Yesterday, just when I was starting to feel more stabled and settled into Pittsburgh and the HCI program, a little bit more chaos entered into my day.  I went to the first class for my highly anticipated “Evaluation of Computational Cognitive Architectures”class (what an impressive sounding name!).  Right after I sat down I found out from a classmate that it wasn’t really a class and even though it had already been approved by my adviser I couldn’t get credit for it.  I wanted to take some classes in Cognitive Modeling and this seemed like my best (and only) option to do so this semester.  I knew that it was going to be a seminar style class.  I assumed that we would have readings every week that we would discuss in class and then do a significant paper or something at the end.  This is how a previous seminar class in undergrad was structured.  It turns out its really more of a series of presentations by various speakers.  You can ask them questions as they go, but its not really a group and discussion.  And its definitely geared towards professors and PhD students.  And most importantly there is no work to do.  Thus, my previous approval for this elective was revoked and a mad scramble to find a replacement is underway….

I still have another back up elective, “Entrepreneurship for Computer Science”.  However, the first day of class had pretty much convinced me that while I might want to be the propriator of a small consultancy or services firm, I didn’t want to be starting a large company and dealing with all of the ups and downs that this style of entrepreneurship involves.  So later that day while sitting in the Entrepreneurship class all that I could think about were the other interesting electives that my fellow MHCI students were taking, how these classes covered the types of things that I was really at CMU to learn and how I could get into them.

The good news is that Carnegie Mellon has a rather liberal class “shopping” policy that allows you to add and drop classes rather late into the semester.  And there are several interesting looking options of classes that I could theoretically still take.  The bad news is that at this point I’ve missed a full week of class for all these possible electives.  And many of them already have homework or projects due next week that I have neither the required books or the class room instruction to complete.

This pretty much seemed to ax the most interesting sounding class, “Designing for Services”.  Word on the street is that it might be hard to start the class at this point.  Though ironically I wrote up a description of  my experience in the airport security line this morning for a friend who is taking the class.  So somehow I’m doing work for it anyways :)  Also, it seems like the class might be offered in the Spring so hopefully I’ll have a second shot at it.

“Human Factors” is currently the top candidate for a replacement.  I originally overlooked the class as I thought that it was just going to be about ergonomics and the design of things in the physical world.  But it seems like the class covers more fundamental issues and looks pretty interesting (Don Norman’s excellent “Design of Everyday Things” is one of the “textbooks”).  I’m on the waiting list, but I’m hoping that that is just a formality.  I did manage to get a copy of the syllabus and the first homework (due on Tues, Thanks Holger!).  Unfortunately, I’ve tried several ways to get the textbook need to do the homework before Tues, but it hasn’t worked out.  All hope is not lost though as I can drop two homework assignments in the class.  So, fingers-crossed, this will be my new elective.

Also under consideration are “Social Web” and “Perception”.  It seems like I can get into both, though they are at the same time so I need to decide this weekend which to try out on Tues.  Social Web seems very relevant to current day issues (it covers “Web 2.0″, Wikipedia, social networking sites, etc).  Maybe too much so.  Perception seems interesting, though I’m a little worried that it might be too much towards the side of studying basic physical mechanisms.  Thankfully my class mates are being very helpful and supportive in forwarding me info on both classes so I have some time to decide this weekend before I try to go to one of them early Tues morning.