Funny EECS quotes

If you were to roll all the ridiculous things you’ve heard from professors into one sentence, it would probably come out, "Yes, this project is still due tomorrow. No, I'm not quite sure what I meant on those specs." Here are some actual quotes from the professors you’ve grown to love and hate. I have a feeling many of these are of the "you had to be there" nature, but many of you were "there" and will get a kick out recalling these moments.

One day in EECS 476 I confess I was not paying attention. I was off in my own world – very removed from the discussion of deterministic finite automata. All of a sudden I became conscious of Professor Rounds. He looked like he was lecturing as normal, but the words were all wrong. He was behind the overhead projector as usual, but I swear that I heard him say "spank it." My God, he’s snapped, I thought. It turns out that his exact words were "we spank the DFA with an input. Wham!" It included a gesture, if I remember correctly. He continued in this fashion for the rest of the lecture – one of the strangest of my career.

476 was the source of at least two other funny quotes. Once, late-to-class students scurried to the front of the room to drop off homework on a podium and then back away. Prof. Rounds was already lecturing and remarked that this made him feel like "the high priest of computer theory" accepting sacrifices from the class.

Finally, in discussion one day, my GSI (Pat Simen) was answering homework-related questions. When someone asked about a Turing Machine problem, he answered the question as follows: "Don’t try to count the stars. Hey, I like that. That sounds very poetic!" He repeated wistfully, "don’t try to count the stars." Good advice.

Here’s an anecdote from Hahn Kim’s 313 (RIP) class: Once, Professor McAfee ran out of room at the edge of the blackboard and instead of writing "the diode would like to turn off" he resorted to what I can only assume is the widely accepted, industry standard acronym: WLTTO. So all of you who just blindly copied it down, now you know what it means!

Architecture fans recently had a strong dose of Professor Austin’s humor in both 470 and 573. If you’re ever confused about your Patterson and Hennessy, recall his hint: "I like to think of a pipeline as a... uh... pipe!"

Professor Austin is new and had never been in 2340 EECS. He wanted to meet me there (I told him "I’m right down the hall in 2340," and I think he assumed it was my office). When he arrived, he gave a patented grin and exclaimed, "so this is where the magic happens!"

There are some heartfelt reviews of EECS 400 in the HKN Course Evaluation Guide (submit you own at!!!), but no one mentioned anything about the surreality of the experience. I recall Professor Winter talking about a difficult problem and his "analogy" was that of an ice cream truck you hear off in the distance. "You want to run up to it and get your ice cream, but there’s an obstacle in your path and you have to go around it!" So the story involved an obstacle, I guess, but the ice cream truck wasn’t related to anything! It just happened to be one man’s mental picture of obstacles that he felt like conveying to us.

One day, he mentioned Kafka. I think a matrix had metamorphosed so he though about Gregor. But he started speaking in German, quoting the story! This actually has an explanation, but until I found out (a month later) that Prof. Winter teaches German, too, I was just stunned in a funny way. Hugh Kennedy remembers that "Winter once said something about multi-dimensional horny fish." I don’t know what that means, but I don’t think that Hugh is making it up.

Speaking of "surreality" (which isn’t a word), we became quite good at creating words in EECS 573: "Of course, ‘optimality’ is a word! It’s right next to ‘asynchrony’ in the dictionary!" (Actually both of those are words. So is the verb form of leverage, but most people don’t use these in everyday conversation or papers, so it’s funny, okay?)

Finally some contributions:

"Anything goes while the clock is high!" –Prof. Sakallah re: latches in 270

"Who understands? Who doesn't understand? Who is engaging in civil disobedience by refusing to raise their hand at all?" –Anonymous math professor

"Take the AVL tree and SHAKE it, and everything falls into place." –Prof. Prakash

"If you look at this for a minute... it makes no sense." --Prof. Papaefthymiou describing a carry lookahead adder or Wallace multiplier or something. He went on to explain that

"I'll see your SYN and raise you an ACK" --Prof. Jamin playing poker with TCP

"In no way do we advocate the use of these office hours." --Prof. Kieras. I only hope this is out of context!