I’ve bumped into this ad campaign from the sub-branded Visa Signature Card a few different places on the web. The ad trots out a list of “things to do while you’re alive”, (a bit of a tautology, isn’t it – I think they didn’t want to have the word die appear next to Visa in any context,) which includes such gems as Explore the Seychelles, Experience the Magic of Broadway, and the ever popular See California wine country from a hot-air ballon.

I looked at this list, and then went to the Visa Signature Living site to see all 31 items, and I came away with a total meh.

In fact, my blah reaction to this ad campaign has inspired me to create a counter reaction in the form of a contest, which will all be explained in a bit.

Us and Them

This ad just served to highlight a vague feeling I’ve always had, that the modern world is partitioned into us and them. You’re reading this article, so there is an excellent chance that you are a member of the us side of the partitioned set.

Without getting too You Might Be a Redneck If on you, you know you’re one of us if:

  • You spend half of every holiday trip home performing tech support on your parent’s computer.
  • You spend two hours every day on your RSS feeds and you still can’t keep up.
  • Your pets make regular appearances on LOLCat sites.
  • When you give your S.O. a surprise birthday present, you accompany it with a Boom!


I’m not comfortable with the terms geek or nerd for the same reason Spike Lee doesn’t like the n-word. I know that people think they can take back a pejorative term and co-opt it to suit their terms, but it doesn’t work for me.

Who We Are

I talked about this with my editor-for-life Jon Erickson, and he dismissed it as a foolish question.

Jon Erickson

“The word is programmers” he proclaimed with finality. (When you’ve been editor-in-chief for longer than most of your authors have been alive, you tend to say a lot of things with either finality or exhaustion.)

But I don’t think that quite works. I look at people who post on sites like Lifehacker, or work at home as writers, or run organic restaurants, and I see people who might not know the first thing about programming, but still live in my world.

And I find that the people in my world are just as diverse as the people in the other world – politically, culturally, personality-wise, they’re all over the map. They’re just one key difference: The Z-Axis.

If we consider them as being spread out on the Cartesian plane, their world is two dimensional. They have an infinite amount of space to live in, but they don’t spend any time in the third dimension. They have no magnitude on the Z-axis. We do.

That doesn’t make us better, it just means we live in our own space. Ever feel that way?

The Contest

So when the ad whizzes who cooked up this campaign for Visa were busy coming up with their list, they were constrained by the fact that they live on the X-Y plane. As a result, I look at Visa’s list and say, yeah, some of those things seem okay, but to be honest, that’s not my life list of high points.

My goal is to engage you, the Z-Axis, to help me come up with a suitable list of life goals that will make our hearts pump a little faster, actually generate some excitement.


I’d like you to send me an email at the vaguely spam-proof address on the right with your suggestions for things that you’d like to do before you die. (There, we said it Visa. Die.) After I get enough contributions, I’ll run a fool-proof survey of some kind to pick the top of the list, and we’ll create the Z-Axis ad campaign to compete head to head with Visa.

Check back regularly, I’ll add to this list as I get contributions. Once I reach critical mass, the survey will kick off.

There are no prizes and no fame for having your choice make the cut, other than any thrill you get for recognition of your awareness of the Zeitgeist. But maybe that’s enough.

The List

This list is a work in progress, it will continue to grow until submissions are cut off.

  • Have lunch with Donald Knuth, paid for with the $327.68 check he writes you for finding a bug in TeX.
  • Have your startup bought by Google.
  • Master Perl 6.
  • Buy Google.
  • Create the number one click-through site for mesothelioma searches on the web.
  • Switch to Linux and never use another O/S or commercial app again.
  • Write a book for O’Reilly and get a cool animal.
  • Remove Perl from the face of the earth.
  • Discover an exploit that allows arbitrary code execution in every copy of Windows XP on earth. Use it for good.
  • Solve one of the six remaining Clay Millenium Problems and take home a cool million.
  • Break the impenetrable million point barrier on Donkey Kong.

Send me an email with your additions to the list, and please include your name and valid return address!

Visa’s List

Just for comparison’s sake, here is Visa’s list (with apologies to Baskin Robbins):

  1. Go on a safari.
  2. Do the Grand Tour.
  3. Take a wine tour through Italy.
  4. See all 28 of the 7 wonders of the world.
  5. Eat dinner prepared by a world-famous chef.
  6. See a legend up close.
  7. Go to the Tony awards.
  8. Swim the Blue Grotto in Capri.
  9. Watch the changing of the guard.
  10. Sing karaoke in Tokyo.
  11. Celebrate Carnevale in Venice.
  12. Shop the floating markets of Thailand.
  13. Enjoy New York City at Christmas time.
  14. Show your children the world.
  15. Experience the magic of Broadway.
  16. Take a private tour of MoMA.
  17. Find the Loch Ness Monster.
  18. See the monarch butterfly migration.
  19. Stay at the ICE HOTEL.
  20. Drink a Mint Julep at the Kentucky Derby.
  21. Train like an astronaut.
  22. Visit an active volcano.
  23. Take a week-long spa vacation.
  24. See California wine country from a hot-air balloon.
  25. Play Pinehurst No. 2.
  26. Cruise the Pacific Coast Highway in a convertible.
  27. Go heli-skiing.
  28. Kiss the Blarney Stone
  29. Enjoy afternoon tea at Claridge’s London.
  30. Explore the Seychelles.
  31. Learn how to pair wine and food.

Sorry, Visa, still pretty much meh.