bye, bye Groupwise

After my last blog, I know it must not seem like it, but I do other things here in Dallas besides eat. I work, too. And I’m overjoyed to report that the day I’ve been waiting for has finally, finally arrived… (No, it’s not that my probation period is up. I’m sure I’m still on probation, and always will be.)

It’s that we’re finally getting rid of Groupwise, our bizarre email system, and moving to Outlook like the rest of the free world.

Well, I would be overjoyed to report that, except that it’s been a hellacious week getting Outlook going. Until 4 p.m. today, I had been able to work on my shiny new email for exactly 9 minutes this week. Our information services guys just couldn’t get it working, which was about an 11 on a frustration scale of 1-10.

This is particularly true because email has been clinically proven in 17 studies to be more addictive than crack cocaine, crystal meth and Sonic cherry limeades combined.

I don’t know why IS had so many problems, unless it was the fact that we hired a vendor who is a recent graduate of the kindergarten class of Upper Backwater Byways Skool of Teknologee.

It’s made work quite interesting this week. One TV producer needed some photos for a Stand Up 2 Cancer special (don’t forget to watch it tomorrow night). Here’s how we got him the pix with no email: First, we put rabbit-ear antennas on top of our photo server computer. Then we attached some aluminum foil to them and connected it to an iPod. One of our team stood on her left leg, lifted her right elbow to a 14-degree angle and held the iPod while we collapsed the file into a smaller one, uploaded it to Twitter via TwitPic, then forwarded it to my personal Facebook page next to a picture of my dog, friended everyone at the TV station and then let them download it. Oh, and we put it on a flash drive and hired a bicycle courier to take it over, too, and faxed it pixel-by-pixel so he could assemble it like a jigsaw puzzle.

It was fun.

OK, not really. It’s been miserable. But they finally got it, which is what matters.

I was able at last to log on late this afternoon, so I’m hopeful that it bodes well for me tomorrow to be able to dig out from under the 123,398 emails that have been piling up in Emailville while we were down. I’m really hoping none of them are seeking comment on some big controversial story, and giving me until 4 p.m. Thursday to respond.

Of course, since I’ve been singing Outlook’s praises for so long, I’m taking a large amount of guff from my coworkers about this debacle. (And rightly so. I’d tease them, too, if the situation was reversed.)

They’ll really love Outlook, though, once they get used to it. Groupwise, this very strange system that requires about 314 steps to do things like open attachments and put on an out-of-office message. It also maintains a separate address book, as well as a contacts list. I’m still unsure how a contact makes it into one or the other. The last time I successfully added someone to my contact list, it required me to make a blood sacrifice, mixing eye of newt into boiling oil and pouring it over a lump of charcoal at the stroke of midnight when the moon in the seventh house.

And even then, it didn’t appear in my Blackberry.

Speaking of which, the tech team took my at 11:30 a.m. on Friday to switch the email over on it. Was supposed to get it back by 4ish. At 6 p.m., I hunted them down on another floor of our building and demanded that they return its gutted little carcass to me, so I could at least have the phone working over the holiday. So I didn’t have email all weekend… which I’ve decided is not exactly a bad thing. It made me remember what it was like before we all had little electronic Crackberry leashes.

Of course, it’s not like I was a cave-dwelling Luddite. It still let me get to Facebook and Twitter, so I didn’t had to go completely cold turkey.

This was important because we were in our first real Texas road trip. On the spur of the moment, we decided to head to Spicewood, so we could leave perfectly solid ground and climb up a zillion feet into cedar trees so we could ride ziplines between them.

The trip was precipitated by a USA Today story on Friday that said this place — Cypress Valley Canopy Tours — was one of the 10 best ziplines in the U.S. I love to do things on lists. So off we went on a spontaneous trip, after only three hours to pack a cooler, some clothes, all of my electronics, my own helmet which they wouldn’t let me wear, and a toothbrush.

We drove down to Hill Country, which we thought might give us a bit of elevation to get us over some Tennessee homesickness. It was beautiful down there, for sure, although Texas’ “hills” and Tennessee’s “hills” aren’t quite the same. I think truth in advertising should require that it be renamed Smidge Higher Than The Flattest Part of The Desert Country.

The view from the highest point (Big Bump, Texas, elev. 14 feet) was lovely. We saw many prickly pear cactuses (never been a fan of “cacti”). We learned firsthand that these are named prickly pears because those things that look like pears are very, very prickly.

Note to self: Don’t be lured into picking up one of these pretty little pink pearlike things. They are prickly due to the infinitesimally small needles which cover their pretty pink surface at a level of 13,009 per square millimeter. These needles are apparently tipped by small fishbooks, which sink into your flesh, take up residence and simply refuse to leave, like little finger squatters.

