Wednesday, November 17, 2010

GIVE ME TOMORROW Receives Starred Review from KIRKUS

They call it "the Forgotten War."  Korea.  For most Americans the Korean War was nothing more than the setting for the movie and TV show, M*A*S*H, but the troops who fought there, the Korean War was as brutal and horrific as any war fought.  And in GIVE ME TOMORROW, acclaimed combat historian Patrick K. O'Donnell portrays one of the most dramatic and moving stories of that war, the story the US Marine unit, George Company.  Or, as it came to be known, Bloody George.

“What would you want if you could have any wish?” asked the photojournalist of the haggard, bloodied US Marine before him. The marine gaped at his interviewer. The photographer snapped his picture, which became the iconic Korean War image featured on this book’s jacket. “Give me tomorrow,” he said at last.
After nearly four months of continuous and agonizing combat on the battlefields of Korea, such a simple request seemed impossible. For many men of George Company, or “Bloody George” as they were known—one of the Forgotten War’s most decorated yet unrecognized companies—it was a wish that would not come true.

This is the untold story of “Bloody George,” a marine company formed quickly to answer its nation’s call to duty in 1950. This small band of men—a colorful cast of characters, including a Native American fighting to earn his honor as a warrior, a Southern boy from Tennessee at odds with a Northern blue-blood reporter-turned-Marine, and a pair of twins who exemplified to the group the true meaning of brotherhood—were mostly green troops who had been rushed through training to fill America’s urgent need on the Korean front. They would find themselves at the tip of the spear in some of the Korean War’s bloodiest battles.

After storming ashore at Inchon and fighting house-to-house in Seoul, George Company, one of America’s last units in reserve, found itself on the frozen tundra of the Chosin Reservoir facing elements of an entire division of Chinese troops. They didn’t realize it then, but they were soon to become crucial to the battle—modern-day Spartans called upon to hold off ten times their number. Give Me Tomorrow is their unforgettable story of bravery and courage.

Thoroughly researched and vividly told, Give Me Tomorrow is fitting testament to the heroic deeds of George Company. They will never again be forgotten.

And KIRKUS REVIEWS, the toughest of all the trade review publications, agrees, giving it a starred review and saying the following:

“Drawing on interviews with the surviving members of George Company, O’Donnell graphically details the rigors of battle in the brutal Korean winter…While he does not underplay the horrors of the war, and does justice to the lighter moments that men remember years later, the author shines when he captures such catch-in-the-throat moments as when the Fifth and Seventh Marines, coming into base after a harried withdrawal under intense Chinese pressure, marched in singing the Marine Hymn…George Company’s performance at Chosin Reservoir practically defines heroism. O’Donnell brings it to vivid life.”

Published by Da Capo Books, the book is also available as an audio title from Blackstone Audio.  Give Me Tomorrow: The Korean War's Greatest Untold Story - The Epic Stand of the Marines of George Company


Friday, November 12, 2010

QuickBooks 2011: How Badly Does It Suck?

As much as I would have preferred not to, I recently upgraded from QuickBooks Premiere 2010 to the 2011 version.  And the fun has already begun!

First attempt to use the program resulted in a crash.

Next, I got a message saying that the QB Sync Manager was syncing with another computer, even though it was not.  Which raises the question, why is the  Sync Manager loading if I'm not trying to sync anything?

In my Startup folder, I have two items from QB now.  One is the Update Agent, which I recognize and endure.  The other is QuickBooks_Standard_21.  When I called Tech Support to ask what this was, I was informed it was a "standard user that QuickBooks creates to access my computer."  Interesting.  I have tons of programs, including Quicken 2011, but none of those needs to put such an item in my Startup folder.  So what is the programming weakness in QuickBooks that requires it?

When I inquired if I could delete the QuickBooks_Standard_21 file from the Startup folder, the rep in Manila was clearly lacking confidence in her answer.  I asked to be escalated to a Tier 2 representative.  Roy, the Tier 2 representative, wasn't much help.  He asked to put me on hold while he checked resources.  After a total hold time of thirty minutes, I gave up and hung up.

