My Studies

Last updated 2024-06-06


I hold a four-year BEng and an MEng (Electronic Engineering) degree and a three-year BCom (business) degree from the University of Pretoria. I also hold a BTh from the South African Theological Seminary.

My engineering studies focussed mainly on electromagnetics, with a variety of control systems, signal processing and digital systems thrown in. My Master's dissertation was on a cryptography policy for a distributed utility metering system, as a contribution to work being done on a unified system for Europe. In the business studies, I specialised in aviation management, with the emphasis on ergonomics, decision-making and safety management. I was in the first group to tackle the newly-introduced Aviation Management degree, starting in 1999. I managed to complete the degree in the minimum period of three years, the only part-time student to do so. Given my rather chequered academic past, I was pleased. I managed to repeat the performance with the BTh, also completing it part-time within the three-year minimum period.

During 2001, I also took second-year courses in German Grammar and German Literature at the University of South Africa. I'd had occasion to practice my German to the extent that it had become fairly fluent, and I decided to take the opportunity to learn the grammar a little more rigorously. The subjects ended up being a lot of work, but I certainly achieved my objectives. Judging by the results, it seems that I'd even achieved my lecturers' objectives! One day when I'm grown up, I want to achieve CEFR C1—real soon now.

From 2002 to 2003, I studied Russian, Astronomy and some Physics, also through Unisa. Nothing serious--just a bit of fun.

Around 2006, I concluded that further study would be needed if I wanted to hold my own in my new field of Artificial Intelligence (AI). I made a false start on a PhD in the field of pattern recognition using Bayes's networks. After discovering that algorithmic thinking doesn't come easy at my age, I changed direction into the field of unmanned aircraft. These robots operate in an environment that I, as pilot, know well. I was hoping to contribute to insight into the technology required to admit unmanned aircraft into civil airspace. I pursued the PhD through Stellenbosch University. Unfortunately, I managed to sever my left leg in a running accident. The resulting rehabilitation process made it impossible to maintain momentum, and I finally abandoned the studies. In one sense I achieved my objective, as I was able to contribute significantly to the regulatory framework. Unfortunately, the regulations were mauled beyond recognition by downstream lawyers, resulting in a regulatory regime that positively encourages non-compliance.

In 2020, following The Flu, I decided to tackle a theology degree. I enrolled with SATS for part-time studies. I found the study deeply satisfying, not only because I found some answers that I had sought, but also because I was able to verify my original prejudice that "social science" is an oxymoron.


Following my theology studies, I tackled modern Greek through Duolingo. I'm hoping that it will help me in my meager efforts to be able to read the original Bible text. It is an uphill battle. I now better understand why Greek is the proverbial epitome of unintelligibility!


I still have a few ideas for other things I'd like to study.

The frontrunner is an MTh through SATS. The BTh constitutes a good start, but also a reminder of the realities of part-time study. Meeting the weekly assignment deadlines was sometimes a real chore.

There are a few other projects, too. First and foremost is to learn Chinese or Japanese. I've made a start and can recognise several hundred Chinese characters (or Kanji). However, I need the discipline of formal study to force me to work at it intensely enough.

My third project is even more fanciful. I want to do a thesis on the acoustic characteristics of ladies' high heeled shoes. I've done some preliminary investigations, and it turns out that the sound of an approaching high-heeled shoe can be shaped almost at will by changing the shape of the cavity between the heel and the sole. Imagine the impact of this discovery on the fashion world! The solitary individuals that want to go unnoticed, can now buy those fancy high-heeled shoes with a cavity pad, and sneak quietly down the corridor. Those that want to attract attention, can add a different insert and make sure that the entire office block knows that they are coming. Those female Machiavellians can carry two sets of inserts in their handbags, allowing them to generally warn of their approach, but also to sneak up on someone with the advantage of complete surprise. At last: A thesis that can transform an industry!

A final pet project has been in refinement for years: A theory to explain how Bill Gates managed to become the richest man on earth by selling inferior products at high prices. Face it, he was in competition with better products that were given away for free! None of the theories of Adam Smith or other economists have explained this amazing phenomenon satisfactorily, but I think I'm getting a grip on it. It's worth at least a PhD or two. The theory relies heavily on a knowledge of organisational psychology, human vanity and the instability of bad software.

Although it doesn't quite fit into the category of studies, I might mention that it's only a matter of time before a novel sees the light of day. I'm thinking about several plots. Roll over, James Bond!

I actually started writing a novel once, but abandoned it after writing the first part. The first part had set such a high standard of tension and intrigue that anything else was bound to be a complete anti-climax to the reader. The first part was: "'I missed you, darling', she said, and fired another shot"...

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