I am currently at the Oxford Internet Institute (OII) in the UK doing research on election modernization (including automation). Hopefully, my research can help the Philippine government in making the right decisions as it tries to automate the August 2008 regional elections in Muslim Mindanao and the May 2010 presidential elections.
I made my first presentation last Wednesday, Apr. 23, before an audience of around 15 research fellows, a computer scientist and PhD students. I thought the reactions to my presentation, which was about the use of double-entry accounting for election tallies were positive. More later about this.
An interesting experience I went through for this trip was getting a room to stay in. Because I was sponsored by the OII, they were going to pay for my board and lodging expenses, but I had to find a room myself. Since I got my visa only on the same day I was scheduled to leave (I got the call to pick it up the day before), everything was a mad rush on the day of my departure. I did manage to send an email the day before and make a reservation a room at the Exeter College Lodging House, for which I was relieved I got a confirmation, but only for four days.
My first four days at Oxford passed very quickly indeed, what with the presentation I was scheduled to make on the third day. As soon as the presentation was over, I started making calls (and sending emails) about rooms for rent (to let, as they say here). I didn’t realize I was very lucky to get a room for those first four days — most rooms within my budget were taken quickly and when I identified a prospect, I had to find out where it was, how far, did a bus go there, and I had to make a visit of course. I was again lucky to find two prospects, one in Rose Hill (about 360 PST per month) and a nearer one off Iffley Road at 450 PST. I visited the nearer place first, but got a feeling from one tenant that I was unwelcome because two of us would be staying in the double room (i.e., a room with a double bed) while they were only one per room. The Rose Hill one was friendlier (after an initial ‘Go away!’ when a tenant thought I was a salesman!). So, I made arrangements with the landlord (again, lots of back and forth calls, because I didn’t have the cash and the check was to be paid by OII). But it all worked out in the end.
On Monday, Apr. 28, I will move into the room I’ll be using for the rest of my stay. My wife Flora joins me May 18.