2008 City Crime Rankings

I stumbled across this list that ranked 385 cities in order of most violent to least violent.

My good 'ol hometown, Birmingham is 8th. North Charleston is 10th (more violent then Atlanta which is 16th??). Charlotte is 62nd. Columbia is 68th. Charleston is 168th.

So I guess Greenville isn't violent. Maybe I really should move there...

See the full list of cities.


Christy's 12 Rules of Courteous Driving

So lately I've had some major road rage due to the lack of manners among fellow Columbia, SC drivers. It's no surprise to me that Men's Health magazine ranked Columbia the city with the nation's worst drivers. "Spend a day in Columbia, South Carolina. (And wear a helmet.) Simply put, the city is lousy with bad drivers."

I get very frustrated lately with the fact that drivers just don't seem to care about any other cars on the road. No one ever seems to be aware of their surroundings, or seem to even worry about what's going on around them. Evidently, most drivers today seem to think that they are the only car on the road -- and it drives me insane.

And not only are people oblivious to the fact that other drivers in other cars exist, but all manners of driving have gone out the window -- and we live in the south, manners are instinct, right?

So I've compiled my own list of courteous driving rules for the local folk here in Columbia to take note of. This list is the top pet peeves of other drivers' behaviors that almost cost me my life on a daily basis -- whether due to a car accident, or the mere fact that I lose my mind to road rage.

Rule #1: Please use your blinkers - always!
This is probably my greatest pet peeve about other drivers. How many times have you been driving behind someone and then all of a sudden, brakes, and they turn? Hey, thanks for the warning. Or how about the time you're coming towards an intersection and you need to turn left, across the intersection. Coming your way, the opposite direction, is another car. You stop (with your left blinker on) waiting to turn... the car coming the opposite direction gets to the intersection and then - surprise - turns to their left. Thanks buddy.. I could have turned about five minutes ago if I had known YOU were turning also. Turning, changing lanes, anything that requires a blinker -- use it! Other drivers cannot read your mind. We don't know what your next move is, and blinkers are meant to signal to other drivers what you are about to do so they can adjust to it. And turning it on a second before or while you are turning doesn't count.

Rule #2: Get off my bumper please.
Nothing makes me more upset then to look in my rear view mirror while I'm on the interstate and see some idiot right up against my bumper. I'm in the left lane, passing slower cars in the right lane. I'm already going 85, way over the speed limit. But evidently this idiot doesn't think that's fast enough. And for some reason this driver whose car is within inches of mine thinks that riding my bumper will get me to move over into the left lane -- even though there's an 18-wheeler (that I'm passing) right next to me. And it gets better... then the car starts to swerve a little...back and forth, because obviously to him this will make me notice he's on my ass.. I'm sorry, bumper. And the best part comes when he flashes his lights at me. This irritates me to no end. If this driver would wait, oh I don't know, three minutes, I'd be safely in the right lane, in front of the 18-wheeler, and out of his way -- so he could go along his 95 mph way. Every time this happens, I always make a small wish that I'll pass this car a few miles down the road -- with him pulled over by a cop, getting a nice expensive speeding ticket, and being delayed a lot longer than if he had just waited those three minutes for me. There's a reason they teach you in Driver's Ed to keep a car's distance from the car in front of you -- riding my bumper will only make me purposely slow down, irritating you more.

Rule #3: Get out of the left lane please if you're going slower than the cars in the right lane.
Ok, so you might be thinking I'm contradicting Rule #2. Not at all. This rule is referring to those 'Sunday drive' drivers who obviously have no where to go, no time table, and are oblivious to the fact that all the cars in the right lane are passing them. It is not ok to drive in the left lane on the interstate going SLOWER than the cars in the right lane. This is especially wrong if you are an 18-wheeler, and even more wrong if you are an 18-wheeler cruising in the left lane with no cars in the right lane (who are you passing??). Be aware of your surroundings. If cars are constantly passing you in the right lane, that's a signal that it's time to get yourself back to the right lane. They don't put up signs that say, "Slower traffic keep right" for nothing people... if you're not going to at least go the speed limit or slightly faster... and if you're not passing cars in the right lane who are slower... then please, please get out of the left lane!!

