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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, September 20, 2008

The second anniversary of Prodigy Blog.

I've done it. I have actually written my way to my second year of blogging. Yesterday, September 19th 2008, was the second year, to the day, since I began this blog.

At the end of the first year, I had had 33,095 visitors, who had read 105,687 pages (which consist of up to a week of postings...so the real number of pages is approximately seven times that number). I considered the first year a success given that, at that time, there were over 70 million blogs in the world and only about 700 million internet connections - so that, all being average, I would only have a maximum of 10 readers a day, assuming that people distribute their reading efforts equally and that everyone actually reads a blog every day (just one). I was rather more successful than that, averaging about 100 readers a day, after the initial start-up period.

At the end of the first year, I set myself a target for my future blogging success. It seemed, at that time, an ambitious but achievable one: I aimed to secure a total of 100,000 visitors to my site by the second anniversary of my blog. It makes me happy to write that I have met my target - in fact, I exceeded it (or should I say you, the reader, exceeded it by reading my blog). By the stroke before midnight on September 19th 2008, I had received 105,716 visitors to my blog, in total, since the day it began. That means I received 72,621 new visits in the period September 19th 2007 to the same day in 2008. Essentially, I doubled my daily visit average to about 200 per day.

My readers have been busy looking around the site and totted up 265,856 page views. Remember that a page is counting a whole week of entries. So, basically that means that around 1.8 million posts have been read around the world. Were that books, I would be a best selling author, so that puts that into perspective. New page views for the year stand at 160,169, indicating that over a million posts would have been read, in the year.

Those numbers are quite staggering, in a way, for they indicate the power of blogging to reach out, across the world, into people's minds. What other immediately accessible way is there, in the world, of enabling 1.8 million posts to be read by people in all nations of the world? None.

As it was in the first year, my readers have come from all over the world. What is noticeable this year, however, is that they - or should say you - have become much more geographically dispersed with the numbers outside of the main English speaking countries of the UK, USA, Ireland, Canada, Australia and Singapore increasing dramatically. It is odd to see that I even get people in the most far flung parts of the world searching for my blog using either my name, or that of my son, Ainan, in their search terms. This shows that word of mouth is spreading knowledge of the blog quite far afield. People know of us, before they search for us. This is a new development since, mainly in the first year, searches were for terms relating to giftedness and prodigiousness. The second year still had plenty of such searches - but there was a strong growth in more specific searches using names of the family. It is odd to think that people in countries I have never visited and may never visit, have actually heard of us, and my blog and are interested enough to search for it.

I write on giftedness and this is very much a niche interest. The people who tend to be interested are often gifted themselves, particularly the parents of gifted children, in search of answers, background, and support in their situation. Many interesting people have corresponded, through comment posts, over the two year period. I value their comments and personal tales of raising gifted children - and I am sure that my readers do, too, as they provide further tales of the gifted.

The growth of a blog is, I feel, a gradual thing. Word gradually spreads around the world and the accidental reader becomes, in time, a dedicated one. My second year was twice as successful as my first. It is my aim that my third year should be as successful as the first two years combined. This means that I hope to have as many visits in my third year, as the blog received in the first two years in total. That means that the total should be 211,432 visitors by the end of the third year. Now, that is a high aim for one reason: the number of random visitors from the search engines who are looking for giftedness is NOT going to increase. There is a typical background level of search in that area, some of which naturally comes to me, since my blog generally appears on page one of related search terms in Google. Unless the world suddenly becomes fascinated by all things gifted, that background level is not going to change much. What has to change, therefore, for me to reach my new target, is two things: the number of specific searchers who are searching for members of the Cawley family specifically - and the number of return visitors. Word of mouth will help the growth in the first area - and the second area is up to the level of richness of what I write. If I write so as to interest you, my readers, then many of you will return to read another day.

This analysis leads one to conclude that there is only one element really within the control of the blogger - and that is the blogging itself. A blogger must write, regularly, in an absorbing way, so that others who chance upon it may find it nourishing or interesting in some way. That is all. If people appreciate the writing, the blog will grow, over time, as my blog has done this past year.

I would like to thank you all for taking the time to read what I write. I would further like to thank those who actually took the time to write a comment post. Most of these comments have been rewarding to read and stimulating to receive. Commenters generally have wished to contribute in a positive way to the discussion on the matters I have raised. Some have shared personal details of their life situation, anonymously, in illustration of some point - and these comments are particularly valued since I know how hard it is to address such issues sometimes. Thank you for taking that effort.

