Today I graduated with a Master's degree in Computer Science & Engineering from the University of Washington. It's been a long ride since I decided to enroll two years ago. I've been super-busy with school as well as a full-time job the whole time.

I'm glad to be finished though! Now I'll have time for a little break before moving on to the next stage of my life.

I have instructed my friends to call me "Master Eric" now, but for some reason it doesn't seem to be catching on...

I don't have the actual diploma yet, but I did get this fancy business card holder:

University of Washington business card holder

Posted on June 13, 2009
Filed under: General, School Comments

Speed Dating

So this evening I went to the grad student "speed dating" event at UW. It was not really what I was expecting, but it was still interesting nonetheless.

Before it started they announced that many more women signed up than men. This sounded like a good thing, but it didn't end up mattering since we didn't get through even half of the people.

It was set in a large room with long folding tables laid out in parallel. There were 20 men on each side and 20 women on the other side. Here's a rough mspaint rendering:

Speed Dating Room Layout

You were given 3 minutes to talk to the person across from you, at the end of which the women would stand up and shift down one place, looping around to the other end of the table. After you got through everybody at the table, there was a 5 minute break and then the females would all move to the next table (in theory at least).

This process worked well at first. When the bell rang, everyone would stand up and then all shift down one seat simultaneously. This broke down pretty quickly and eventually people were only moving one at a time, leading to a "bubbling" effect where people could not move until everybody else at the table had shifted down one, which often took more than a minute, cutting into the 3 minute period. As people tried to "make up" the lost time the problem just got worse and worse.

Unfortunately it seemed that the organizers of the event did not book the room for enough time, and we were only able to get through two "rounds". So while there were 180 girls there, I only met 40 of them.

On the tables were scattered "valentines" where you could write down your email address and give it to the other person if you were interested in them. The organizers did not describe the protocol for using the valentines (guy always offers his contact info first (or vice versa), guy asks girl for her contact info, etc), so it led to a bit of chaos as people didn't know what to do. The main problem with the system was that it was both awkward to ask the other person for their info, as well as offer your info to them. Shy people such as myself had difficulty doing either.

Other speed dating protocols don't allow communication between the two parties during the "dates", and participants fill out a list of people who they were interested in. When there's a mutual match, contact info is sent to both people. This seems like a much better system, at least for small groups of people where you can remember who the other people were. After meeting 40 or 180 people, I would have trouble remembering who was who, so that kind of system might not have worked too well unless you filled out the list as you went along.

During the 40 "dates" there were some good ones and some bad ones (most were just sort of awkward since it was obvious it wasn't a good match). Here are some examples of the ones that didn't go so well:

Her: So what are you studying?
Me: Computer Science.
Her: Ah, are you a hacker?
Me: Um, no.. not really.
Her: 'cause hacking is cool.
Me: Well it's not really as glamorous as it is in movies.
Her: Still it seems like it would be a lot of fun.
Me: You mean, like snooping on people's email?
Her: You can snoop on people's email???
Me: No, no, I don't do that.
Her: Why would you do that??
Me: Well if you were a hacker that's one of the things you would be doing.
Her: I'm not giving you my email address!
Me: No, no, I'm not saying I'm a hacker. I... uhh.. never mind.

Her: So what do you like to do in your free time?
Me: Uh, well I like to read-
Her: Ugh I hate reading.
Me: So what do you like to do?
Her: I like to drink.
Me: Like in bars?
Her: Yeah or clubs, wherever there's lots of alcohol.
Me: uh..
Me: ...
Me: Hmm, so 3 minutes is actually sort of a long time isn't it?

Me: So what do you like to do?
Her: I like to hang out with my ex-boyfriend a lot.
Me: Ah.
Her: He's like really the only friend I have.
Me: Uh huh.
Her: That's probably a weird thing to admit at this sort of thing, right?
Me: Yeah it is kind of a weird thing to bring up.
Her: Yeah I probably shouldn't bring that up.
Me: ...

Her: Wow, so you actually have like a real job!
Her: You probably have so much more money than everyone at this table!
Me: Uhh... Hmm well if they are all full-time graduate students, then yes I guess that is probably correct. But I don't mean to-
Her: Just like in terms of per-hour, you're worth so much more than us!
Her: Did you know that the average grad student only makes $13,000 per year?
Me: That sounds about right, I guess I didn't know the exact figure.
Her: That's as much as a McDonald's worker makes!
Me: Uh-huh.. yeah.. So how about that weather eh?
Her: Man it must be cool to have a real job.
Me: ...

Her: So how old are you?
Me: I'm 24.
Her: Wow, everyone here is really young. How old do I look?
Me: Uh, well I'm not really that good at guessing that sort of thing..
Her: No no you have to tell me! I want to know.
Me: Uh... 30?
Her: Ah how nice of you. I'm really 35.
Me: Ah... well.. yeah..