Rule #4: Stop at a stop sign, and if it's your turn, go!
If you are at an intersection, a four-way stop, it is important of course to come to a complete stop, look both directions, and then make your move across the intersection based on your turn. However, what is up with people who get to the intersection a lot sooner than you, stop at their stop sign, and literally wait until you reach your stop sign -- and then decide to go. For some reason this really bothers me. It causes unnecessary delays at the intersection, as well as unnecessary confusion. Get to the intersection, make your two second stop, and if it's your turn, go... don't wait on me!

Rule #5: Please do not talk on your cell phone if it keeps you from driving.
How many times have you been stuck behind a sloooooow driver, or someone who slowly creeps over into your lane? You cuss and speed up to get the hell away from them -- and as you're driving by you glance over only to see that the idiot is on their cell phone. I'm not going to sit here and say that I don't drive and talk on the cell phone, because I do. The difference is that I can drive and talk on the phone at the same time. But I do it rarely. I actually get distracted from talking more so than from driving..the driving keeps me from talking, so my conversations while I drive are short and to the point. I just have had so many 'near death' experiences on the interstate caused by drivers who have a cell phone stuck to their ear. And just because you bought the wireless bluetooth doesn't mean being 'hands free' will help your driving. Talking on the phone is distracting. Keep your conversations quick and get off the phone so you can focus on the road.

Rule #6: Do not block intersections if traffic is backed up ahead of you.
Ok, this is a very good rule. When I leave work, I go down Sumpter, hit Gervais and take a left. Gervais often gets backed up with everyone leaving downtown trying to get to Assembly or Huger St. Not only is the light incredibly long for Sumpter street to turn onto Gervais, but the traffic gets backed up going down Gervais so that sometimes cars can't go across the intersection even when the light is green. So I'll sit there at my red light on Sumpter, waiting for the light to turn green so I can turn left. Well I'll be damned if the Gervais traffic doesn't back up to the intersection and drivers going down Gervais creep out into the intersection..it's slow at first, and then they speed up thinking that just maybe the back of their car won't be in the intersection. And then there's others who just don't care and pull out into the intersection and sit in the middle. And of course you know what comes next... The light changes. My light is green. But guess what? I can't go anywhere! The intersection is blocked. Once again the signs that our taxes go towards "Do not block intersection" are ignored. So there I am, ready to get home after a long day at work, sitting through cycles of this light because people do not care about other drivers and they block my path. If the light is green, but you have no where to go, be patient and wait at the light until the cars in front of you have moved forward, giving your room to then make it across the intersection. We all want to get home after work.. not just you.

Rule #7: Say thank you and wave.
Like I mentioned before, I think that a lot of people have left their manners at home once they get in the car to drive. Nothing upsets me more than the drivers who take your favors and do not give you the 'thank you wave'. When I politely stop and let a car out into traffic, someone who's been ignored by other drivers, I expect a polite wave as they pull out in front of me. If you've got your blinker on, trying to switch lanes, and car after car will not let you over -- if I slow down and signal for you to get over. Throw me a wave of thanks. That's all I ask. Wave. I get annoyed when I give a friendly favor to another driver and they pull out and you don't get the wave. Say thank you to other drivers...wave! I always wave, and the greater the favor (i.e. two cars stopping in both lanes to let me turn left in front of them onto a side street) the bigger and more vigorous my wave. Is it so much to ask for a polite wave if I do the same for you?

