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, January 27, 2010

Would you trust this man?

We had a strange experience, today, whilst shopping at Low Yat, Kuala Lumpur's answer to Sim Lim Square, Singapore. For those who don't know, Low Yat is Sim Lim on steroids, but with cheaper prices, in some areas. It specializes in all things to do with computers and is a bigger more spacious mall than Sim Lim, but this is probably owing to Singapore's space constraints.

Anyway, we were looking for a computer to buy and so thought to do some shopping around. One man in particular is memorable for reasons no-one would wish to be.

We had asked at several shops, for a particular type of computer. We had listened whilst they spoke of specs and prices, and what they would bundle in free. Then we came to this particular young man. He was Chinese - but then, that wasn't what distinguished him, since about 90% of those who had served us, were also Chinese. No, what distinguished him, was a certain look in his eyes. It was the strangest look - one that tried to be unrevealing, but all seeing at the same time. He was, clearly, appraising us carefully, but, at the same time, guarding his own thoughts, from discernment.

We looked at the computer in front of us, which was the same model as the one we had been looking at - except for one important difference. He tapped out a price on a calculator in front of him. It was 450RM less than the other guy had asked.

"What are the specs?" I asked.

He tapped the screen and up came the specs.

"Has it a graphics card?" I asked.

He nodded in a manner that didn't convince me. "Yes. Got."

"Which one?" I pursued, a little puzzled by what the screen showed, for I saw no mention of a graphics card at all.

"Got.", he said, with another nod.

I pointed at the screen. "It doesn't say it has a graphics card, here."

"Has. I haven't loaded the drivers yet."

"Can it run Adobe Illustrator?"

"Can.", he began, before launching into a spiel. I tuned him out.

Something made me feel uncomfortable and I urged my wife to come away with me.

When we were out of earshot, I turned to her and said: "I don't think that guy can be trusted."

"Yes,", she said, "I got that feeling, too."

It was a strange moment. I had wondered if it was just me, in having that feeling - but my wife had felt it too. There was something both untrustworthy and predatory about the man.

Then, I remembered something that he had said which only confirmed my view. On being asked about Adobe Illustrator, he had said, that "It can run even without a graphics card...because it depends on the processor speed."

Now, that is absolute nonsense. Adobe Illustrator is a graphics intensive programme that needs a considerable graphics capacity - which, in the pc model he was referring to, meant that it would need a graphics card. I saw no evidence that his machine had a graphics card. So, basically, he was trying to offload onto us, a pc that couldn't possibly run the software we wanted to run on it.

There is a lesson in this. I think, often, it is wise to listen to one's instincts, mysterious and primitive as they may seem. For, I felt on edge, the moment I saw his first look upon us. There was, from the beginning, something eminently untrustworthy about the man.

Yet, I am thankful for the lesson he poses - for I learnt that there is value in those primitive instincts, within, even in this modern world. If we hadn't listened to them, we might, at this very moment, have a new pc in our home, that couldn't possibly run the software we need to run.

Once, man lived in a jungle and survived only by daily struggle: in some ways, we still do, it is just that we don't recognize it anymore. Today, however, I did, for one moment, I did - I saw the world with instinctive eyes, and was saved from a modern economic peril: being ripped off.

It was a good lesson.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, 10, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, 6 and Tiarnan, 4, this month, please go to:

I also write of gifted education, child prodigy, child genius, adult genius, savant, megasavant, HELP University College, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, Malaysia, IQ, intelligence and creativity.

My Internet Movie Database listing is at:
Ainan's IMDB listing is at
Syahidah's IMDB listing is at

Our editing, proofreading and copywriting company, Genghis Can, is at

This blog is copyright Valentine Cawley. Unauthorized duplication is prohibited. Use only with permission. Thank you.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 10:31 PM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

As far as i know, all PCs have a graphics card- it is either an integrated card or connected via a PCI slot.

If it didnt have even an integrated graphics card, the PC will not be able to display anything.

For graphic intensive stuff, try looking for those 'branded' ones like ATI...etc (that are connected via a PCI slot), i.e. not the integrated ones, which are not as powerful.

It is best that you do some research first- to prevent being cheated. Googling it should yield pretty good results on DIY PCs and what to look out for. Check out forums like hardwarezone for pricing.

Hope that helps!

11:22 PM  
Blogger The Crunch Time Blogger said...

That guy don't know how computer works exactly, but one thing I am sure is he had no intention to lie to you. Let me explain, he was only technically wrong by saying "It can run even without a graphics card...because it depends on the processor speed."

FYI, many motherboard has graphic cards already BUILT-IN, so the applications you mentioned will still can run for normal use, just get enough memory for it, no doubt about it.

Many it's normal to be ultra skeptical adapting to new environment.

12:54 AM  
Anonymous Ernie said...

Not related to your article but to others, this quote which seems to sum your family's situation:

"Genius is condemned by a malicious social organization to an eternal denial of justice in favor of fawning mediocrity."

There are many examples of how such geniuses fail to be recognised in history, but at least we have their example and from learning from their difficulties and their solutions to those difficulties, it is possible to avoid these difficulties. For what its worth, learning from history to avoid making the same mistakes as a man once said, is a good way to go.

2:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

maybe he didnt know much about computers?
this happened to me recently. i live in the uk and was buying a used mercedes from a mercedes showroom and theguy had no clue about the car. He hadnt even bothered to check but just said rubbish things. I could tell because i knew the car very well. But this was more lack of knowledge as he believed what he said was true but i knew it not to be, but it wasnt cos he was trying to cheat like u assumed the chinese person to, just because he was clueless. Ironic how he was trying to sell a car he didnt know much about cosidering it was 62 grand!!!

6:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

He seems desperate to sell it lol.
Where did it not mention anything about it haveing a graphics card? and what version of illustrator are you using ? Interesting because he doesnt have to be wrong , you dont even need a graphics card to run most versions of adobe illustrator even though it seems graphics intensive to the untrained eye

6:30 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Re. desperate.

He got it to show its own specs. No dedicated graphics card was mentioned in that list. If any graphics were present, they would only be intel's basic ones...which are not enough for most graphic tasks.

I didn't know that Illustrator wouldn't need a is a quintessential graphics task. We are going to be using CS3 at least.

Yes. Our eyes are untrained, unfortunately...which is why we have to proceed with caution!

Thanks for your comment.

12:08 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Re. not knowing much.

Maybe so. Some salesman just use all the buzzwords as often as possible, in the hope of sounding convincing. However, one problem with this salesman is that his English limited him, I think. Yet, he was very motivated, I must say.

12:10 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Hi Ernie,

Thanks for your comment. The lesson from history, re. Genius, is that society, generally, is not too welcoming to them. There is a lot of hostility and resistance. Indeed, some geniuses have ended up burned at the stake for their ideas. It isn't fun.

Modern treatment of genius still has many problems, the main one being neglect and a sort of reflexive opposition to anything new. It makes, of course, for difficult lives.

Yet, the sad thing is, we owe everything to those few geniuses who actually struggled on and made their mark, in their creative domain. Without them, we would still be living in caves, worrying about the return of the resident bears. However, who appreciates this? Rather few...

Thanks for your insight.

12:13 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Re research it.

Thanks. Yes.

12:18 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Crunch Time: I was unaware a graphics programme could run without a dedicated graphics card.

Thanks for the tip.

12:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Valentine, this is not related to your latest entry but while looking for something else, I came across this link and I thought I'd share with you. (Chemistry Tutorials). Perhaps it's useful. Kind regards, Carina

6:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

lol CS3 doent use the graphics card. only CS4 offloads some of the processing onto the card so he wasnt trying to cheat you.

3:45 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Re. CS3.

Firstly, we didn't tell him that it was CS3 we wanted to use. We just said: "Illustrator". Secondly, though my wife is going to be using CS3 in one situation, at home, she would like to use CS4.

Thirdly, he said there was a graphics card ,seeming to mean a DEDICATED card - when no such card was listed on the specs of the machine. Therefore he was not being accurate about the machine he wished to sell.

Of course, he may have been mistaken...but that was not the way he seemed. He was "shifty", if you like. Maybe, however, he just didn't feel honest about selling, and that came across in his demeanour.

However, it is good to know that CS3 has such limited graphics requirements - and a REAL surprise.

Thanks for letting us know.

9:22 AM  
Blogger afath de rossi said...

well for me that's what lacking in malaysia..customer services..luckily you're foreigner..they will treat far more better...
maybe this is just the typical minds..they tend to think malaysian's people lack of knowledge...
hahaha..i dont know what i'm rimbling about..just the point to say..its hell lots to type...

12:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Valentine Cawley ,
you doing the right thing. A lot of scam computer shops (note that I referring to those run by Ah Beng and Ah Lian, not those of reputable type and megashop) in Singapore love showcase computer and when asked, they will agree to whatever questions you have even though the specification says otherwise. They will assure you with this and that, but the moment you pay up, and counter check those promised items before you leave the shop, you will be surprised that the items have been taken out. When you question further, they insist there is no such deal and specification says so. When you request refund, they say that it is impossible and unless you paid out 30% of the items pay to recover "those transaction fee".

The police cannnot help you because the spec is a form of contract. and unless you have recorded the conservation with Ah Beng, the police will not do anything.

I have my own share of such encounters.

10:34 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you for sharing your similar experience. I am glad that someone sees wisdom in our caution.

It seems, from what you say, that such computer "sharks" are common in the region, not just here.

Kind regards

10:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do ignore those commenters who blame it on the saleman's lack of knowledge. Come on. If you are a computer saleman, at least you should posses simple basic computer knowledge. If you do not have a basic knowledge, you will only lie and cheat your way through and blame it on the customer when the computer don't work the way it should.

Can you imagine a salesman selling a car with malfunction brake and tell you that the car is 100% safe ?

Still you can try the car and computer, but if a con-man is meant to con you, they can always blame on you for damage if you report on those problems.

Be safe and yes, trust your instinct. Ang Moh is the best victim to cheat because they are minority.

10:39 PM  
Anonymous Jesse T. (OHIO, U.S.A.) said...

That was really an aversion from a bad ordeal. I'm glad you listened in to those instincts. You had a keen ear too. The guy recanted his statement of certainty about the graphics card when he admitted that the PC could run WITHOUT one. Intuition is tough to follow sometimes.

Great job.

- Jesse T. (OHIO, U.S.A.)

7:19 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thanks for seeing how it was, Jesse. Yes, you are right, too often in the modern world, we ignore our instincts. I wonder how much trouble we face because of that?

Say hello to Ohio for me.

12:50 PM  

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