Some of you have recommended my blog to others, by linking to it. I would particularly like to thank those who have done this since it helps spread word about the blog, and build a readership. A blog only really comes alive when there is an active, responsive readership out there - and I have that, now. Those who have linked to me, have greatly helped that growth in readership and it is much appreciated. If you, reading this, have a site, a link to my blog or any of its posts would be most welcome. If you find a post of interest or value, a link to it will ensure that others that you know will get the chance to benefit from it, too.

At the end of my second year, I am resolved to continue writing. Yet, I don't know what that writing will be. Blogging is a very spontaneous task. The blog of the day arises from my thoughts and concerns at the time and is utterly unpredictable as a result. I shall continue to write of giftedness, prodigy and related matters. I shall also write of matters relating to life in Singapore and education in general. Sometimes, I shall write of more general matters that catch my attention, for sometimes, something must be said that others might not say. That is the role of any social commentator: to be a voice to the voiceless - and, at times, I have been, and shall continue to be, that.

Some blogs have millions of visitors - or so I hear. They are always in very mainstream areas, though. I do not know how successful a blog about giftedness can become. The limit on its success is very much determined by how many people care about human excellence. In an ideal world, everyone would be concerned about excellence, but in our world, most people are more concerned about "good enough"...there is no striving to be or wish to be, great. This places an upper limit on the number of people who might seek out a blog on giftedness. Yet, that is not a terrible thing. I would rather be read by people who are interested, specifically, in giftedness, than not to be read at all.

Giftedness is not as widely understood as it should be. By definition, few experience the state personally - and so few can relate directly to it. Yet, I feel that it is important that more people understand giftedness, for gifted children can grow up to become vital contributors to their respective societies. If more people understood gifted people and their lives, perhaps the life journeys of the gifted might be made somewhat easier and more successful. I feel it is an important aim, to strive for: the understanding of the gifted. If you would like more people to understand about giftedness, please let them know about this blog, please link to it and spread the word. I will in turn share my experience and understanding of giftedness and related issues.

Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoy it, as much as I have enjoyed writing.

(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 @ 10:50 AM  9 comments

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Chinese products: a danger to the world?

"Made in China" may soon be seen not as a recommendation, but as a warning.

Three babies have died and at least 6,200 have fallen ill, many with kidney stones, after consuming milk manufactured by the Sanlu group of China. The milk had been contaminated with melamine. Shockingly, the milk from 20 other Chinese milk manufacturers has also been found to contain the adulterant.

Now, for those who attend to the news, this seems all very familiar. Even the word melamine should be known to many readers. This is because China has done this before. This is the not the first poisonous baby milk scandal. It is also not the first time melamine has ended up in food. What is really disgusting is why melamine is put in food - deliberately. It fools the chemical tests used to determine the quality of the food. Yes, that is right, melamine is deliberately being put in Chinese food to make it look better on scientific tests. You see, melamine is nitrogen bearing and fools tests into determining that the food is protein rich (since nitrogen is used as a marker for the presence of protein, which contains nitrogen). That is why it is being put into baby milk - to make the milk seem richer and better. In fact, it becomes a toxic beverage that can kill babies. Thus, those who adulterate the milk supply with melamine do so for personal profit, at the expense of the lives and health of thousands of babies. That is the reality of modern Chinese business practices.

It is not long since thousands of American dogs fell ill, many dying due to melamine contamination of their pet food - for the same reason, no doubt, as the baby milk was contaminated - to make money for some crooked businessman.

In the Sanlu case, two brothers have been arrested for supplying three tons of adulterated milk, per day, to Sanlu. They had been watering the milk down, to increase profits, and had hidden this dilution by adding melamine to make it seem richer in protein than it actually was (thus obscuring the fact that it had been diluted). They face the death penalty if convicted - and frankly I hope they get it, for babies have died because of their greed and dishonesty and many thousands are ill.

The nauseating twist in the tale is the motivation of the brothers for doing this. It was a way of getting back at Sanlu for rejecting past shipments of milk (no doubt for being substandard) and costing them lost revenue. So, they hatched the plot as a means to extract extra money from Sanlu to compensate them for previous losses. It was a case of business revenge. Yet, babies are paying the price for this spitefulness with their lives.

The fact that 20 companies in China have been producing contaminated milk shows that dishonesty, greed and a disregard for the health of the consumer are rampant in Chinese business. This means that no Chinese product can be regarded as safe for consumption. There are many instances of poisoning in other foodstuffs and pharmaceuticals, as well as many other areas such as lead bearing toys.