Posted on February 5, 2008
Filed under: General, Random, School Comments


I saw this in a university newsletter spam today:

If you’re SINGLE and want a “special” Valentines Day – Join us for a night of Graduate student SPEED DATING. Just in time for Valentine's Day! Come meet fellow single graduate students!

Who: Current single UW graduate students

What: Speed Dating

When: [redacted]

Where: [redacted]

Please RSVP to [redacted] to let us know if you are coming. (The sooner you respond, the better your chance of getting a seat!). If you feel comfortable please also let us know what table type you would like to be assigned to. There will be four tables to choose from: straight, gay, lesbian, and bisexual.

Note: this event is only open to UW graduate students; IDs will be checked at the door.

My initial reaction is "Ha, like that would ever work. Delete.", but on second thought I'm actually considering it, if for no better reason than curiosity. I have never been to one of these kinds of things - anyone have any idea what they are like? The Wikipedia page actually makes it sound somewhat interesting.

Being an engineer I naturally started trying to do a CBA on it, but the usual approaches aren't working too well. Here's what I have so far:


  • Pool restricted to just girls who are single.
  • Potentially lower awkwardness/expectation levels.
  • They're graduate students, so at least some level of intelligence-filtering has already been performed.


  • Potential for embarrassment.
  • Speed-dating == speed-rejection? [see: personal phobias]
  • Mail does not say whether free food is provided.
Posted on January 16, 2008
Filed under: General, Random, School Comments

UW Grading System

This week I got the grade for my Data Compression class and was somewhat surprised at the format. From my undergrad experience I was expecting it to be in the usual A, B, C format, but instead I got a "3.9" grade.

I looked up the University of Washington's grading system, which is apparently number-based and on the same scale as the GPA system. So 3.9-4.0s are "A equivalents", 3.5-3.8s are "A-"s, 3.2-3.4s are "B+"s, etc..

I'm a bit torn on my evaluation of the merits of this system. On one hand, it's much more fine-grained than the lettering system, and you can distinguish between students who worked really hard and got perfect scores on everything, and other students who just did the work required to get an A. The letter grade system doesn't really distinguish between people to that degree, until you start using the plus/minus quantifiers to the letters, at which point you've basically admitted that just using the letters doesn't quite cover all the information you need to convey. It seems that UW has solved that problem by just throwing away the letter system and replacing it with the number system.

On the other hand, I'm sort of miffed by this, because after all these years of school, it's become very ingrained in my mind that an A == 4.0 GPA. Now I have an "A", but my GPA is 3.9, which in my mind means "dang, screwed up and got a B in 1 out of 10 classes." Of course, in reality, a 3.9 is a perfectly fine grade and probably nobody will ever care anyway (how much to MBA/PhD programs care about GPAs? I am not really sure.. hrmm..). Still, grr :).

Now that I know how the system works, I can accommodate it if I decide I really need that 4.0 (which, honestly, I probably don't).

Posted on December 21, 2007
Filed under: General, Random, School Comments


Today I finally got a "Thank you for enrolling at the University of Washington" letter, which was a bit of a surprise since I was expecting a "Thank you for applying" letter first, at which point I would decide whether or not to enroll. I guess they made that decision for me :). I'm sure the next thing I'll be getting will be a big bill.

Now I have to send in "proof of measles immunity". I'm sure I got the vaccine when I was 5 years old, so I have no record of it, and of course neither does my current health care provider (no doubt due to general incompetence, or laws prohibiting automatic transferring of my medical records without my consent or something like that). This will be fun to track down. I'll be mad if I have to get another shot, but sadly that might be the easiest thing to do..

UW Grad Student Registration Guide

Posted on August 4, 2007
Filed under: General, Random, School Comments


I went to UW last week for the info session about their master's program. It sounds good, so I'm at least going to apply. On Saturday I'm taking the GRE test. I haven't really been studying for it - I assume it's relatively easy like the SAT. If nothing else at least I bought a GRE book at Borders:

GRE book

Posted on March 21, 2007
Filed under: General, School Comments

Masters @ UW

I'm considering signing up for the Professional Masters Program at the University of Washington Computer Science department for Fall 2007 and I am curious if anybody else is also interested. If you are, let me know. I'm sure it would be more fun if there were people I know, and we would be able to utilize the carpool lane on the way over (very crucial). Obviously this only applies if you live in Seattle and work for a big tech company like Microsoft, Amazon, Nintendo, RealNetworks, etc..


Cost: Free (assuming you don't fail, most employers pay the full tuition).

Time commitment: 1-2 evening classes per week, 2-2.5 years.

Where: UW (duh), some classes at Microsoft campus.

What you get: M.S. degree from UW (equivalent to full-time student degree)

Requirements: 2+ years of industry experience, plus normal grad school stuff (GRE, etc)

Why: Meet college chicks, *cough*, I mean, acquire new skills you can apply in your career.

There's an info session on March 12th that I'm planning to go to. If you think you might be curious, come along :).

Posted on February 21, 2007
Filed under: General, School Comments



CubeCheater Piratizer



Site Tasks