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Off Limits

Mad magazine couldn't come up with a better prank than what's now posted on the http://coloradicals.org Web site. While Denver police chief Gerry Whitman scrounges through detectives' drawers at the DPD's so-called Intelligence Bureau, trying to round up every last scrap of paper testifying to the bureau's surveillance of civilians, civilians have been doing their own surveillance of the Denver cops.

"We thought it only fair that if they could keep files on us, we could keep files on THEM," members of the Mile High Resistance explain on the site. And in the Colorado Activists' Files, they offer an assortment of snapshots of "individuals seen acting suspicious at large and local protests and demonstrations, thus they are deemed suspected infiltrators."

With this weekend's Columbus Day protests coming right up, there's no time like the present to check out this rogues' gallery of guys wearing ill-fitting suits -- or earpieces, an even bigger giveaway. That's what tripped up Agent #8 at last May's ICC protest. (Was that pepper spray in his pocket, or was he just glad to see us?)

"Stay vigilant," urges the site. "Keep your eyes open for anything unusual, and if you see an undercover cop in Colorado, get a picture of them and send it to us."


House party: National Public Radio host Scott Simon yukked it up in his September 28 Weekend Edition report on the Solar Decathlon, then under way on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Fourteen teams of college students were building solar houses -- "less a subdivision than a competition," he pointed out -- that would then be judged for the "most efficient and effective solar-powered living space."

After talking to students from several eggheaded institutions, Simon dropped by the house being constructed by the University of Colorado team. "In my day, CU-Boulder used to be a huge party school," he observed. "I wonder if you drop a few six-packs there if they lose the motivation."

A fellow with a tattoo on his belly invited Simon inside, where he found not brewskis, but CU students "lifting some heavy metal as well as listening to it." Impressed by their efforts, Simon conceded, "I was wrong to make jokes about the scholarship of students at the University of Colorado at Boulder."

Just how wrong became clear on October 5, when the CU squad, composed of members of the architecture and engineering schools, got the last laugh: Their solar house took first place in the week-long competition.

"We were thrilled to see the team do so well," says Carol Rowe, spokeswoman for the engineering school, "and we followed them several times a day." (You can follow their efforts, too, at http://solar.colorado.edu/.)

After their victory, the students began dismantling the 800-square-foot house, which is being shipped back to Boulder. "We're trying to figure out a location for it right now," Rowe says. "We're hoping to find a spot on the campus where people can see it and learn about renewable energy."

In the meantime, CU is feeling pretty renewed by the victory. "It was a collaboration between engineering and architecture, which was one of the reasons that they came up with the winning design," Rowe explains. "It balanced aesthetics with engineering, so it not only looks good -- like the kind of home that people would want to live in -- but performs well in terms of energy-efficient features."

The Solar Decathlon win came just a month after a more ignominious honor: CU again made the list of top-ten party schools. "The juxtaposition is interesting," says Rowe. "I wonder if we'll hear a follow-up report from Scott Simon."


Dribble, dribble: First in line outside the Pepsi Center's locked doors for last Saturday's Denver Nuggets single-game ticket lottery was a middle-aged woman seated in a star-spangled folding chair, wearing a hat that read: "I'm not opinionated, I'm just always right."

Maybe not.

Little Miss Can't Be Wrong confided that she'd arrived between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. to secure pole position, even though her purchasing preference would be decided by chance drawing, not her place in line. But at least she didn't have much competition.

Last October, with Michael Jordan coming out of his second retirement, several hundred NBA fans braved the October chill to take their chances on the Nuggets. This year, after His Airness shot a lackluster two-for-seven during his team's rout of the Nugs last March -- and after GM Kiki Vandeweghe traded away the core of last year's team -- the crowd numbered only nineteen.

Public relations were definitely in order. First came the doughnuts.

"Would you like a Krispy Kreme?" asked an usher wearing a Nuggets uniform. "How about a whole box?"

Orange juice, anyone? Pocket schedules? Nuggets caps for the first eight lottery winners?

