Last summer, it seemed like the biggest threat to personal privacy was the surreptitious use of cookies and Web bugs by data aggregators to track our unsuspecting travels through the Internet. To give consumers a fighting chance by revealing exactly when we were being "bugged," the technical team at the Privacy Foundation, based at the University of Denver, released the free Bugnosis program. Installed on your PC, Bugnosis warns you whenever it detects a Web bug that could be sending personal information about you, your computer and/or your surfing habits to a third party, who could be doing who-knows-what with it. Although the software is available online, it isn't Mac compatible yet -- but don't bug them about it.


Just when you thought nobody had a couple of million bucks to risk on your hot new techno-idea, here comes Mobius Venture Capital Hotbank, just a microchip's throw from Boulder. Formerly Soft Bank Venture Capital, this fund's Web site claims $2.5 billion under management, with hundreds of the leading technology companies in its portfolio. The Hotbank incubator has been nurturing infant companies with facilities and advice from experienced entrepreneurs and other business experts since November 2000, for a fraction of the cost of now-defunct for-profit operations. If you want to pitch for funding, don't spend a dime on printing your business plan: Mobius accepts applications online only.


It's not easy finding a job if you have little work history and no skills, which is why Work Options for Women is such a great program. It teaches women coming off welfare how to work in restaurants, training them in everything from proper kitchen hygiene to baking and cooking. And what cooking! Jane Berryman, a renowned chef, is the teacher -- and people working at the Denver Department of Human Services office on Federal get to enjoy the benefits, since preparing food for the cafeteria there is part of WOW's homework.


Best Place to Save the Earth With Arts and Crafts

Creative Exchange

Much to the delight of teachers, scout leaders, artists and community groups throughout the metro area, Creative Exchange has found a new home at Buckingham Square. This nonprofit agency is dedicated to redirecting items discarded by area businesses into the hands of crafters, especially youngsters, and out of the landfill. Creative Exchange has provided materials and willing helpers to create items for the Cherry Creek Arts Festival, Capitol Hill People's Fair and other civic events, and regularly hosts school field trips, birthday parties and creative classes and workshops. Earth Week is almost like Christmas here. Educators and community groups can join the Exchange, and the rest of us can always throw a party, volunteer or shop on special days. Don't miss the enormous bins of, well, odd stuff that can put the perfect finishing touch on a project or start you thinking about a whole new one. Call or visit the Web site (www.creative-exchange.org) for details on how to donate.


More garden sculpture than birdhouse, each creation by Dianna Giese is a found-object tour de force, weathered-wood creations with architectural details fashioned out of rusted metal hinges, old bits of trellis, bent kitchen utensils, cast-off bolts and screws, cast-iron finials and the like. Like any dedicated garbage collector worth her salt, Giese just happened upon her birdhouse-building vocation by chance: She found a few neat things in the hills and put them together in an interesting way; before long, everyone who saw the results wanted one of their own. What a tweet.
Have yourself a merry little Christmas: Judy, Judy, Judy makes it easy with the re-gifting barrel it sets out every holiday season. Go ahead and help yourself to someone's white elephant -- but be sure to leave that awful reindeer sweater your Aunt Sue made for you for the next lucky customer who comes along. This is the gift that keeps on giving.
First of all, seed-beading, like many kinds of needlework, is no easy craft. Not only is it impossibly tiny work, but it also requires a near-maniacal attention for detail. In the sage words of somebody's grandmother, you could go blind. So figuring out how Louisville beader Hermann fashions her three-dimensional, six-inch beaded Christmas trees is simply confounding. Don't even try. Just know that they're as sweet as can be. Hermann also makes hair ornaments and jewelry and gilded bouquets that look perky poking out of a small glass bottle. (We found some last winter at the Denver Botanic Gardens' annual holiday sale.)


All thrift stores are not created equal. The merchandise at the Salvation Army's Northglenn location, just off 1-25, ranges from practical to playful, with prices that always remain within a safe zone. And though the store stocks a respectable selection of staples like furniture, clothing and housewares, its signature item is the church-style organ. The Army's south wall is lined with reasonably priced congregational castoffs, shellacked contraptions with delightful names like the Wurlitzer Wonder and Swinger 2000. Most of the store's organs have working pedals and programmed features, like the ubiquitous "rock beat" tempo control, which you are free to test. On a good day, one of the store's employees may even offer to deliver your new instrument to your home (for a fee). Better still, there's no waiting list.


What could be better on a sunny Saturday morning than this stroll through a wonderland of hand-picked junk and one-of-a-kind treasures? Spearheaded by the folks who run Details, a downtown Littleton bath and body shop, the market debuted last summer to delighted crowds, and this year expands from four to five shopping opportunities, offered on the first Saturday of the month, from May through September. And it's a small but classic market, with a little bit of everything -- from the perfect sturdy covered cake platter to a hand-sewn cotton girl's pinafore in aqua, festooned with purple flowers, for only four bucks. What else? The usual what-have-you, including garden ornaments, cheerful salt-and-peppers in the shape of a family of robins, rustic handcrafts, old and new jewelry and vintage linens are only a few of the things that await patient shoppers. Wear a sun hat, as it can get warm on a summer day, but if you start to fade, you can always duck into Details or truck down Main to Olde Town Antiques for indoor browsing.


Market founder Leslie Lee of the Cherry Creek North shop Willow Antiques says last year's early-September cold snap put a damper on this event's debut, but face it: It's an opportunity just begging to happen, a classy array of local and out-of-town dealers offering high-end jewelry, pieces of eight and gold doubloons, cabin furniture, shabby chic furnishings, lacy christening gowns, quilts and camp blankets, prints, and a little of everything under the sun in outdoor booths at a convenient and central location. So, Lee notes, the market will go on, bigger and better, expanding to two sessions this year -- one at the end of May and the other in early September.


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