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, April 03, 2010

Taxi reform required.

Malaysian taxi drivers are a national disgrace. They, singlehandedly, ensure that every visitor to Malaysia will be stolen from, cheated and predated upon. Since travellers have regular contact with taxi drivers, it is inevitable that they will go home, from Malaysia, with the impression that it is a nation of liars, cheats and thieves. Yet, this is not so, of course: it is the taxi drivers whose behaviour is unusually poor by the nation's standards - at least I am assuming so, based on my experience, so far.

It is negligent in the extreme and very short-sighted, not to do something serious about the level of dishonesty among taxi drivers, in Malaysia. You see, a nation's reputation is a great part of its natural capital. Without a good reputation for honesty, decency and fair dealing, Malaysia will compromise itself internationally. Now, of course, visitors to Malaysia may encounter fair dealing in many aspects of their visit - but if they frequently encounter dishonesty from taxi drivers, that can only leave a poor impression of the nation, in their minds. If Malaysia's leaders want Malaysia to "stand tall" in the world, they must, they absolutely MUST, stamp down on the dishonesty of Malaysian taxi drivers.

My experience the other day is typical of the situation in Malaysia. The situation here is a no-hoper for the customer. Whatever you do with the drivers, the customer loses out. I was in Bukit Bintang (KL's equivalent to Orchard Road). There were taxis parked everywhere. I approached about 20 of them and asked them if they would go "on the meter" - because I know that so many do not want to. To my displeasure, each and every one of the over twenty drivers I asked, REFUSED TO BE METERED FOR THE JOURNEY. They all quoted me fixed fares which were two to three times the price I knew was reasonable for the route. After ten minutes of asking drivers, I gave up on ALL the taxis parked in Bukit Bintang. Instead, I tried to flag one. After another ten minutes, I succeeded in flagging a cab. This one agreed to go on the meter, for which I was thankful. Little did I know that he would go off route, however.

Our driver took me on a giant detour through KL and its surroundings, though that wasn't clear at first. There were traffic jams, so I held my tongue, at first. However, after half an hour, on a journey that should have taken no more than fifteen minutes, I asked why I had seen no signs for our destination. "Yes, signs, have. Over there." he said, pointing into the distance.

I sat quietly waiting for these signs. After about another fifteen minutes, signs duly began appearing for our destination. However, he was travelling a route there, that I had never seen before.

In the end, the fifteen minute journey took one hour to complete and cost two or three times, the usual expected fare. My wife later made the same journey, at a third the time, and less than half the price.

So, here is another lesson about Malaysian taxi drivers. Whatever they do, they will almost always cheat you - especially if you are a foreigner. Either they offer you a fixed price well above market rate - or if you refuse that and find another driver willing to go on meter, they will take you on a giant detour and keep you in the cab several times longer than your journey actually requires. So, it is a case of heads you lose, tails you lose. Whatever happens, you will be cheated.

I should point out that I have met honest drivers. However, they are vastly outnumbered by the cheaters, liars and thieves who end up as cab drivers. I would estimate that, overall, about 70% of Malaysian taxi drivers are dishonest. In some areas, this reaches almost 100%, however. This is from the point of view of a foreigner. It is possible that they try to cheat foreigners more frequently, so this may not reflect a Malaysian's experience of taxi drivers - but it has certainly been my experience.

The situation, whilst problematic, is easily resolved, given political will. All that has to be done is for a penalty to be brought in against dishonest driving. If a taxi driver ever cheats a customer, in any way and that customer complains, then the driver should AUTOMATICALLY LOSE THEIR DRIVER'S LICENSE. They should also be BANNED FROM BEING A TAXI DRIVER, FOR LIFE. Should these two penalties be put in place, drivers would soon start behaving themselves. The ban on being a taxi driver would mean they would lose their livelihoods. The ban on driving is particularly ironic, since it would force them to take taxis and suffer at the hands of their fellow cheaters. That would soon teach them what it is like.