Rule #8: Do not flirt with me or stare at me while we are driving.
This is an important rule because I think too many women have to deal with this when driving. About a month or so ago I was driving down to Charleston. This red sports car was in front of me, going slow -- so I began to pass it on the left. I sped up, passed the car and then moved back into the right lane. Well no sooner had I gotten into the right lane, the red car suddenly moves into the left lane and speeds up until we are going exactly the same speed. I didn't think anything of it at first..thought I was being passed, but after about a mile, I could still sense the red car out of the corner of my eye. "Oh great." Usually in this situation I just stare straight forward and ignore the car. But for some reason this time I wasn't really in the mood for this uncomfortable situation. So I look over at the car. Sure enough this nasty man is driving with one hand, and leaning over towards his passenger seat, smiling and waving at me. So, I took my middle finger and stuck it against the window and mouthed a not so friendly phrase. He made a look like he was shocked and hurt.. um, hello? And then he slowed down and got behind me. A minute later, he's back in the left lane again, same speed as me. I look over. He does this shrug "why are you being mean" gesture, continues to wave at me. I flick him off again, speed up, get in the left lane and eventually lose him. Why do creepy men do this? Do they expect me to wave back and then gesture we should pull over and get to know each other? It's so disgusting and rude, and distracting. And truck drivers, please quit honking at us! It makes me nervous because my first reaction is that something is wrong on the road -- not that you are honking to be an obnoxious, dirty man. So keep your cat calls and dirty old man tricks on the construction sites and keep it off the roads. Women aren't the best of drivers (I'll admit that) and the last thing we need is you messing with us on the roads while we're trying to drive.

Rule #9:Turn your lights on when it's raining, please!
If it is raining outside, turn your headlights on. It doesn't matter if it's daytime or not. If your windshield wipers are on, your lights should be as well. I hate driving in the rain, and one of the reasons why is because a LOT of drivers do not turn on their lights while driving in the rain. On the interstate, water gets kicked up all around the cars, and you sometimes can't see cars around you. If it's raining especially hard, I definitely can't see most cars -- and I have perfect vision! Most people don't realize that turning on your lights in the rain isn't for your benefit, it's for everyone else's benefit. If anything, you should want other drivers to see your car in the rain -- especially the other idiots on the road. I always have my lights on when it rains, I've made it instinct now. And even though I've been made fun of for this, if it's hellacious raining on the interstate and some people are going 70 and some people are going 40, I turn on my hazards. I don't care if you don't think it's raining hard enough, I'd rather you and that up for 24 hours truck driver see my car then to risk being caught by surprise. So do the other cars on the road a favor and make sure you always turn on your lights when it starts to rain.

Rule #10: If you are lost, pull over.
I know a lot of you have experienced this too while on the road. You're trying to get to work and suddenly you get behind this erratic car. They stop, they go, they put on their blinker, they turn off their blinker -- and you realize, hey these people have no idea where they are going. If this is you, the people who are lost, look in your rear view mirror -- are there cars behind you? If yes, pull over briefly and let them pass. Don't subject them to your lack of knowledge as to where you are going. Better yet, pull over at a gas station -- get directions. Ask a neighbor who's outside if you're in a neighborhood. Buy a GPS system for your car. And if not any of these things, just pull over and let us other drivers (who do know the way) pass you.

Rule #11: Do not brake on the interstate if there is no traffic.
I took Driver's Ed in 10th grade when I was 15. I had no idea how to drive, so you can imagine my horror when the instructor put me behind the wheel and instructed me to get on the interstate. I was terrified and continuously hovered and used the brake. My instructor firmly told me, "Never brake on the interstate!" That always stuck with me, and now I know why. I get nervous about a lot of things when driving (I'm sure you've noticed if you've gotten this far through this post), but nothing makes me more jittery on the interstate then when people brake. Now I understand that braking is necessary in stop and go, backed up traffic on the interstate. It's a no brainer that you have to use your brakes if the traffic slows down to 10 mph or is stopped altogether. But there is no reason why anyone should be braking when we are all traveling at speeds of 70 mph with space in between us. If you need to slow down on the interstate, take your foot off the gas and coast a little until your speed decreases. If you're having to use your brake, then you are obviously too close to the car in front of you (see rule #2). Bright red brake lights causes a chain reaction of brake lights, and then everyone is braking for no reason. So keep your distance from other cars, and ease off the gas -- you won't need your brakes on the interstate after all.

And as an aside to this rule (because I don't want to make 13 rules), don't brake and slow down to look at a car accident or even a stalled car on the side of the road. Nothing infuriates me more then to be behind someone who has their neck craned completely sideways with foot on the brake while driving past a car accident. You can never see anything anyways, so keep your eyes straight and your foot on the gas. None of us wants to sit in stop and go traffic for 3o minutes only to discover that the back up was caused simply by a stalled car in the median that everyone just had to get a good gander at.

