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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 +

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Teaching a hamster to read.

There has been a new addition to our household, recently: a hamster. Well, there were two, but now there is one - but that is another story.

Tiarnan, two, is particularly taken by his new furry friend. He likes to reach into the cage and stroke the little one (who is busily trying to run away, of course). Nevertheless, Tiarnan usually persists until he can "sayang" the hamster. (That is: "show affection").

On the 10th July 2008, he did something particularly sweet. He had been playing with the hamster, when a thought occurred to him. He ran into his brothers' bedroom and came out with a book - on hamster rearing. He flipped through the pages until he had found a photo of a hamster the same colour as ours. Then he turned the book around and showed the photo to the scampering hamster.

"Look," he said, to the hamster, softly, "The same."

The hamster duly looked and he was satisfied. Of course, what the hamster thought of the giant photo of a hamster just like herself, we will never know. Tiarnan, however, was happy to have related his understanding to his little friend. She couldn't talk, he had observed, but surely she could see a photo?

Communication is difficult at the best of times - but interspecies communication is more difficult still. However, that hasn't stopped Tiarnan from having a go. He is doing his best to communicate to the very small furry animal that likes to run about alot and eats health food. At least, that is the way it looks to Tiarnan.

I will have to write more of the effect of the little pet on our household, we have had her for about a week and a half. It is good for the children - especially Tiarnan and Fintan - for the first thing they do in the morning is rush to have a look at what the little one is up to. Tiarnan calls her "baby". It is all very sweet. We should have got a pet long ago, looking now at how they respond.

(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: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html 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.

We are the founders of Genghis Can, a copywriting, editing and proofreading agency, that handles all kinds of work, including technical and scientific material. If you need such services, or know someone who does, please go to: http://www.genghiscan.com/ Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 8:45 PM  4 comments

Friday, July 11, 2008

The shame of a nation.

How much should a book cost? What is a fair price? In particular how much should a book used in school cost? Think of a reasonable price, a price you would feel comfortable with.

I have learnt of a private language school, in Singapore, that disagrees with you, over the proper price for a book. A foreign student of that school was complaining that they had been charged SIX HUNDRED DOLLARS for their course books, for their language course (about a three month course).

Now, I would like you to guess how many books she received for her 600 dollars. How many books would have to have been priced fairly to come to a total of 600 dollars?

Two. That's right - she received two, quite slender, English language teaching books for her 600 dollars. One was a Student Book and one was a Workbook.

Now, this girl was upset enough over what she had been charged, but I bet she would have been even more upset to learn just how much those books actually cost. I would like you to have a guess at the standard retail price of those two books.

They cost just twenty-five dollars each, in any well-stocked bookstore. Thus, her 600 dollars of books could have been had for just 50 dollars, had she known to go to a bookstore rather than suffer the predations of the school salesman.

Singapore is aiming to be an "education hub" for the world. It aims to attract - and is already attracting - students from all over the world to come to study here and better themselves. There is nothing wrong with that aim. However, it must be implemented with integrity. Such abuses as the one I have just described must not be allowed to sully the reputation of Singapore, as an educational centre.

That girl has a tongue. That tongue will tell the tale of the 600 dollar course books to many people in the years to come. Rumours will spread about the extortionate cost of things in Singapore. There is no telling how many people will get to hear that tale. Most of the damage, of course, will be done to the reputation of the school in question. However, some of that poor reputation will attach itself to Singapore as the location of the school.

I am unaware as to whether charging 600 dollars for a couple of books is school policy or whether it is opportunism on the part of the salesman, who may, indeed, be pocketing 550 dollars for himself. Whoever is ultimately responsible, it should be stopped. Such practices are criminal in a moral light, whether or not they would be regarded as criminal in law.

Singapore speaks often of how "clean" it is of corruption of all kinds. Yet, it seems, there are dubious practices happening everyday in Singapore that appear to be overlooked. They usually centre on overcharging or exploitation of the customer in some way. To me, such dubious practices are as unwelcome as any corruption in high places might be. Society should do what it can to stamp out such abuses before Singapore becomes known not for its "clean" society, but for being a rip-off.

Truly, that private school is the shame of the Singaporean nation. It is also, of course, doing irreparable harm to the reputation of its nation. Just think of this: what if all the students at that school are being massively overcharged for books? What if thousands of students a year are being ripped-off? Just how many hundreds of thousands or even millions of people would ulimately get to hear of how they had been cheated? That hardly benefits the reputation of Singapore.

There is one way to handle this. It should be an offence to charge higher than the cover-price/standard retail price, for any goods, within the borders of Singapore. That would put an end to it.

