began to disappear - potted plants, bicycles, clothes (when people hung their washed clothes out to dry), etc. So she called the police and they searched the Chinese immigrant's flat - it turned out that her wheelchair was indeed stolen by him. When questioned by the police, the Chinese immigrant tried to worm his way out by saying that he thought the wheelchair belonged to no one, and so he took it and planned to sell it.

I suppose the thief who stole Ainan's stroller was planning to earn some quick bucks by selling it as well, or maybe he also had a newborn, and was too lazy/stingy to shop for a stroller himself.

1:03 PM  
Blogger Xtrocious said...

Actually, this is quite common when you have an influx of migrant workers...

Even in China, urban residents are wary about migrant workers who come into the cities to work - crime rate inevitably rise...

2:27 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

The mentality of people who would steal wheelchairs and baby strollers should not be tolerated. Long jail sentences should be meted out to such people - for their crimes go beyond theft - they show a callousness towards others that ought to be seriously punished.

Of course, nothing happens to them, usually. That is why they do it.

6:12 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Xtrocious, I would be surprised if ERP cards were being stolen by migrant workers - because they would need to have vehicles to make use of them - and they are usually lowly paid.

Migrant workers could, however, contribute to other crime.

I think theft is a bigger problem than is ackknowledged. It is something often not reported - and, when it is reported, I understand the tendency is to try to reclassify it as "not theft" but something else. At least, that is our experience.

Best wishes

6:47 PM  
Anonymous Onlooker said...

I agree with miao.
The CashCard are most likely taken by a vehicle owner.
Q:Is the payment for parking using a cash card system?
I have a friend who lost his bicycle 3 mth back after he return home from exercise and left his bike outside the flat without locking it. He managed to get it back after he saw the cleaner riding it when he was coming home from work.He prove his ownership because it is a rare brand (here) and he had the bike inscribe with his initials.
But like I have comment before such petty crime are usually played down.The media know of such incidents but usually they would not report it.That why I like BBC they have been giving a better coverage on their domestic affair better than us. I love Panaroma and doctor who.

12:36 PM  
Blogger Xtrocious said...

Actually, you don't need a vehicle to use that ERP card - it is just a normal NETS CASH CARD!

You can basically use it at any 7-11 or places that accepts the NETS Cash Card...

Even if you can't use it, you can always return it for a S$2 refund...

5:46 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Hi Onlooker,

Such crime may be called petty, but when it is frequently encountered (we have been victims to it three times since I came to Singapore) it is a total pain. It becomes a quality of life issue. Singapore is not so good at those kind of issues, I think.

Thanks for your comment.

7:37 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you Xtrocious. I didn't know what kind of card it was, since I don't have a car and wouldn't drive a motorbike (half the number of wheels I am comfortable with!).

Thanks for clarifying the matter.

Kind regards

7:38 PM  
Blogger Xtrocious said...

You are welcome...

In fact, not too long ago, there was a big ruckus between the LTA and NETS over these cards...

Apparently, a lot of motorists were wrongly fined by the LTA for not paying the ERP toll even though they had a cashcard in their IU units...

4:17 PM  

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