Wednesday, July 22, 2009

BlogHer Day One

The great people at Kraft Foods have sponsored my trip to Chicago and I can't begin to tell you how wonderful this trip as has been so far. I can't honestly say that I'd ever been on vacation all by myself in my whole life. Vacations have always been a family oriented event and I'll admit I was a little nervous about leaving Mr. Thrifty behind. Then again, someone had to take care of our dogs.

The flight to Chicago went off without at hitch. As a matter of fact not only did Kevin, the WONDERFUL rep from Weber Shandwick, did such a great job of planning my trip out here I felt like a Super-Star. (Everyone should have a Kevin!) While I'm not certain he had anything to do with how short the lines were at security, I'd like to believe he was. I'd also like to believe that he was responsible for getting such a great seat on the plane. Not only was I sitting on a window seat but I had the whole row to myself. The flight went smoothly and I even got some reading in on the flight.

When I arrived at the airport, I headed straight for the baggage claim. The driver that Kevin had arranged was waiting for me right at the gate. (Note to self. Ask Mr. Thrifty for my very own Kevin). My driver was so nice and helpful. I was brought to my car with tinted glass which fit my new rock star status.

When the car arrived at the Sheraton I just couldn't believe that a company would be willing to do all this for me. I knew I loved Kraft before but now I'm contemplating having a heart with the word Kraft Foods tattooed on my ankle. (Well maybe not tattooed but I do love Kraft.) Everyone at the hotel was helpful and friendly.

You should see my room. I'm staying on the 24th floor and the room is pure luxury. I'm within walking distance of the Magnificent Mile and the Navy Pier. It's close to just about everything you'd want to see in downtown Chicago. I also have internet access in my room.

Thursday is the day scheduled for my tour of the Kraft Kitchens. I look forward to receiving their magazine every month and then making many of the recipes contained in the magazine. So for this Mom who loves to cook this opportunity is actually a trip of a lifetime. You should have seen my Mom's expression when I told her I was going. For years she told me that if I kept eating Kraft Macaroni and Cheese I would turn into Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. I guess my obsession with all things Kraft (especially stove top stuffing) did turn me into a Kraft Fan Forever.

I think that some companies recognize that product loyalty is won in small increments by providing consistently good products but also in showing they care about their customers by reaching out with their magazine, their website, providing coupons, corporate outreach (like with Crystal Light's Global Water Challenge), running contests, sweepstakes, and listening to customer feedback.

I don't think that I can thank the people at Kraft Foods enough. I hope to learn many things that I can take home to my students. I am looking forward to telling you more about my trip.

After I checked into my hotel I headed down to the Concierge desk to find out how to get to the local Hair Cuttery. I used to have a Hair Cuttery near me but no more. That would be all well and good except I had a gift certificate that Darryl had won for me last year and I hadn't been able to use it.

Darryl had written this really nice essay about how I deserved a make-over and his essay was chosen the winner. The prize had included a $125 gift certificate for a makeover from Hair Cuttery. I decided to check online to see if there was on in Chicago and there was one. I quickly put away my suitcases and headed off to catch a bus to Randolph Street. There I had my hair dyed and foiled for a frisky new look. I didn't need a hair cut and since I normally dye my own hair I think I was a bit shocked at the sticker price for having this work down at a salon. It cost me $110 for all that. I just can't imagine spending that kind of money on my hair every day. Still it was a treat and one that I might never have had if it wasn't for my darling husband.

After two hours in the salon I took the bus back to my hotel and took a little walk down the Magnificent Mile. Lots going on down there. I even had a couple of interesting conversations with a protester and an activist. Ah the city, makes me miss DC. We just don't have all those huge buildings in DC or Rome, GA for that matter.

I actually heard the protesters before I saw them. I heard some music and wondered what was going on. As I got closer I realized that there was a protest going on. Turns out that NBC does not treat their employees right. I was all over the story. I noticed that a couple of the local city officials were there being interviewed by the local news. That's the moment I said, "Hey wait. I'm a blogger. Bloggers can report what's going on. No scratch that bloggers report what's going on."

I decided to ask one of the protesters and almost immediately I realized that I might not be on top of my game. I prefer planning out what I'm going to say. This was spur of the moment and I had no background whatsoever on the story I was covering. Can we say rookie mistake?

I asked one of the women participating in the protest and almost immediately she invaded my personal space. We were so close we almost touched and I had to tell her that she was too close to the camera. It turns out the people she's striking with have been working for four months without a contract. I asked her a couple of questions and she was obviously very anxious to let me know her viewpoint. I think it kind of amazed me that someone who didn't know me would be willing to talk to my little pink Vado Video Camera and treat me like she thought I was some journalist.

After speaking with her I felt a little empowered. Would everyone be so willing to speak to a handheld camera? I found out when I talked to the Green Peace Activist. Originally he wanted money which I didn't have. I have a husband who is unemployed thank you very much. He originally called me over saying, "You look like you care about the earth."

