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 +

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A case of mistaken identity

Yesterday, I was in a news agent in Singapore. I was buying a few envelopes and a newspaper. The total was quite small and involved two one dollar notes, among other denominations.

I took the money from my wallet, identifying them by their colours, from above and placed them before the shop assistant at the till.

He took up one of the notes, but, oddly, left the other two on the table before him. He looked up at me then, expectantly, saying nothing with his voice, but everything with his eyes. His message was clear: "This is not right."

After about 30 seconds of him staring at me, in silence and I becoming gradually aware of his gaze, I looked down at the notes to see why he had left them there.

Both were 50 RM notes, not 1 RM notes. I had nearly overpaid by 98 RM!

"Thank you for your honesty.", I said, thankful indeed, because he could easily have taken the money and I wouldn't have noticed.

Now, you may be thinking me foolish to make such a mistake with money, but perhaps I should explain how easily this can occur in Malaysia, to a newcomer. You see a 1 RM (Ringgit) note is blue in colour - so it may seem easy to pick it out, in a wallet. However, the problem is a 50 RM note is ALSO blue in colour. This is really confusing, since they look rather similar. There are ways to distinguish them, but these can easily be overlooked: the 1 RM note is somewhat smaller than the 50 RM note (though this is not obvious to someone new to the money) and, of course, 1 and 50 are written on the notes, though not in a manner which stands out, at all. Basically, without close examination, they can easily be confused and used, for each other.

It is just a little suggestion, by an outsider to Malaysia - but would it not be better if ALL Malaysia's banknotes were of different colours, designs and sizes? Or at the very least, they should be coloured differently. Were this so, my mistake of yesterday would be unlikely to occur. As it is, I have to wonder how many visitors to Malaysia are, unknowingly, being very generous with their tips!

(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 @ 9:08 AM 


Blogger The Crunch Time's Blogger said...

Reading what you wrote seems like a little deja vu to me. Probably i have had been unknowingly generous this way in the past.

Actually the RM50 note is bluish GREEN as compared to light blue RM1.

Just Remember this: green is to Greenback as it's expansive.

Or to avoid probable mistake in future, separate the high notes and small notes in different compartment. Or if lack of compartments, just make sure the red RM10 is between the RM1 and RM50.

Happy to read example of honest Malaysian out there. Great blog btw!

3:46 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I have no doubt you have probably been "unknowingly generous" given the similarity of the two different notes. The colours are not that different to my own (non-colour blind, by the way) eyes...particularly if you are new to the notes as I am.

Your suggestions for separation of the notes are eminently sensible and I shall try to adopt them, to avoid unintentioned and pocket killing generosity (though similarly allowing intentional generosity when intended!).

Yes. There are honest Malaysians around and I would be happy to report them, when I encounter them. (Though, I must admit, I have encountered dishonest ones, too...).

I am glad you enjoy the blog. The enjoyment of readers makes it all the more worthwhile to write in the first place (which, of course, requires a consistent effort over several years...).

Best wishes to you.

4:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you mean you were at a news agent in Malaysia?

8:13 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Yes. By news agent, I mean store that sells newspapers and stationery, magazines and the like...and, guess what...they have them in Malaysia, too!

I am in KL...

11:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

^ Oh ok. I was confused, cause you wrote "Singapore".

9:43 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thanks for pointing it out. Just habit I think...I have been in Singapore for EIGHT YEARS. I have only been in Malaysia for a couple of weeks.

I shall correct it.

Thank you.

10:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i have never seen malaysian currency before but according to the pictures on
they seem easily differentiable
especially with teh white stip and totally different backs

4:37 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said... They are not "easily differentiable", they are both basically blue. Now, there lies the problem. You see you haven't thought how notes are used, have you? They are placed side by side in wallets. Now, two different BLUE notes, side by side in wallets, look exactly the same at the moment of selection - WHEN VIEWED FROM ABOVE. It is very easy to pick up a 50 RM note instead of a 1 RM note, in these circumstances.

I cannot recall using notes before that required careful examination as these ones do, to determine what is the value, before handing them over. In other countries, a mere GLANCE at a note is enough to distinguish them because they so different. Not so, in Malaysia.

I invite you to come to Malaysia and start actually using the notes. Then you would see yourself doing exactly as I have done, in no time at all: confusing the notes.

The situation is simple, however much you might wish to deny it: if two notes require examination of both sides, to readily distinguish, then they are badly designed. A note should be distinguishable in the briefest glance.

6:58 AM  

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