Teams of anonymous taxi inspectors should take cabs at random, looking for cheaters. These should be both Asian and European inspectors, to elicit different responses from the drivers, who may be preferentially cheating one type of customer. A single offense should automatically result in the two penalties being applied. There should be no leeway for the judge to decide on clemency, the penalties should be mandatory.

Were this done, Malaysian drivers would soon start behaving honestly. If this is not done, Malaysia will continue to mar its own reputation by allowing drivers to lie to, cheat and steal from every foreign customer they encounter.

I hope someone will listen and do something about it. The present taxi situation is a national disgrace.

(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 @ 10:05 AM  10 comments

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Grigory Perelman and the Millenium Prize.

Dr. Perelman, the famously reclusive mathematician has done it again: he has been awarded the first Millenium Prize for the proof of the Poincare Conjecture that a sphere is the only three dimensional enclosed space that does not have any "holes". This, apparently, was a very tough problem and Dr. Perelman has provided an elegant proof. Thus, he deserves the prize - however, the problem is he may just refuse it.

Dr. Grigory Perelman has a history of shunning the accolades that his profound work accrues. He refused, for instance, to attend a Fields Medal ceremony to receive that prize. It seems that he didn't want the fuss that went with earning such an honour. So, he stayed at home in St. Petersburg, where he lives with his mother.

This time, however, the prize in question, the Millenium, comes with one million dollars attached. The general view is that Dr. Perelman may very well turn this down as he has yet to say that he will accept the prize. I hope that he accepts it, for the circumstances of his life cannot be easy. Dr. Perelman has been unemployed for several years and has turned down all offers of work. It may be that he wishes to be totally free to pursue his ideas. Yet, not having an income and living with one's mother in one's forties cannot be an easy life. It may be that Dr. Perelman's financial circumstances may be affecting his ability to give of his best and do the best work he can.

For those who have never had money - as I assume Dr. Perelman has not - it is difficult to understand the freedom that comes with having money. The one million US dollars of the prize would ensure that Dr. Perelman need not have any financial worries and would allow him to pursue his work, fully. It may even buy him extra peace and the ability to secure further privacy, should he require it. I doubt that he will ever read my words, but I hope that, uncharacteristically, he accepts this prize for the freedom it will give him to focus more clearly, upon his work and live a life of peace.

It seems that Dr. Perelman fears celebrity. Well, he won't become one, in any real sense, since the times that he comes to public attention are too far apart. People forget a face that they do not see regularly. Thus, he has no real worries in the celebrity department. His fears are needless and groundless. Indeed, the money that the prize awards could be used to allow him to live an even more secluded life, if he so wished it.

I understand his concern, however. A thinker needs peace and quiet in which to contemplate. He fears that if he begins to accept the prizes offered to him, that he will lose that peace. On the contrary, I think he will have the power to gain greater peace, for a life of financial restriction is not one that anyone would call peaceful. He must have limitations that could be overcome were he to simply accept the prizes that his work deserves.

I am concerned, though, to note that several self-interested parties (one of which I understand is the St. Petersburg Communist Party) have urged him to donate the money to them, should he not want it, to "alleviate poverty". These are, I think, very selfish requests. There is already poverty to be alleviated, in this situation - Dr. Perelman's. He has earned these prizes and it seems, to me, to be somewhat evil, that various organizations should be urging him to give them, his well deserved money. I hope he doesn't heed them and sees that his need is greater than their own. It seems to me to be more important to free one genius to work, to his best, than to spread one million dollars thinly across the hundreds of thousands of poor people in St. Petersburg. The money would make a great difference to Dr. Perelman - but not one bit of difference to have it spread across so many others.

So, Dr. Perelman, if you ever read these words, I urge you to accept the money - though not necessarily to actually attend any ceremonies. The money will give you more freedom than you are presently able to imagine.

Happy thinking.

(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 @ 10:20 PM  0 comments

Sunday, March 28, 2010

In the presence of superwoman.