These kinds of problems in Chinese business have been going on for many years - and nothing effective seems to be being done about it. So, as a consumer, there is only one thing you can do to protect yourself and your family: look for the Made in China label - and refuse to buy it. Yes, it may be cheap, but it may also be dangerous and, to my eyes, dangerous is never truly cheap - for the price in health can be very high.

I hear that the FDA of America has checked with all major US manufacturers of baby milk to check that they are not sourcing their materials in China. It is time for other countries, too, to be wary of anything of Chinese origin.

I hope to see a day when Chinese business behaves with the regard and respect for the consumer common in the Western world. What is certain is that they are not there yet.

(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 @ 12:25 PM  10 comments

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

On falling ill in a taxi.

It is time for a common policy of taxi driver response to a passenger falling ill, in the cab. I say this because of something which happened in Singapore, recently.

Some weeks ago, a man travelling in a cab, in Singapore, became ill - and fell unconscious in the cab. The driver took him to the nearest Polyclinic. There he had to wait to be seen, as is usual in Polyclinics. The real problem with this scenario is that he had had a heart attack. He died.

Now, this story might have had a different ending if the taxi driver's standard response, according to his company policy, had been to drive him straight to the nearest hospital. There he would have received emergency treatment for his heart attack. It might have been possible to save his life. Sadly, he was instead taken to somewhere that had two failings: plenty of people waiting to be seen, who might not be keen to give him priority - and the likelihood that the Polyclinic would lack the relevant equipment to deal with the situation.

No-one who falls acutely ill in a cab should be condemned to death by a taxi driver who, perhaps being a little too lazy, takes them to the nearest everyday clinic. In such situations, a hospital should be the automatic answer.

I rather hope that someone in a position to change policy reads this and responds sensibly and proactively to prevent other unnecessary deaths in future.

My condolences to the family of the man in question.

(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 @ 9:25 PM  2 comments

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

An understanding of music in young children.

What can young children see in music? Are they able to understand it? Well, Fintan seems to.

Recently, Fintan got to hear West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein. We didn't tell him anything about it but just let him listen. His remarks proved to be very interesting.

At one point, he suddenly perked up: “Are they fighting? I can hear them fighting.", he said, excitedly, as if, oddly, people were actually fighting, in front of him, for real.

A few minutes later the music changed and so did Fintan's response. "Are they dead?”, he asked, interestedly and respectfully.

As anyone who knows the story of West Side, would know, Fintan's remarks were very apt to the music. It was good to hear this five year old understand the story behind the music, from the music alone.

Later on, in reflection on the music, he observed: “The Bernstein is like cat and jerry…chasing.”

He meant, Tom and Jerry - the ever chasing animals, in the cartoon.

Again, that is an accurate description of the music and of the story behind it - for it is the tale of two gangs and their rivalry.

It was a rare opportunity for Fintan to hear such music - but given his enthusiastic response, perhaps we should try to ensure that such rare events are more common in future. We would, no doubt, get to hear more interpretations of the musical "stories" from him.

(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 @ 9:08 PM  0 comments

Monday, September 15, 2008

Victoria Beckham's Haircut and the idiocy of the modern world.

We live in the Time of the Idiot. This is clear to see when one looks at what is considered news.

A couple of days ago, Yahoo News carried a story about Victoria Beckham's new haircut. Apparently, the fact that she has cut her hair short warrants global communication. It is something that the whole modern world must know. The question is: why?

Why is it important for us to know of a change of haircut of someone who long ago stopped contributing anything to the world (if one considers her initial claim to fame - pop songs - a worthy contribution in the first place)? What does it matter if her hair is long, short, pink or balding? In truth, it is of no importance whatsoever - or it would be in a world that had its priorities right.

In a reasonable world, a world of values and rationality, none of us would know what Victoria Beckham's haircut looked like - quite simply because no-one would consider it important enough to communicate it. Her hair would remain on her head - but it would not be in our faces. Yet, sadly, perhaps tragically for Mankind and its future, we do know about Victoria Beckham's haircut. We are forced to know because it is thrust to the front page of Yahoo News and appears on hundreds of millions of browsers around the world. We have no choice but to know: it is there, before our eyes, when we check our mail (for many have a Yahoo account and perhaps another like Gmail, too).

We don't live in a reasonable world. We don't live in sensible world. We don't live in a world of values or proportion. We live in a mad world in which a young woman's haircut is thought of such earth-shattering merit that it must be known to all. Well, it isn't. Victoria Beckham is not important enough to know about. She doesn't merit any real attention. Her haircut, therefore, being but a part of the wholeness of Victoria, is of even less consequence. Neither should consume our attention. Yet, they do.

