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March 24, 2008

An outline? Simple. I like it. (6)

Given that I am not an architecture student and have very little (read: no) experience in design, I must say that paying so much attention to the visual aesthetic of the presentation style, that is, the format, is a bit foreign to me. I had to have my group members explain to me what exactly a design portfolio was. Despite my lack of knowledge as to how one might go about designing a project or portfolio (I think I may leave most of that to my colleagues better versed in the field) I can see clearly why it is that the style of documentation comes to bear with such importance. After seeing the sample portfolios presented in class, it is clear how much of an impact design can have on understanding and accessibility. There is a marked difference between a standard textbook and a design portfolio. Upon opening a textbook, one is often daunted, overcome with a sense of fearful apprehension, and repulsed at the sheer volume of text. Indeed, when pitted against a college textbook, one’s prospects are grim. You’ve lost before you’ve even begun. Upon opening a design portfolio, however, one is comforted by generous tracts of white space and, of course, plenty of pictures with concise captions. You don’t dread opening it, but are instead encouraged, even eager. Effective design actually aids in the consumption and assimilation of knowledge by making it more accessible and, hopefully, more enjoyable. So the importance of design is not lost on this otherwise design not-so-savvy mind. All that having been said, though, we invariably come back to the fact that I am not design savvy.

Included below is the information for which I am responsible and, frankly, I think presenting it as it appears (with proper indentations and formatting, and with as yet unrealized revision and polish––and images, of course) would be appropriate. The commonplace outline, used as a schematic template for innumerable ninth grade English compositions (5 paragraph essays, anyone?), though simple and straightforward, is an effective design solution for those very reasons. The problem is clearly stated. The policies are not buried in reams of impertinent and obfuscatory text. The design, though common and arguably uninspired, is reliable and effective. Bold-faced and bulleted. Looks good to me.

Goal 8: Develop a global partnership for development
•In cooperation with pharmaceutical companies, provide access to affordable essential drugs in developing countries

I. Problem
A. Report on the Global HIV/AIDS epidemic (UNAIDS - 2002)
1) - 40 million people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide
- 37.1 million of which are adults, 3 million of which are children (under 15 years of age)
- 3 million annual deaths
2) 1/3 of the world’s population does not have regular access to affordable medicine
3) - Annual AIDS treatment regimen using generic drugs from India costs US$350
- Annual AIDS treatment regimen using name-brand US drugs costs US$1200

II. Policy
A. 1994 WTO-TRIPs Agreement (Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights)
1) significantly strengthens patent protection standards
a. phased implementation allows undeveloped and under-developed countries more time to adopt new rules
b. Pharmaceuticals cannot be excluded from patentability
2) Developing countries have customarily excluded drugs from the patent process to reduce costs
B. Doha Declaration on the TRIPs Agreement and Public Health
1) Intellectual property rights should not infringe on public health

III. Pharmaceutical Company Objections
A. Pharmaceutical Manufacturers’ Association (PMA) of South America
1) organization representing 39 leading drug companies filed suit against South Africa for provisions of the 1997 Medicines Act that improved access to generic medicines
2) In response to Oxfam’s Cut the cost program, the PMA withdrew their challenge
B. Novartis
1) the Swiss pharmaceutical company filed suit against India in respect to their patent laws and to appeal the rejection of a patent for a cancer drug
2) complaint dismissed by Indian court in Aug. 2007

March 6, 2008

On the Verge

Much as I’d like to think I exist wholly in and of myself, that I am guided in action, as it were, by some internal governing principle, that my essence, my nature is unequivocal and exists irrespective of my surroundings, I cannot deny the influence the built environment has on me, at least insofar as I am defined by my interaction with it and, in the case that follows, the lessons I derive from it.


There is one feature of my immediate environment that has come to bear quite heavily in the past six or seven months, that being the 35W bridge collapse and subsequent reconstruction project. Though I cannot say clearly or distinctly what it is that has affected me, I can at least relate my experiences and observations. On the evening on August 1st, 2007, three friends and I were just crossing back into Minnesota from a concert we’d been to at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre outside of Denver –– Daft Punk, if you’re at all interested. A little while after 6:00 PM we turned the radio on to MPR and heard something about a bridge –– some kind of collapse, though we didn’t think much of it at the time. We hadn’t caught the beginning, so we were left to speculate half-heartedly. Some sparsely traveled highway overpass or some other such thing. But when they finally did that whole “If you’re just joining us...? deal and we were abruptly awakened. Like so many other people, we said to ourselves, hey, I’ve been over that, just last week or just last month or last year. I thought of calling some friends who I knew were on campus during the summer, but I didn’t. I should have, though.

Last year we’d always walk to a friend’s fraternity by way of the 10th Avenue Bridge, and on the way back we’d take some time to admire the night-time city lights. We barely even noticed the bridge that ran parallel, not more than the width of a city block away –– less, probably. It was part of the image. It was a permanent fixture. Whether the leaves were falling or the snow was drifting, it was always there, underneath, waiting to be uncovered, waiting to be covered, always waiting, it seemed, for something. It was solid, it was, like I had once conceived of myself, unequivocal. But it was gone. The wait was over. We couldn’t quite wrap ourselves around that.

When I got home after letting off my friends, I sat and watched the news for two or three hours. I was trying to get a glimpse of my apartment building –– it’s on 4th Street, probably what amounts to two blocks up 35 from the bridge. Now, just over seven months later, the foundations have long since been poured and the pillars erected. Most recently they’ve been grading slopes here on the north side and driving piles along the embankment where the entrance ramp used to be. It’s rising alright, but it’s not what it was before. There was a bridge of green steel that spanned the Mississippi for 40 years, and it’s gone. What few incoherent fragments remain, marred by orange paint and covered in snow, lie in an open grave under the Washington Avenue Bridge, neglected, no longer able to bridge the waters of the Mississippi River.


All I can think of are delicacy and transience –– the precariousness of our whole edifice. The realization that we are always on the verge. The verge of what, I cannot say, but I am certain that we are on the verge –– the verge of collapse, perhaps, or the verge of happiness, the verge of sadness, the verge of peace, the verge of war –– like we’re walking along the edge of a straight-razor, a toe’s width and a wobble from falling or slicing ourselves down the middle.