Good News, Mad News The Center for the Strange has released its predictions for the year, and according to the 285 U.S. witches in the survey (which has an error factor of plus or minus one eye of newt): Richard Nixon will write a best-selling erotic novel; Cap Weinberger will share the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize with Prince; there will be spot shortages of canned ravioli, Arnold Schwarzenegger dolls and jogging shorts; and Ted Turner will make a buy-out bid for an unnamed Third World country. The good news? The Center for the Strange is in New York City. Here's the Rub If you're fed up with newscasts and news columns that feature some sneery little item about what those crazy hot-tubbing Californians are up to these days, don't read any further. Many Eastern Seaboard states have had lotteries for years, but it took a Lodi welder and a Lodi truck driver to develop and produce the indispensable lottery tool--one to scratch off the silvery paste that conceals the numbers. Krugerrands and lacquered fingernails, it seems, won't do. The invention is a green plastic scraper, shaped like the state of California, to use to rub your way to riches. Stan W. Pettijohn and John Krueg have already sold more than 200,000 of their brainchild statewide--through convenience stores, drugstores, even at a Stockton dry cleaner's, and soon to be in Los Angeles. Welder-cum-inventor Pettijohn declares of his inspiration: "It's one of those things where if you don't do it, somebody else will." His partner, Krueg, says, "We couldn't make any money on the lottery so we came up with this." It sells for 69 cents, including key chain, under the catchy name California Lottery Ticket Scraper, and has a bas-relief "L" in the middle--"for Lodi. Or luck," Krueg says. Close Encounters of the Third Grade The red-checkered tablecloths glow as the lights of L.A. glimmer through the window. The dinner guests are seated, the entree is brought out: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. This is dinner theater for people with 8 o'clock bedtimes: grade-school children. Once a month, in the mercifully preserved downtown public library, children bring their own "picnics," the staff uncorks a can of vintage fruit punch, and a free dinner-theater presentation unfolds. The 45-minute floor show includes a storyteller, little literature such as "Treasure Island," folk dancers, magicians or, recently, classical Spanish dances: villanas, alegrias and flamenco music. The Friends of the Children's Department foot the bill, and in case you think this isn't the ne plus ultra, reservations are advised; call (213) 612-3261.