Rule #12: Proper ways to park and drive in parking lots.
At work I park in a parking garage attached to our building. The spots are pretty tight in the garage, but doable for all size and makes of cars. However, there are those select few (morons) who either don't know how to park or purposely park erroneously. What I'm talking about are those special people that take up two spots. Some of them simply parked crooked to where their back left end is in the spot next to them -- preventing that spot next to them from being used. Others are more blatant and park completely on a center line taking up two entire parking spots. And then there are others who park, probably get out and say, "Oh dear, I'm so close to the line -- but, I'm in a hurry, so I'm sure it's fine." And then of course there's no way you could even get out of your car if you parked next to them. I don't understand what kind of people can do this with a clear conscious. I can't tell you how many times I've gotten out of my car and out of sheer guilt at the way I've parked, gotten back in and tried five more times until I knew I was parked correctly. But seriously.. who are these people who can clearly tell they are parked incorrectly and just walk away form it? "Not my problem." But the real ass holes are the idiots who take up two spots. Look, I wouldn't mind it if you did that on the very top floor where no one parks -- but on the third level in prime real estate parking? I'm sorry you don't want your corvette scratched or dinged, but hey, maybe I don't want my Altima scratched and dinged, but life isn't fair now is it? The worst case I saw was this crappy, POS car on the fourth floor parked blatantly in the center of two spots. I actually noticed it on my way up where I had to park on the sixth floor.. and even though I was already running late for work, I was so infuriated that I took the elevator to the fourth floor (I normally get off on 2 to go to my building) and wrote a note and put it on the car's windshield. It was pretty benign, saying something along the lines of "how rude" and "I hope you get a ticket". I really think that the city should go in our garage one day and ticket all of the people who take up two parking spots.. it's a LOT of people and I think it's selfish and rude. One day I'm going to print out letters and walk around the entire garage and put them on all the windshields of all of the perpetrators -- but the sad thing is, if they didn't care enough to park that way anyways, what's my note going to do?

The second part of this rule is related to driving around in large parking lots. Ok, so I know a lot of people break this rule, and I probably have to in the past, but no longer. I understand that some parking lots are just big, and the thought of going all the way down the lane to go into the next lane is just too much for you. But... it is important that you follow the painted lines (and arrows!!) and drive up and down the lanes correctly. I can't tell you how many times I've almost been t-boned while driving down a parking lot lane, minding my own business, and some idiot comes flying across the parking spots from the next lane. The reason they have lines and arrows in parking lots is because you can't always see cars that are coming and going. You never know when a car might back out of a spot and hit you as you come veering into their blind spot because you just crossed six parking spots to get to the other lane. I actually had some idiot woman steal a parking spot from me the other day by flying across empty parking spots from across the lot. I was patiently waiting for a lady to back out and I was properly in the lane. The lady left the spot and I began my turn into it. Out of no where this huge SUV comes hauling across two lanes, headed towards the spot. Right at the last minute she saw me and slammed on her breaks, barely avoiding a crash. We both sat there staring at each other. She looked at me like "Well?". And in my frustration I did a little peeved, vigorous motion waving her into the spot. She veers into the spot and I move on to the next closest spot. And you know what puts the icing on the cake? I didn't even get the friendly thank you wave (see rule #7)!!!

So those are my rules, the issues I deal with on a day to day basis on the road. I know a lot of you can empathize with me because you've experienced these too. However, if you read this and realize you're not a victim, but one of these idiots, then do the right thing and correct yourself.

So, if you live in Columbia, read this list and practice safer, courteous driving. Be more aware of what's going on around you, not just what you are doing -- we're all on these roads together, so do the right thing.


Snickers Cake

Every year our department gets together in November and has a huge Thanksgiving lunch where everyone brings in a dish and we all wear elastic waistbands and eat until we're about to pop. I volunteered to bring one of the desserts. I searched on Cooks.com and found a couple of delicious (and easy) sounding recipes and put up a poll to see what everyone thought was the best sounding one to make. So the results from my poll are in, and the winning cake was the Devil's food cake topped with Snickers with 7 votes out of a total whopping 15.