My next call was to the Office of the President of Intuit, where I spoke with Sonya.  Now, I have spoken to many folks in this office and, unfortunately, Sonya is not one of the best.  At first she refused to help me because I didn't have a case number.  I informed her that I had not been given one and perhaps she could look it up.  She did and found there was an actual case, but it only covered one question.  I asked if I could give her the other questions.  She asked me if I had a technical support plan.  I said I did not, but did not think these questions warranted one.  She insisted they were "How do I..." questions.  I pointed out they were installation issues and bugs and that I had received my copy of QuickBooks because I am a blogger and I needed to be able to report accurately on my experience.  She said she would look into whether or not there was technical support for bloggers and get back to me.  That was a full day ago and I've yet to hear back.

Since then, I've already discovered two more bugs and other issues.  While installing a new payroll subscription (which I paid $185 for via Amazon; almost $100 less than Intuit wanted), the program seems to never consider that you may already have a subscription and walks you through as though you are new user.  You have to input a lot of your info all over again, which is a waste of time, and the program says it will make two small withdrawals from your account, which it should not, because your account is already verified.  Sloppy and lazy programming not to ask the question, "Are you renewing your subscription or is this a new subscription?" and having two paths to follow.

In attempting to back up my file, the system repeatedly defaults to "Online" and tries to sell me Intuit's online storage feature, despite the fact that I have the preference box on marketing/promotion messages checked to turn them off.

Next, when I ran my first payroll, I got an error saying that my payroll was before 11/20/2075 (yes, sixty-four years from now) and that I was therefore sending a "late" payroll.

A chat session with Justin at Payroll Support indicated that both bugs are known issues but there is no ETA on when they will be resolved.

As for new features, I can't say I've discovered a lot, though I did notice the new Collections Center, which might be genuinely helpful) and the addition of Intuit PaymentNetwork as a potential payment method.  The latter is essentially to compete with PayPal as a payment method, but does not allow payment by credit card, only bank transfer.  This, clearly, is so that it does not compete with Intuit's credit-card processing business, which is more expensive than PayPal's credit-card processing.  For those who have plenty of customers willing to allow Intuit to transfer funds directly from their bank account, this could be a great option, but I think customer acceptance of such transfers will be low.  It's one thing to go to your bank's website and initiate a payment.  It's quite another to click a link on an email you receive and then allow access to your accounts by a vendor.

Interestingly enough, you cannot use the Intuit PaymentNetwork from within QuickBooks to make a payment.  Because, of course, that's just a Direct Deposit and Intuit charges you $1.25 to make a Direct Deposit to a vendor, but if you log into the Intuit PaymentNetwork, Intuit charges you nothing and charges the recipient only fifty cents to receive the payment.  Seems to me that the pricing for the two services should be the same, lower fee, and there should be an option check box for "charge fee to sender" or "charge fee to recipient."  The recipient, it should be noted, must sign up with Intuit PaymentNetwork and agree to the fee before the funds can be received.  I do wonder how many folks, upon receiving email notification that the payment is waiting for them will simply say "F-that!" and call the sender to demand they get them the funds another way.  A word to the wise, clear it with your recipient before sending funds via the Intuit PaymentNetwork.


Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The October Monthly Round-up

Well, October was a heck of a month.  No, not for reading or for business, but because my wife and I had a new baby boy!  His name is Sam and he's quite the cute kid and a pretty good sleeper.  Alas, the pediatrician says we can't let him sleep longer than four hours at night and so I'm pretty much a zombie.  So, the numbers really didn't move in October.  Here they are:

  • 58 Queries; declined 9
  • 0 Sample Chapters; declined 3
  • 1 Full Manuscript

We have on-hand:
  • 4 Sample Chapters
  • 2 Proposals
  • 12 Full Manuscripts

We're waiting for:
  • 1 Sample Chapter
  • 2 Proposals

We also have 52 eQueries™ we've received but have not yet read.


