Valentine's Day "Joke"

Karen loved rainbows!

On February 12, 1999, a jokester sent a Valentine's Day card to a friend.  It was intended as a joke, but it was really a vicious and thoughtless attack on the memory of a very dear and beloved woman who had died from a devastating mitochondrial-related medical disorder.  This woman had left behind in grief, a husband and a very much loved son.

Unbeknownst to the sender, the ecard company's webserver sent the receipt to the false address they had created using the woman's family's domain name.  (The ecard company graciously removed the offending card immediately upon learning of its placement at their website.)  The receipt was deposited in the the husband's mailbox.

As the recipient of the receipt, I was mystified.  Why would this particular member of that group have received an ecard, signed as from me, that I had not created and sent?  My son heard me exclaim to myself "An ecard?", and quietly walked up behind me to observe the ecard as I linked to its webpage.  I sincerely wish that I had noticed him behind me as it loaded.

The ecard looked innocent enough at first.  The actual text created by it's sender was concealed at the bottom of the page by a series of very short paragraphs containing non-breaking spaces in the ecard's HMTL coding.  Then I paged down...

I promised my son that I would not record his reaction here to the content of the ecard.  Suffice it to say that, at that particular moment, it was clearly an act of God's grace that the sender was very far away by many miles when I traced the electronic trail that the sender had left on the Internet.

The card was created on February 12, 1999 at 19:27:13 EST(?), with the author accessing the the ecard service from DNS#, a server currently owned and maintained by:

Performance Systems International (NET-PSINETA)
510 Huntmar Park Drive
Herndon, VA 22070

I was assisted by a dedicated group of web professionals in further investigation that lead to a specific Performance Systems International (PSI) "Super Hub" in a northwestern state in the USA, then to a small specific geographical area in that state.  I lacked the legal and financial resources to obtain specific ISP log files, and dropped the investigation at that point.

Here is the offending text from the ecard:

Ecard title: " Missing you on Valentine's day "

To: [Removed For Confidenciality, "RFC".]

[Ecard company's poem and graphic removed for confidenciality.]

Body of sender's text message:

Curl up with me and my dead wife's ashes...

Oh [RFC], since the first day I *met* you on-line, I knew it was to be.
My bunny Peter even uttered your name with his last dying breath.
Please come to me and I will whisper sweet administrivia in your ear..

(Signed:) Mike Jackson

Reply to: <ILoveYou[RFC]>
(False return address.)

Here is why I personally found the ecard to be so highly offensive:

All but the second sentence were altered excerpts from messages posted to the MMRD List, the listserv that I sponsored and administered for folks dealing with michondrial-related disorders.  It was a clear violation of the List Bylaws to republish any of the MMRD List's content without permission, let alone to use it to create such inappropriate humor.  (Later, after it's untimely demise, I replaced the "MMRD List" with the "Mike-L List".)

The second sentence reflected feelings for the recipient that I never had experienced, expressed, or implied in any manner.  Moreover, the ecard had been purposefully intended to appear as if it had been conceived, written and sent by me; rather than by the "jokester" who was actually responsible for it.

My son and I, especially my son, have developed a strong attachment to our Eastern Cottontail rescue bunny.  They normally do not do well in captivity, and we had been blessed by his recovery from a serious injury and his gradual adjustment from "wild bun" to "family member". (Yes, it is legal to have a pet Eastern Cottontail in the State of Georgia.)

As you might expect, with a double attack to both his mother and his beloved pet, my son was devastated by the content of the ecard.

I was... well, "not pleased" with the ecard or that it had been sent in my name using my domain.  I was beyond "not pleased" with its effect on my son's well-being.

Over the course of two years the ecard had been preceded, and then followed, by a variety of attacks through email and through some of the more popular Internet-based forums.  The effect of the actions of these few disgruntled folk on the rest of the mitochondrial community (as well as on themselves) was unfortunate.  As a result of these incidents, and their effect on myself and my son, I eventually closed down the MELAS Online Network in August of 1999, and it's listservs the following October.

In what might be considered a result of God's justice, and possibly just a wee bit of His sense of humor, the ecard eventually turned to our benefit.  After fruitlessly trying to get them to cease their harassments, I offered to post the ecard here on the JFW in its entirety (presented with the details of the DNS trace investigation) along with their clearly indicated endorsement of its publication.  This had quite a quieting effect on the small group responsible for the most of the mitochondrial community's unrest.  ... and, to be honest, it doesn't hurt to set your email program to automatically delete some folk's email. <smile>

The mitochondrial community has seen much growth since 1989, and even more in the last year.  It is my most sincere hope that, now and in the future, the mito community will find harmony and success in their united efforts to be heard by the world.

"Godspeed" to us all.

- Mike Jackson
(Updated: 05-29-02)

Karen loved rainbows!

Copyright © 2000 Michael Jackson
All Rights Reserved

Karen loved rainbows!

Ah, Eustace. What a way to learn humility. Thanks for the story, Jack.

Karen loved rainbows!

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