I made the cake tonight...and I really hope it turns out good! It's either going to be so tasty or way too much sweetness and taste horrible.

Interested in trying it out also? Here are the ingredients you need:

1 devils food cake mix (will need 3 eggs and vegetable oil with this)
1 jar Caramel Butterscotch Topping
1 can Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk
1 (12 oz.) pkg. semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 (8 oz.) containers Cool Whip
4 regular size Snicker candy bars (freeze)

Step 1: Bake the cake according to the box in a 13 x 9" pan. Best part is licking the mixer utensils!

Step 2: After baking the cake, poke holes in the cake using a straw.

Step 3: Pour caramel butterscotch syrup all over the cake. Put the cake back in the oven (with oven OFF) while it's still warm for ten minutes.

Step 4: While cake is in oven, take your frozen Snickers bars and put them in ziplock bag and hammer the hell out of them until they are crumbled bits of candy bar.

Step 5: After cake has been in oven for 10 minutes, pull it out. Pour condensed milk all over the cake. Then top the cake with the semi-sweet chocolate chips. I didn't put too many because I just kept thinking there's so much chocolate already and I didn't want it to overkill.

Step 6: The recipe then calls for you to cover the cake in two 8 oz. bins of Cool Whip. I only got about one and a half containers -- I think 2 might be too much. I also had trouble getting the cool whip to stick to the cake and spread... you might need to let the cake cool a little before adding on the cool whip -- I think this was my mistake, but hopefully that won't affect the taste, was just annoying while putting it on.

Step 7: Final Step! Take the crushed Snickers and sprinkle all over the cake. The four Snickers literally covers the entire cake -- but it looks good! After you're done, put the cake in the fridge and serve the next day!

Fingers crossed it tastes delicious and everyone loves it tomorrow!!


Internet Identity

I read a blog post the other day by someone I follow on Twitter (@cheeky_geeky) about one's identity via social media and whether it's the new resume. It got me thinking about social media and how the perception of sharing online and one's identity online has drastically changed, and how it will continue to change the way we define ourselves.

I have been using the Internet to communicate with others since I was about 13. My dad was an early adopter of the Internet and we had the standard dial up and Prodigy back in the day. The internet that took up an entire phone line and if anyone picked up the phone or called, you were kicked offline. Throughout high school my friends and I were on AOL, instant messenging (again on dial up) and that was pretty much the extent of what we did online from a communications perspective. I don't remember predators or some of the fears that came along with the Internet existing while I was in High School. We would go in chat rooms and goof off, but we never gave out our real names or phone numbers. There wasn't ever that fear. The Internet was still so new.

I think the fear of sharing online hit while I was just entering college. Everything you heard from parents, to professors, to peers was that you had to be very careful not to give up too much information online. Never, they stressed, put your last name on the Internet. And it's definitely a big no to put your address, phone number, or even your screen name online. I think those types of worries were everywhere, and it was instilled in me too. I had just built out my very first Web site (in all HTML mind you) and I remember I called it 'Venus's Lair' (yeah, I know...but my AOL screenname had Venus in it). I never posted my name anywhere on the site. At that time, I don't even think I had a bio. It was pretty beneign. I actually even blogged during college, before blogging was even a household name. It was a site called Free Diary or something along those lines, and I would journal about my day to day -- but completely anonymously and keeping out any details that would give me away...just in case someone stumbled upon it and knew who I was. Why were we so scared to hide ourselves online?

While in grad school, the online sharing pendulum slowly began to shift. In the early 2000's, social media began to emerge. I remember joining Facebook and MySpace the first year of grad school. And right after graduation I purchased 'christyweb.com' and built out a new site that offered a bio and more facts about who I was. Now it was ok to offer a little more information -- where you went to college, your location -- but you still were wary about what to offer up online. Not only did you protect yourself from strangers, but you also now had to worry about employers. "Google yourself and make sure nothing shows up!" was the lament at the time. We were told we wouldn't be hired if we even HAD a MySpace profile. Just having one spelled trouble for employers and would make you seem too risky. I still kept my last name and my Web site address off of MySpace and Facebook. And even though you knew your profiles were private online, you still audited your information to make sure the word 'shit' or some other potentially offensive information wasn't viewable by anyone. That open communication with people you didn't know was still pretty much off limits. So now you weren't just afraid of strangers online, but of potential employers as well.