Sometimes, being married to my wife is a humbling experience - physically humbling. You see, she is rather an athlete and I am not any longer (though once, long ago, in a time that now seems surreally different, I was rather fit myself).

Today, we went on the HELP University Trekathon, as they call it. It basically was a trek in a jungle like environment, in some very steep and hilly terrain. Indeed, that is just what the brochure describing the area said of it: "steep and tough". How tough, I can not even begin to express in these words. I came to the conclusion, about half way through the trek, that it was not something someone my age should even be attempting. Oddly enough, out of what must have been a couple of hundred contestants, there was no other of my age or older. Everyone above 30 - apart from my wife and I - was distinctly absent. In fact, my wife and I were the only people above 22 years old, at my best guess. Perhaps the curiously young demographic should have alerted me to the inappropriateness of my own presence there...but it was rather too late for such considerations, once it had all begun.

I don't know just how long the trek was. It certainly took quite a while. What got me was the steepness of it all - the constant need to climb up some unbearably steep hill, then to do the opposite on the way down...before going up again. It was rather exhausting, after a while. I wasn't the only one who noticed: many youngsters half my age, could be seen panting away to the sides of the "path" (there wasn't one, as such), unable to continue at just that time. Footing was precarious at times, the way being slippery, the mud wet, the terrain little more than tree roots, leaves and sodden soil. In places, the only way up, was to haul oneself up, on a rope, since the ascent was too steep and too slippery to ever be successfully attempted without it.

The trek was, for me, the most difficult physical challenge I have encountered in years. This is, no doubt, largely due to my being a thickset man, with a lot of weight to carry around. I was basically lifting a lot of weight up and down those hills. I also had a backpack on, with provisions for our kids. So, that made me even more heavy.

What was humbling, though, was the different response of my wife, Syahidah, to the challenge. Once we had finished, she observed, very disappointedly: "I had expected to get a real work out...but I just felt nothing." She then went off for a session of yoga, immediately afterwards!

We overheard a couple of students talking about us in a way which summed it up perfectly: "He was complaining...and she was going la-di-da, as if she was just taking a walk with the kiddies."

It was true. For Syahidah the trek required no real exertion. For me, it was an immense challenge. My kids, too, seem to be taking after her, in that respect. They all had no trouble at all with it. Even four year old Tiarnan managed to do the entire trek on his own (even if he had to use all four limbs, in places of particular steepness). It was evident that the other students were very impressed with him...indeed, they all seemed surprised that such a little boy could overcome such a challenge.

So, today was a humbling one. I saw my wife overcome with ease, a physical challenge which I found very difficult indeed. Not only that, but even my four year old had no trouble. It seems my years are telling upon me.

Interestingly, I saw not another mature person in the whole event. No doubt word of how challenging it was, had reached the other older potential participants - and they had given it a miss. Next year, I think I will do the same (unless I get fitter, in between).

The area was beautiful and the sights rewarding. However, the effort was far too exhausting to make it something I would do again, without a great change in my own athleticism.

Singapore, by the way, has no comparable physically challenging trek, in my knowledge - and I have been to all the major national parks and reserves. In that manicured land, such a challenge would be seen as threatening and would just have to be ironed out and made tamer. Malaysia, however, does not concern itself with such matters - hence today's overly rigorous trek.

It does occur to me that, actually, the trek is quite dangerous for the middle aged and over. I could easily see someone having a heart attack, attempting it. Perhaps an awareness of that possibility could be seen at the end station, where refreshments were available for all. Parked outside there was an ambulance, waiting, just in case. I don't think it was needed in the end - but the possibility of it being so, was certainly there.

If I have one suggestion to the organizers, it would be this: make it clear just how "steep and tough" the trek is, in parts, so that the less fit, might give it a miss. Otherwise, someone could get hurt.

I am glad I went, though, just so I could understand how physically adept my wife and sons are. It was, however, a tough lesson - and one that I doubt I will repeat.

Well done Syahidah and the boys.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 10:15 PM  4 comments

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