Duct tape is apparently the only thing that will drag some of them out, and we were fresh out of duct tape. (I know, what are the odds of that?)

We proceeded on to the cool Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge. (Canyonlands? Methinks the namers have never been to Utah.)

We took a short hike, through the refuge to a small meandering creek. We saw a prickly pear cactus growing high up in a tree, which is where we now think all of them should live.

We didn’t see much wildlife. At least not until we’d trekked back to the car. D was just pulling out onto the road when something tickled my neck, so I mindlessly reached up to scratch it.

And felt… something. My rational, cool, calm collected mind processed this occurrence calmy and coolly. “Hmmm,” I though to myself. “I’m going to see what this is.”

However, that part of my mind was immediately taken hostage by the dark, scary, freaked-out part that is way freaked out by … ticks.

I wouldn’t exactly be known as an easily scared type. I’m courageous. I’m bold. I’d leap into the ocean to rescue someone. I’d crawl into a burning car to drag someone out seconds before it explodes. I’ve held pressure on a severed artery to keep someone from bleeding out. I’ve used Groupwise, for heaven’s sake.

But ticks? Super freaked out by them. Irrationally, completely, mind-goes-blank freaked out. You know that show “Snapped”? Well, that could be about me when I’m within 10 feet of a tiny little bloodsucker.

So, as I pick the little tickly thing off my neck and slowly swing my arm around to see what it is, deep down I already know. Deep down, I know that this isn’t going to end well.

D, unfortunately, has no such premonition.

Happy from her hike, happy to be on a grand adventure, happy to be away from the harsh glare of the DNA lab, she is gently pulling onto the highway.

This is when I calmly and coolly say that we need to pull over so I can get rid of this tick.


This results in a startled D immediately jerking the car off onto the shoulder, which unfortunately is a cactus-filled ditch full of big sharp rocks.

D: “What? What? What is it???”


D: “What? A tick? Oh my god, is that all? I thought we were going to be crushed by an out-of-control 18-wheeler.”


By this point, I’ve gotten my arm back around in front of me, where I fling the thing onto the dashboard. It is huge. I mean, like, it’s the size of a blue crab. Massive. Weighs about 12 pounds. Big, red, mean-looking, ugly, crawly. It’s carrying a knife. In Tennessee, the ticks have the decency to be small and tiny and much less threatening to scaredy-cats like me.

I point at it in a panic, showing it to D, desperately wanting her to swoop in and rescue me by smashing it flat with the car key or a bottle cap. I wouldn’t even care if it splattered all over my dashboard. I see the little bastard start scrabbling away across the dash, and I know with pure and simple certainty that if it disappears into a crack, we will be selling my car for $17 to the first person who passes by, then walking 26 miles to Austin and purchasing a shiny new tick-free vehicle.

D, however, is still distracted (and less than thrilled) with our sudden descent into the ditch, the shrill, ear-splitting piercing noise coming out of my mouth, and by the fact that I’m clawing at the car door so I can rip off my shirt and get to the other thousand ticks that I’m sure are on me.

Did I mention that we were on the shoulder of the highway? With traffic going by and such? Didn’t care.

She calmly picks up the massive gross thing, opens her door and chunks it off into the desert. I, by this time, have pulled off my shirt and am whaling away across my body in blind panic, looking like the lead singer of the Talking Heads in that one video. And I’m politely asking D to get any more bugs off of me.


D: “Stand still. Stand still! Wait, move, here comes a car. Ohhhkay, don’t move then. Look, he’s waving.”


D: “I don’t see anything else. But I can’t really look with you jerking around like that, you know.”


D: “Who are you? I don’t know who you are.”


D: “This is really (snort) pretty funny (chuckle). Are you gonna blog about this?”

After about 15 minutes, my heart rate had finally fallen below 200, I’d gotten my clothes back on, had popped open a cold drink and was able to be coaxed back into the car. I was calm enough to be mad that she had spared its life and not squashed it flatter than a flitter. (She’s the good, kind one in the family. She was the one who pried the 9mm out of my hands as I was going after it again.)

I still had nightmares that night, though. It was quite traumatic. I can only imagine how the poor Labor Day tourists must feel, after driving past a nearly naked, arm-flapping, screaming woman on what was supposed to be a quiet country road.

The zipline the next day made up for it, though. Six zips, one of them more than 350 feet long, on which you hit speeds fast enough to squeeze tears out of your eyes and blow your cheeks back. If you get to Hill Country, check it out.

Just keep your eyes peeled for ticks. They grow ’em big down here.

About wordsmith1313

Now: Somewhat retired, although I don't do it very well. Formerly senior director of Communications and Marketing for the Dallas Zoo. Journalist. EMT. Writer. Breast cancer survivor. I love to travel, and will always return from a trip with a new friend or two. Those fortuitous meetings bring velvet to the rough edges of life.
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