Now, four years later, social media has finally become a common household name. Social media has grown to the extent that it's now part of most of our every day lives. Businesses are researching social media strategies and it's increasingly becoming a part (even a must have) of doing business. Businesses have Twitter accounts, MySpace profiles, Facebook fan pages. Instead of rejecting potential employees who use social media, employers are now using it to reach out to potential employees. It's hard to find anyone nowadays who isn't involved in some sort of online sharing of information. People are connecting and communicating with complete strangers. Knowledge sharing among strangers with like interests is rampant. No longer are you holding back your last name. I was a little wary at first about offering so much information about myself, including my Web site, on Twitter. But I think being open about who I am and not hiding behind a vague online identity has only enriched my conversations and helped give me the ability to network with accomplished, intelligent professionals who I never would have (in a million years) crossed paths with. My Web site is now my blog, where I share my opinions and thoughts and offer a connection to all of my 'identities' on the Web (FB, MySpace, LinkedIn).

I believe that nowadays, if you are on the job market looking for a job, you have to have an online identity, a presence. I think the days are over where employers are looking you up online and filtering you out of the candidate selection because you're on social media tools. I honestly feel like within the next five years, potential hires could be filtered out from a job pool because they AREN'T online. I think understanding the Web and how people interact online (C2C, B2C, B2B) will be a prerequisite for most jobs. I think social media fosters open communication and knowledge sharing online, and companies will eventually not only embrace it, but encourage it.

....which leads me to my next train of thought. Despite the growing trends in social media and the increasing amount of knowledge sharing and information on social media tools, why is there still some hesitation and 'scolding' of sorts for having an online identity? There's still a lot of reluctance with businesses to get involved in social media, and even more so to have employees involved in social media. There's still an underlying fear of sharing too much information or making the wrong impression online. There are still people who don't see the value in social media, and don't understand it in general. And recently I've had to be a little more careful of what I put on Facebook and my blog because there are those who watch what you do online, and disapprove. This hasn't happened to me specifically, but I've heard some stories that have made me swing the pendulum back a little and be a little more cautious with what I post or say online.... but this is another blog post all together, which I want to write eventually this week about what it means to be an ambassador for your company and the backlash that comes with it...so stay tuned for that.

But I digress.....

So why the hesitation still with social media? I think it's partly generational (I know older generations use social media, but overall I think it's related to this due to how we grew up with technology). I think the generation after me, coming into the workplace in five or so years, will have no qualms about open communication on the Internet. I don't think they are being told in college today to not offer up any information online, but are most likely being encouraged to use it to compliment their studies, for idea sharing, and for networking. I think as my generation moves into management positions and the next generation comes in expecting social interaction online, the way we do business will completely shift. I understand that face to face is the most important way to communicate, but I don't necessarily think that my generation and the generation after me needs it as much. A conversation online to me is just as good and valuable as a conversation in person or on the phone. I actually feel more comfortable and open with online communicating as opposed to face to face. I can see in ten to twenty years all of us working remotely, having meetings virtually online, and using social media tools to make connections and have conversations. I think transparency will be realized, and open communication will be the norm.

I know this post was a lot of rambling, but it was a thought I had to get out. It's just interesting to look back at the role social media has played for me, and how more and more I'm building out my own identity online, becoming more and more open about who I am, and making it a part of my day to day interactions. You can see tools like Twitter pushing the envelope when it comes to transparency and communications -- and with a growth rate of over 300%, it will only continue to shift things.

This brings up another point... how open is too open? Will we get to a point in communicating with each other and at work, where things we wouldn't dare share with others today will just be part of every day conversation? Maybe the TMI of today will be nothing out of the ordinary in ten years. In ten or twenty years, maybe everything will be transparent...what would that be like? It's interesting to think about... And what do you think? Will we one day be graded by what we contribute from a knowledge perspective? Similar to TwitterGrade, but on a much larger scale? Instead of a GPA, you have an IPA (Intranet Point Average). The more value and knowledge you add to the online community as a whole, the higher your IPA....