Honestly, at first I wondered if there was just something about me. Just a few weeks ago, Darryl and I had checked out some cars at a local dealership and the salesman actually asked us if we were "tree huggers". I wondered what would cause him to ask that. Darryl thought it was his sandals. I thought it was my tie-dye tee shirt with the peace symbol. We both missed part of the equation. You see the salesman had told us that while those things played into his question we were also the only couple to ever show up on his lot so concerned about the mileage of the cars we were looking at and asking about the cash for clunkers deal.

When the Green Peace guy said I looked like I cared about the earth I wondered what made him think I did or was that simply his pick up line. I suppose it was my peasant skirt which gave me a bit of a bohemian look. More than likely it was the fact that I was carrying an organic cotton carry all that said Earth on it with a stencil of two elephants on it. I had won the carry all from a blog giveaway a few months ago and I brought it to help me carry swag.

He and I discussed Al Gore, derivatives, carbon credits their founder's belief in Nuclear power, and about how Green Peace does not back Obama's Cap and trade policy. I think he was a little surprised that some random woman on the street actually knew something about Green Peace or their agenda.

So even though I didn't give Mr. Green Peace any money I did allow him to tell me about a cause that Green Peace is involved in and that he wanted others to know about. It's nice to be young and have a passion burning in your heart. Once again I was surprised at someone's willingness to talk to my Vado Video camera.

My Green Peace friend was taken in by the "fact" that Al Gore is donating "All his money back to the cause" This is not quite true and here's a little background on that.

Former Vice President Al Gore has built a Green money-making machine capable of eventually generating billions of dollars for investors, including himself, but he set it up so that the average Joe can't afford to play on Gore's terms. And the US portion is headed up by a former Gore staffer and fund raiser who previously ran afoul of both the FEC and the DOJ, before Janet Reno jumped in and shut down an investigation during the Clinton years.

Here is how Gore buys his "carbon offsets," as revealed by The Tennessean raises serious questions. According to the newspaper's report, Gore buys his carbon offsets through Generation Investment Management:

Gore helped found Generation Investment Management, through which he and others pay for offsets. The firm invests the money in solar, wind and other projects that reduce energy consumption around the globe...

Gore is chairman of the firm and, presumably, draws an income or will make money as its investments prosper. In other words, he "buys" his "carbon offsets" from himself, through a transaction designed to boost his own investments and return a profit to himself. To be blunt, Gore doesn't buy "carbon offsets" through Generation Investment Management - he buys stocks.

Here's a list indicating what it takes to make money along with Al. Funds associated with these companies have placed millions of dollars under Al Gore's control. And, as you'll see below, Gore's selection for the US President of GIM might raise a few eyebrows as well.


According to their own documents, GIM intends to invest in, or buy companies poised to cash in on Global Warming concerns.

Putting this in perspective, for years the mainstream media have posited that George W. Bush (oh almost forgot EVIL George W. Bush) started war with Iraq to benefit the company Vice President Dick Cheney used to run, Halliburton, as well as Bush’s oil tycoon friends. It almost seemed you couldn't find a reporter who couldn't find a way to introduce Cheney without mentioning his ties to Halliburton.

Yet, as the former Vice President continues to plug global warming as a coming crisis in need of immediate attention, the same media completely ignore his obvious financial conflicts of interest.

If Gore's motivation in pushing Global Warming is so altruistic, was it really necessarily for the already wealthy Gore to establish a multi-million dollar corporation in England to cash in? And given the history of Gore and Knight, are these people we should trust to drive a re-vamping of the world economy at the same time they're lining their pockets because of our much smaller carbon footprints?

Then again this is why I like reading on both sides of the spectrum. I've always heard there are three sides to every story, his, hers, and the truth. Neither the far right no the far left have a real grip of what's real that isn't clouded by their bias. So Green Peace guy, because I know you are reading this, see what happens when you talk to some old lady walking down the street with a Disney Earth bag?

I also tried to get a little of the "Obama is the Russian's Puppet" guy but I decided not to interview him because I felt that would be exploitative.

Dinner tonight was the Cheesecake Factory. Anyone who does not believe that sweepstakes influence your buying decision must not know the people I know. We tend to be loyal to companies that regularly have sweepstakes and contests. For the last several weeks I have been entering a contest/sweepstakes that was sponsored by the Cheesecake Factory. You had to write an essay in the contest portion of the promotion but you had the opportunity to win a gift card instantly.

I did NOT win. Every day, day after day I would go to that site to play the instant portion of the game and every day I'd say, wow that really looks good. So I made a conscious decision to throw caution to the wind and despite my thrifty challenge I purchased lunch at the Cheesecake Factory. What a lunch it was. I ordered a Southwestern Salad and it was so huge I was too full to eat dinner tonight. I had also ordered a margarita and a cheesecake. I had to take the piece of cheesecake with me along with half of my salad.

Finally I have a sad death to report. Gidget, the chihuahua from Taco Bell and Legally Blonde passed away. She was 15 years old. Quoting the dog’s owner, Karen McElhatton, as saying Gidget “lived like a queen” and “had a great life.” I hope wherever you are Gidget you can always head for the border for some tacos.

So tomorrow's the big day and I can hardly wait. Come back tomorrow to find out what I learned

Thanks for stopping by and let me know if there's anything you want to tell the people at Kraft Foods.

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