A fast survey of the crowd revealed that most people were there to buy tickets for three Nuggets home games, and those three games only: two against the three-peat world champion Los Angeles Lakers and one against Jordan's Washington Wizards on March 30. If Saturday morning's lottery was any indication, Denver NBA fans can look forward to another season of pathetically few home-game sellouts, which means another season of bounty in the 19,099-seat arena, with good tickets available for half price from scalpers who shiver in the snow, eager to make deals.

"The Nuggets are tough at home," said the only fan in line admitting plans to purchase one of the "Ten-Games-and-Get-the-Lakers-Free" packages. "I only saw them get blown out like four or five times last season."

At nine in the morning, Bubba the usher finally started handing out lottery tickets instead of fried dough. At ten, the newly reordered line was herded through the door. The first eight people, wearing new Nuggets hats, took their places at eight ticket windows.

Then came the giants. And the TV cameras, filming the "surprise guest appearance" of the Nuggets players, whose presence transformed a bleak morning errand into an autograph session.

Center Juwan Howard wagged his finger at a fan wearing a Notre Dame jersey.

"Don't bring that in here," chided the charismatic former Michigan star. Howard was joined behind the tills by teammates James Posey and Chris Andersen. The recently acquired Marcus Camby worked the crowd along with fan favorite Ryan Bowen, the monster dunking Donnell Harvey and rookie acquisitions Nikoloz Tskitishvili (say it five times fast) and Nene Hilario. The latter two arrived with translators.

Nearly lost amid his towering multi-millionaire charges was new Nuggets head coach Jeff Bzdelik, an intense, five-foot-something blue-eyed fellow who introduced himself to every could-be fan in the building like a politician glad-handing his way through a whistle-stop.

Bzdelik needs all the support he can get. Faced with one of the strongest Western Conferences in the NBA while armed with a one-time All-Star yet to earn his $20.6 million salary (Howard); a bruised and fragile center (Camby); six rookies, two of whom are still learning English; and an apparently hemorrhaging fan base, Bzdelik's team may be destined for the same fate as the nineteen fans who munched doughnuts outside the Pepsi Center: a high place in a lottery.


Dinner bell: Anyone who's thinking about being anyone political showed up at Fiesta Colorado 2002, the Denver Hispanic Chamber of Commerce celebration this past Saturday night. The black-tied bunch included everyone from Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell to U.S. Senate hopeful Tom Strickland to gubernatorial no-hope Rollie Heath to 7th Congressional District candidate Bob Beauprez to incumbent Colorado treasurer Mike Coffman to incumbent Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar (who's actually Hispanic) to mayoral wannabes Don Mares (ditto) and Ari Zavaras -- who's Greek, not Hispanic, but occasionally even this group gets confused. (Not in the crowd: Steve Kaplan, city attorney under former Denver mayor Federico Peña, who's reportedly dropped the idea of running for mayor himself.)

The lineup was so full of heavy-hitters that the evening's hosts had to offer a second round of VIP welcomes after they missed a few in the first round. (Sorry about that, RTD boardmember Gloria Holliday.)

The state's most heated competition, however, was noted only on a scrawled message on the outside of the envelope holding the tickets for the Rocky Mountain News table. "Do not," it warned, "seat near the Denver Post."


An elephant never forgets (but people do): In the summer of 2001, the Denver Zoo's big -- if short-lived -- attraction was the Elephant Walk, which quickly turned into the Elephant Stampede when Hope the Elephant escaped from the bathing area and ran willy-nilly around the facility. Hope, who'd been borrowed for the season, was soon shipped back to California; at the end of the summer, baby Amigo followed.

And now it's adios, Amigo. The four-year-old pachyderm packed it in this summer, done in not by another stampede, but by his own twisted intestines. "It happens occasionally," says the Denver Zoo's Angela Baier. "It's rare, but not unusual."

But there's a silver lining to this cloud. Baier says that Hope, who was Amigo's aunt, has settled down in California and is now breeding.


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