I could go on and on...but now I'm rambling again.... I'll stop while I'm somewhat ahead here...


Understand your election map...

This map is from TheOnion.com. It's a little hard to tell the colors apart, but click on the image to go to the site and it might be clearer. Pretty funny. Glad to see SC seceded... and I'm sure it was our idea and we got Tennessee and the others to join along. Lol...


Voting and there's going to be a Change

So, today has been an interesting day of sorts...but why would you expect less from an election day. I voted today in a urine smelling community center about four blocks from my house...they didn't ask for my ID and there wasn't a polling watcher around anywhere, and I looked...

I have always been interested and involved in politics, always. I think a lot of that has to do with the way I grew up. My family lives all over the country... mainly up north and out west. Growing up my grandparents lived in upstate New York and Delaware. My Aunt and Uncles lived in Columbus, OH and Boulder, CO. My Grandfather even had a vacation home out in Arizona when I was very young. So I've been traveling long distances yearly ever since I can remember.

How did this influence your politics Christy? Well, my Dad listened to Rush Limbaugh. I know that name sparks animosity in a lot of people, even some conservatives, but Rush has been on the air for twenty years (I'm 27). I guess my Dad has listened to him from the beginning. My mom always drove a minivan when I was growing up. With three kids, and a lack of safe, stylish SUV's in the 1980's, a minivan was what mom's drove. There weren't the hide-a-way seats, the automatic doors, the DVD players... no, these were the box style, basic model minivans. And as a barely middle class family from Birmingham, Alabama -- a minivan was the transportation of choice when visiting relatives across country. Flying was too hard logistically and financially.

So every year when we would go to visit the relatives, multiple occasions, we would all pile up in the minivan. My dad would take the middle seats out and lay a blanket down in the middle, so we could 'cheat' and not have to sit in seats and actually lay down (hopefully sleep for my parents' sake) for the long, often four day treks across country. While on these trips, my dad would listen to Rush Limbaugh... of course us kids had our toys and Walkmans and what not, but I listened to Rush while my dad did... when I was in first grade our elementary school had a mock election and I was interviewed by the local news...they asked me who I voted for and why... I said (proudly) "I voted for George Bush (Sr.) because my parents are voting for him". Mind you another student in my class was interviewed saying, "I voted for Dukockus (spelling?) because he's black just like me!"..... Regardless, I have a hard time believing today that those experiences didn't play a role in my beliefs today as a conservative Republican.

Now don't get me wrong... most of you see me as a strict, straight party-line conservative... but I'm not really. Two things you might not know about me is that I am very pro-choice (depending on circumstance) and for gay rights. While I believe strongly in these views, they do not influence me to abandon my party views -- and this is because I believe with what sense I have of politics, that abortion will not be made illegal tomorrow... and gay rights will not be squashed tomorrow or outlawed altogether. These two issues are SO extreme and so all over the board across both parties that there is no way any definite change will be made related to them if either candidate is elected. Also, Republicans believe deeply in state rights and putting these types of issues in the hands of the state -- which I firmly agree with -- so I would rather have state votes (like CA is seeing now) on these types of issues rather than the Federal Gov't making a proclamation of some kind.

So... yes, I grew up a conservative Republican...but I did have my rebellious times. However, fundamentally, my experiences growing up in society helped shape my political views. I can go back to High School. Nothing came easy to me in High School and College. I always had to work harder at things to get what I wanted...there wasn't the 'no child left behind' program when I was in school, so we weren't coddled. I've always been underestimated, and I think that made me work that much harder. High School was tough... I was in a graduating class of almost 800 kids... which basically made you invisible. You can be very smart, but in 800, not smart enough...where does 80 out of 800 belong when there are 79 people smarter than you? I was made fun of, pushed in the halls... I had my car keyed twice, my license plate stolen twice, my locker broken into with all my books stolen about five times... basically I wasn't a popular cheerleader type...girls were mean.... I came out of High School with low self esteem and I didn't trust anyone, not even people I considered friends.

