The Eclectic Quill

Website of Joshua McGee


“Too Dangerous” to Sell in the United States


Reloading your Amazon gift card balance with an American Express prepaid card

Amazon offers a simple way to turn the balance on prepaid credit cards (including gift cards) into Amazon store credit: just go to their "Reload Your Balance" page and enter your prepaid card as a payment method.  This works perfectly for Visa- and MasterCard-branded gift cards.  But there's a weird behavior with AmEx cards.

The way Amazon reloads your balance is kind of funky: they make a test charge of $1, which places a temporary hold on those funds.  Then they try to bill the card for the amount of money you requested.  But because there's a hold on one dollar of it, the charge won't go through, due to insufficient funds.

So, if you want to use a prepaid AmEx card to reload your Amazon balance, you need to add (at most) $1 less than the balance on the card.

If you've ended up at this page, you've probably already tried and failed to reload your balance with an American Express card at least once, so it's important to note that these $1 holds are cumulative.  If you have a $100 gift card and have tried to add $100 in credit, the $1 hold is still in place, so your available balance is now $99.  If you tried it twice, it's now $98, and so on.  So you either need to wait a few business days for the holds to expire (so that you can purchase $99 in credit), or subtract $1 for each time you have tried and failed.

What are you supposed to do with a $1 balance on your prepaid American Express card?  Amazon doesn't (as of this writing) allow you to split payment methods at checkout, so if you want to use the full balance at Amazon, you need to leave precisely enough money on the card to buy an item you want; buy a gift card for the value of the remaining balance; wait for the $1 hold to clear; and then buy the original item.

I'm told that some retailers' self-checkout lanes allow you to split payment methods (Walmart is apparently one) so you could use that $1 at another retailer.  But unless you do some mathematical jiujitsu, you're going to be leaving a dollar on the table if you try to reload your Amazon gift card balance with a prepaid American Express card.


The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Donald Trump

Life, the Universe, and Everything: 42
Death, a Fantasy World, and Nothingness: 45


Rhubarb-Lime Marmalade with Ginger

This piquant sweet-and-sour marmalade combines fresh limes and rhubarb with a bit of ginger zing.  It is somewhat labor-intensive, but adds a brilliant zest to your morning toast.  By Joshua McGee.

Rhubarb-Lime Marmalade with Ginger by Joshua McGee


  • 600g fresh, unblemished limes, plus more for juice
  • 400g trimmed rhubarb stalks
  • 1.4 liters of filtered water
  • 1700g granulated white sugar
  • 2cm length of ginger rhizome, peeled and cut into four slices


  • Heavy medium stock pot
  • Large stock pot
  • Silicone spoon and ladle
  • 5 – 6 pint (½ liter) canning jars with lids and rings
  • Circular rack, or clean kitchen towel, for jar sterilization
  • Citrus reamer or citrus press
  • Mandoline (optional)
  • Very sharp knife

Scrub limes with a vegetable brush (yes, even if they are labeled as organic).  Cut in half and juice with a reamer or press.

Peel membrane off of rhubarb stalks and slice, crosswise, as thinly as possible.  You can use your mandoline's thinnest setting, or spend a lot of time and patience with a very sharp knife.  Place in a large glass bowl.

Cut the pointed tips off of the lime halves and discard the tips.  Cut the lime halves in half again, and slice thinly.  Add to the glass bowl.

Measure the volume of your lime juice, then add the juice of more limes until the volume of lime juice is 600ml (you can discard the peels of these limes.)

Add the lime juice, water, and ginger to the bowl and stir.  Transfer to heavy pot.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Cover pot and reduce heat to lowest setting.  Simmer for one hour to soften lime peels and rhubarb.  Remove ginger slices.

Slowly stir in sugar, at low temperature, until dissolved (this may take up to ten minutes).  Increase heat to medium-high again; bring syrup mixture to a boil; and boil uncovered at medium-high heat for 45 minutes – 1 hour, stirring frequently (at least every five minutes) to keep the sugar from sticking to the bottom of the pot.

While the marmalade is cooking, sterilize your canning jars in the large pot via water immersion.  The steps for sterilizing and canning are beyond the scope of this post, but there are plenty of guides online.

Once the boiling marmalade reaches 105°C on a candy thermometer, stir thoroughly, extinguish flame, and ladle into your sterilized jars.  Apply lids and rings (per a reliable guide) and process in boiling water for five minutes.  Remove and set jars aside to cool for 24 hours at room temperature, following all the normal safety steps and checks.


Clippit on Donald Trump: Original Source

"Hi!  It looks like you are trying to support Donald Trump's policies.  Would you like me to enable Caps Lock and disable spell check?"

My little doodle started spreading like wildfire after I posted it to Facebook on May 16th, 2017.  I'm guessing someone is going to be googling for the original creator, so I'm putting this post up here.

The image above is the unmodified, full-size PNG version.  If you want to attribute it, please credit @McGeekiest and link either to or