The job training talk was great. The panels were the best in the field, and each presentation was fascinating. This doesn't reflect on them at all. But I'm hungry and kinda tired so I'm still frustrated with a couple things. They might be useful to someone attending AEI:
1. When you walk in the conference room it is pretty strange because they have a big framed picture of Paul Ryan up on the wall. I'm sure it was taken before his nomination, but (a.) that's weird to begin with - you'd never see that sort of thing at the Urban Institute for example*, and (b.) they really need to take it down now that he is nominated. There are pictures of a lot of other Republican politicians around the place too. If you were on the fence about whether AEI was objective walking in there, you certainly would have decided by the time you left.
2. OK, this is what really frustrated me: the moderators were terrible. The thing lasted the whole morning - three panels with Q&A after each. The audience was not that big - twenty to thirty people. Several of us (myself included) had our hands up at every Q&A and never got called on, while many of the people that did get called on spoke during several Q&As. What's worse is the moderators didn't moderate. Many of the questions were just a person pontificating at length on what they thought and concluding with something like "what do you think of that?". Bad moderators don't reflect well on organizations that hold public events, in my opinion.
And these are minor, but I think they bug me because I was bugged by the first two:
3. The food was bad and there wasn't much of it. The table was empty by the time half the people arived and the breakfast coffee was gone by the coffee break. Bush league.
4. The AEI conference chairs are REALLY uncomfortable. I appreciate arms to the chairs, but the bar across the back jabs into you.
< end rant >
* I think there's an old photo of a bunch of the old Urban Institute board members from the sixties with Lyndon Johnson among them somewhere, but that's because he was involved with starting it - and it's not a head shot of Johnson the way this was a big head shot of Ryan.