College was better, but I still had to work both socially and academically. I won a scholarship...and I was in one of the hardest majors at Clemson, Computer Engineering. I was either the only girl, or one of few girls in every class and lab. I never took less than 18 hours a semester in that major, because I knew I had to work hard to stay in the major and graduate. And I never asked for special help or concessions because I was a minority in that major -- I never protested that none of the professors in that major were female.. none of us (females) ever complained, it just motivated us more to work harder. I worked hard and graduated in four years...went on to my MBA while working three jobs, and graduated with a Masters in two years. Never once did I ask for anything.

Yes, I'm luckier than most... but if I hadn't worked hard and proved myself in High School, I wouldn't have gotten a college scholarship or gotten into college at all for that matter... If I hadn't worked hard in college, I wouldn't have been able to get into my Masters program and maintain three jobs. I worked for what I earned... I worked.

With my current job, I've been successful because I've come to realize the value of personal accountability. It was easy about a year or so ago to complain about work and complain about my position... but I had a good co-worker friend of mine tell me, "You know what Christy? You can sit here and complain all you want, but the only person who's going to make things better for you is...well...YOU. So quit b*tching and do something about it..." And I did. I asked the right questions and worked my you know what off and basically put myself where I am now...where I couldn't be happier. And it was all because of me... I made my own success.

I can also attribute my beliefs to my Grandfather, my mom's dad. My Grandfather grew up in a lower middle class family. Back then it was rare for people to go to college, but my grandfather went to Penn State (the first in his family), graduated in Chemical Engineering, and eventually became the VP of DuPont. Same could be said for my Dad. He started off as a construction worker, and now is a successful business man who owns his own sales business. He worked his you know what off to get to where he is today. Neither of them ever put their hand out for help or complained about how hard it was.

So it's a chain you see... My Grandfather's success and my Dad's success, along with my success in High School, enabled me to go to college and start to build my career and (hopefully) eventual success...so one day when I have kids, I can teach my kids to be hard workers and help my kids go to college and be successful..

So to make a long rambling blog post short, my strong conservative beliefs are rooted in a family tradition of making yourself successful. So when it comes to our next president (so I just heard) awarding citizens who don't push themselves to reach a certain level of success seems fundamentally wrong to me. I get emotional and upset about it... "Wait a minute..." I say..."I just spent the past 15 years of my life working past every obstacle trying my hardest to get to where I am today -- and now we're going to just hand out money to those who don't try?" It might not seem as simple as that to some of you, but in the long run, that's essentially what it is... a combined household of 200K is two married individuals making 100K each (hypothetically). So... if I get married to someone who is on the same education level as me, and we eventually make 100K (which why would I not work towards that???), then we will be taxed heavily for our income total.

And to me, it's not that I'm greedy and I want the money... people fail to realize that that's not the main issue with conservatives at all. My main issue is I am a Christian and a giver. I want to give money to the ballet company (because I love ballet and have benefited from it since I was four). I want to give to my church at home because it helped raised me from birth. I want to give to OCD charities, and causes that are important to me and my family. When I get to the point financially where I have extra income to give, there are certain causes I feel passionate about that I want to contribute to. But if I'm taxed more, all of a sudden that extra money I would've donated to charity is gone -- and instead it goes to programs like ACORN, welfare, and other democratic affiliated organizations that I don't necessarily want my money going towards. If I have worked my you know what off since I was 14 to get to where I am today, then why the hell can I not have the discretion to make decisions about my own money? I had a friend tell me today that she's voting for Obama so she can help the children and education.. how is giving your money to the government going to help those causes? How?

I think that the next four years will be an interesting, telling four years. I think that either Obama will do absolutely nothing (most Dems do nothing in office except stain dresses) or actually follow through on his promises which are very, very frightening for this country. I've said it before, and I'll say it again.... I find it so hard to believe how people in this country are so enamored with this man when all the facts are laid out on the table for us... I mean, you have to hand it to Obama...he was upfront about all of his policies, but Americans fell for this blatant marketing campaign. If you voted for Obama, besides him not being Bush and being a great speaker, do you know why you voted for him, really?

I've said my peace and I hope people won't gloat tomorrow.... I hope for all of our sakes I won't be saying "I told you so..." for the next four years. Good night. Is it too early to buy my "Don't blame me I voted for McCain" t-shirt??? :)