(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: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html 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.

We are the founders of Genghis Can, a copywriting, editing and proofreading agency, that handles all kinds of work, including technical and scientific material. If you need such services, or know someone who does, please go to: http://www.genghiscan.com/ Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 11:15 AM  4 comments

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The best colour in the world.

Fintan has a favourite colour: you'll never guess which it is.

The day before yesterday, Fintan came to me holding a blue bicycle helmet in his hand. I had already examined it, with Tiarnan earlier and knew that it had a missing fastener. It needed replacing - either the fastener or the helmet.

"Daddy...", he began, his eyes searching mine, his tongue searching for the right words to approach the issue, delicately, "Can you buy me an orange helmet?"

"OK...we will do it this weekend."

Unusually, though gratified by that, he didn't seem content.

"Daddy...", he began again, measuring the size of my indulgence, inwardly, "Can you buy me a new bike?"

Now, a bicycle helmet, I could handle, but I wasn't prepared for a new bike: the old one still had the mandatory two wheels and that was good enough for me.

"Why?", I probed, realizing I couldn't see why he would need a NEW bike, when the old one was not broken down.

"Because it is not orange."

Ah. I see. I dwelt on his words for a moment or two, in silence.

"Can I have an orange helmet and an orange bike, Daddy?" He repeated, no longer prepared to wait for an answer.

"You can have an orange helmet. But not an orange bike - they are very expensive."

He was silent for only a moment.

Then he came back with a very reasonable tone: "Okaaay. I will have an orange helmet...but use the old bike."

I was warmed by the reasonableness of his reply. He understood and accepted the situation and my imposed limitation on his desires. He is good like that. Fintan is very accommodating. He never fails to understand the reality of a situation when it is presented to him. This makes it a whole lot easier communicating to my newly-minted five year old. (Newly minted because he has just turned five, a matter of days ago.)

This whole exchange is characteristic of Fintan. He has a particular aesthetic outlook, with a strong point of view on aesthetic matters - one which is very much his own, uninfluenced, it seems, by our own choices. He makes decisions based on aesthetic priorities over other considerations. It is interesting to watch a young child so certain of his views of what is beautiful, of what is acceptable, of what is desirable. He never fails to have an opinion on such matters. It seems that there is a nascent artist in him waiting to come out - for the first gift of an artist is a point of view: without that the art would have no personality or individuality. Fintan, at least, has an aesthetic point of view.

This is not our only brush with the colour orange recently. It looks like we will be living in an orange world for some time to come.

(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: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html 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.

We are the founders of Genghis Can, a copywriting, editing and proofreading agency, that handles all kinds of work, including technical and scientific material. If you need such services, or know someone who does, please go to: http://www.genghiscan.com/ Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 11:34 AM  5 comments

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

How big is a toddler?

Tiarnan, two, is my smallest son. Comparatively speaking he is smaller than might be expected because the other two, Fintan, just turned five, and Ainan, eight are larger than usual for their age. Fintan is both taller and bulkier, being, in terms of size, a couple of years ahead of himself - and Ainan too, has the height (but not the mass) of someone a couple of years older.

Tiarnan, however, is not unusual, at two, in terms of height. Yet, he is an ambitious boy and sees himself as more mature than perhaps we see him.

The other day, to test his self-perception, and for the fun of it, I asked him:

"Are you my big son?"

He had a bottle in his mouth, so he couldn't speak and drink at the same time. He chose to continue to drink - and shook his head, in reply. It was an honest shake - one that acknowledged the true situation.

Then I asked him, a little teasingly: "Are you my little son?". He shook his head more vigorously, this time, perhaps a little indignantly. Being the littlest was not for him - whether or not it was true.

Then I inquired: "Are you my medium sized son?"

He considered it for a second or two and seemed to like the sound of that. He nodded, acceptingly, quite content.

Thus, in the world of this particular toddler, truth and stature are both important. He wants to be the biggest, but acknowledges that he isn't - but, at the same time, he can't accept that he is the smallest - so he settles for a compromise.

I left my "medium sized" youngest son to finish his bottle in peace.

(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: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html 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.

We are the founders of Genghis Can, a copywriting, editing and proofreading agency, that handles all kinds of work, including technical and scientific material. If you need such services, or know someone who does, please go to: http://www.genghiscan.com/ Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 10:06 PM  1 comments

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: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html 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.

We are the founders of Genghis Can, a copywriting, editing and proofreading agency, that handles all kinds of work, including technical and scientific material. If you need such services, or know someone who does, please go to: http://www.genghiscan.com/ Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 8:55 PM  11 comments

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