QuickBooks Direct Deposit for Vendors: The Next Chapter

I had a long chat with Stacy from Intuit's Risk Management Department yesterday.  Apparently this department makes the decisions on what the limits should be on companies using QuickBooks Direct Deposit for Vendors.  It was somewhat enlightening, but still frustrating.

I have been granted the limits I requested, but this was only possible, I was told, by lowering the Direct Deposit for Payroll limits.  So if I hire someone or want to give myself a raise or bonus, I will have to revisit the entire nightmare of trying to get my limits raised.

I was informed that the limits were based on the average balances of my accounts over the last six months.  However, as I pointed out to Stacy, as a literary agent and fiduciary, I am contractually required to pay out my client's funds within ten business days of clearance of funds.  And generally I do it within five business days.  So those funds barely have an impact on the "average daily balance" that Intuit is basing its decisions on.

I was then told that Intuit needs the bank-rating form my bank declined to complete because it needs to know what funds are in my accounts when I apply for the increase.  I pointed out that Intuit now owns and if you use that site you know that Mint aggregates your balances from multiple financial sites such as your bank and credit card companies and therefore Intuit certainly has the technology to add to QuickBooks a real-time check on a company's balances in order to eliminate the bank-rating form from the process.  Stacy told me I making "all good suggestions" and she was taking notes.

Now, if I could just get Intuit to pay me for what I estimate to be $2,500 worth of my time wasted trying to implement their screwed-up product, I might actually feel better!


Monday, November 01, 2010

More on QuickBooks Direct Deposit for Vendors

When we last left our intrepid hero—I mean me, of course—he was still waiting for anyone with actual problem-solving abilities to get back to him from QuickBooks or Intuit.  I did, in fact, get a call back regarding my application for higher limits on Direct Deposit for Vendors from Intuit and it was quite enlightening.

The woman who called me back confirmed that I was never made aware of the limits on my accounts and that not making users aware is part of their security policy.  I trust that I am not alone in feeling that this is, perhaps, one of the stupidest approaches to security and customer service out there.

Let's see, there are limits, but the people using the services do not know about the limits.  The limits, if you hit them, are difficult to get raised and require the cooperation of your bank.  So if you are hoping to use the Direct Deposit for Vendors or Direct Deposit for Payroll services from QuickBooks but hit your limits, you'd better have a back-up plan fast, because you aren't going to be able to use those services until you wade through a pile of paperwork and bullshit to get to a place where you can use them.

To me, this is a bit like buying a car that has a speedometer that goes up to 190, but the one day you need to go faster than, say 65, you find out the car won't do it.  It will crap out on you and leave you in the passing lane, trying to get past a line of trucks, with on-coming traffic in your lane, unable to actually get past the trucks, perhaps leading to an accident but certainly slowing you waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay down and unable to do with that car what you'd hoped to do.

Further, without ever discussing my need for higher limits with me, Intuit approved a lower limit than I had requested, thus ensuring that this service will continue to not work for me and forcing me to use wires or overnight checks to meet the needs of my clients.  Ironically, my ability to provide good "customer service" to my clients is being hampered by bad customer support from QuickBooks and Intuit.

Thus, if you are interested in either Direct Deposit for Payroll or Direct Deposit for Payroll from QuickBooks, I think it's important that you dig in deep at the start with them and insist on knowing the limits that have been set and, if those limits are unacceptable, pick the fight now, before you change your ways, because you'll find yourself quite frustrated and losing days and days of productivity when you are unable to accomplish what you hope to accomplish with these services.  So much for improving the way you do business!


P.S.  To whomever left the anonymous comment on the prior post (perhaps someone from Intuit?), please note that I do not permit anonymous posts.  You must at least provide your full name, city and state.