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Learn a Thing or Two : Courses at local schools teach students a variety of new skills--from writing crime novels to cleaning elephants.

October 07, 1994|JOHN MORELL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; John Morell is a regular contributor to The Times

For many people, mention the word school and they'll grimace. Everyone's had bad experiences with sadistic third-grade teachers, droning algebra lectures in high school or late-night cram sessions in college.

But learning doesn't have to invoke such painful memories. There are many courses in a range of subjects offered locally that can further our careers or simply keep the kids entertained.

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THE MYSTERY OF WRITING: You've always known you were destined to be the next John Grisham or Joseph Wambaugh, but the next big crime novel is gathering dust inside your head. The problem? How do you write about cops and robbers if the only brush you've had with the law is a parking ticket?

In Scene of the Crime, you'll learn the nitty-gritty of how police officers and detectives go about their work: an officer's typical day, the techniques and procedures for investigating murder, sex crimes and other mayhem, and how a policeman talks--so you can fine-tune your dialogue.

Learning Tree University. $39. 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 22.

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STAMP FUN: In Stamp Art and Holiday Stamp Art, kids from 9 to 13 discover how to make their own rubber stamps, and how to use masking, markers, glittering and embossing to design their own cards, invitations and stationery. Parents: Watch your white walls after the kids come home!

Pierce College Extension. Stamp Art is $21 plus $3 materials fee. Holiday Stamp Art is $21 plus $6 materials fee. Stamp Art is from 9 to 11 a.m. or noon to 2 p.m. Oct. 15. Holiday Stamp Art is 9 to 11 a.m. Nov. 5.

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FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE: If the spectacular collision between Jupiter and Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 earlier this year has piqued your interest in the heavens, here's your chance to keep up, so to speak. Exploring the Autumn Sky will show you what constellations can be seen in the fall, the different phases of the moon and some of the more interesting objects in the universe, such as binary stars and star clusters.

You'll see the images of the nighttime skies in the Cal State Northridge Planetarium, and you'll also get a chance to take a gander through the stellar telescope on campus.

Cal State Northridge , Ext . 75. 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. Oct. 14, 21 and 28.

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CHECK IT OUT: Have those "Magnum P.I." reruns inspired you to investigate a mystery in your life? Unfortunately, the heart of investigative work doesn't involve chasing people around Hawaii in a Ferrari, the way Tom Selleck did it. Digging up information can involve a lot of frustrating paperwork and long hours at City Hall, but it can be made easier by knowing how.

In How to Be Your Own Private Investigator, you can learn how the professional gumshoe accesses public and private information resources, and how to do asset searches and background investigations.

You'll find out about computer data base research and how to get information from confidential sources and from credit-reporting agencies and how to sort through all this data to get the answers you need.

ANOTHER CLASS: Researching Public Records is also helpful for those who want to protect their rights in the information age.

Los Angeles Valley College, Community Services Program. Private Investigator class is $35 plus a $15 materials fee. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 22. Public Records class is $15 plus a $15 materials fee. 7 to 10 p.m. Dec. 1.

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MAKE YOUR BUSINESS BIG: Let's face it, the economy isn't great; your company's sales are down, and you don't have much of a budget for the advertising that could increase your revenues. But there are ways to get the word out that you're here and ready for business.

In 101 Ways to Promote a Business With Little or No Money, you'll find out how to successfully market your service or product on a shoestring budget, and the difference between good and bad marketing.

Pierce College Extension. $35 plus a $15 materials fee. 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Nov. 19.

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REPUBLICAN HEAVEN: Are you one of those people who are thoroughly enthralled by pachyderms? Even if you're just a simple nature lover, you'll probably enjoy Elephant Encounter. Here you'll not only learn about how elephants live and are revered in various cultures, but you'll also get a chance to participate in the feeding and grooming of one of these behemoths.

Learning Tree University. $89; discount for couples, $159. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 22.

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BIRDLAND: If you've eaten so much chicken lately that you're beginning to cluck, this may be the course for you. What to Do With All That Chicken is a companion to an earlier class on how to make chicken soup, but it can be taken separately.

You'll learn how to make dishes such as Chinese chicken and mushroom salad, Southwestern chicken salad with jicama and green chilies, and Middle Eastern chicken salad pilaf. The emphasis is on cuisine that adds a touch of the exotic to your weekly menus, but is easy to put together.

Cal State Northridge Extension. $25 plus $10 materials fee. 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Oct. 19.

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