We live in a world where nonsense is purveyed as information, where emptiness is presented as knowledge. Victoria Beckham is a young woman. That is all. She is married to someone who has merit as a sportsman. That is all. She herself doesn't have much individual importance. Her haircut, therefore, should have none.

Now, I don't wish to pick on Mrs. Beckham. No doubt she makes a great wife to a great footballer. She once entertained many people with her pop songs. Yet, she doesn't, in any real sense, embody anything that should place her on our front pages every time she changes her haircut. In reality, no-one, AT ALL, merits discussion because of their haircut. A haircut is not important enough to communicate around the world. Our minds should not be filled with images of haircuts, our attention taken away from more important matters (like anything else at all). Yet, so it is. We live in the Time of the Idiot. A time when a haircut is of world importance - and where a pop song sets one on the same footing as major historical figures of lasting import.

Victoria Beckham's every move receives more attention, it seems, sometimes, than that of world leaders. Yet, the most major decision Victoria makes is which handbag to buy. Her decisions do not affect the lives and livelihoods of millions...so why, then, does she receive the attention of those whose decisions do have such importance? It is bizarre. It is also a purely modern phenomenon. There was a time when only people of true merit were famous. Now, some people are of very great fame but of very little worth. I will leave it to you to decide for yourself whether Victoria Beckham's worth is as great as her fame.

I would like a world in which news was news; a world in which all the information conveyed to me over every news channel had some baseline of merit and substance. Once, there was such a world. However, the modern era of mass media has dispelled it. Now, what is conveyed is not so much news, as entertainment. Victoria Beckham's haircut is not news, but it may be entertainment. However, the problem is, that the entertaining snippet of her latest haircut is conveyed as if it is news. It is time to draw a distinction between the two categories of information. News should fill news channels. Entertainment should be found elsewhere...

I wonder if my children will ever live to see a world in which news becomes news again. I wonder if they will see a time in which haircuts are, once again, matters of no consequence, and no-one knows of the Victoria Beckhams of the world. It is a world we used to have. It is a world I would like to see again.

(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 @ 9:59 PM  1 comments

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The kindness of a stranger.

We live in a world in which strangers are too rarely kind, and too often not. However it does happen, at times, that a stranger surprises with their generosity of spirit.

A few days ago, I got caught in the rain. This is a common enough occurrence in ever damp Singapore, but I am accustomed to not carrying an umbrella for I find it inconvenient to do so. Thus, like many, I go out hoping for the best, with regards to the weather, but occasionally suffering from its whimsy.

As the rain began to patter on my hair and shoulders, I walked hurriedly to a pedestrian crossing in Orchard Road, on my way to a bus. I rather thought a deluge would soon be upon me.

Suddenly, a man spoke to my right. "Here you are. There is room enough for another.", he said, warmly, a smile on his middle aged Chinese face.

Above my head, he had placed his umbrella so that it shaded both of us. The rain fell harmlessly to my left, missing me altogether.

"Thank you," I said, more than surprised, "That is kind of you."

"Why not, when it is big enough for two.", he replied, modestly.

We stood then, in silence, for awhile, until the lights changed colour. Then we crossed, my benefactor keeping time with me, so that the umbrella shielded me.

"Where are you going?", he asked, his voice proposing, by its tone, that he would try to accommodate me.

"Just to the bus stop.", I said, nodding in its vague direction.

He nodded.

He walked with me then, all the way to a sheltering building near my bus stop, before he turned to leave on his own way.

"Thanks." I said, not knowing of better words for his unexpected kindness.

He just shrugged and smiled, perhaps pleased to have helped another, without being bidden to do so. Then he strode off, with geniality in his step.

I must say that this is the first time this has happened to me, in Singapore. Yet, it was a welcome moment for it shows that, while many here can be uncivil, at times, there are others who possess surprising warmth of character and who go out of their way to help others, in whatever way they can. My unnamed benefactor spontaneously thought of others and reached out to help another, out of some inner warmth, I presume.

So, to the stranger with the umbrella: thanks not only for the umbrella, but for the character that led you to offer it, to a stranger.

Wouldn't it be good if everyone was like him? It would make this clean city the most pleasant of places to live - and all it would take is a smile and an offer of a helping hand whenever one was needed. If one man can do it, everyone can - and perhaps should.

Bless him.

(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 @ 10:48 PM  3 comments

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