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academics

Focusing on a wide variety of ecological concerns, the American Museum of Natural History offers ongoing lectures and workshops on topics as diverse as coral bleaching in the Bahamas to whale watching in Massachusetts. In addition, the museum holds seminars on infectious diseases in the city, indigenous jewelry making, and arts from around the world, among others. Local university professors also hold astronomy and physics classes in the evening, including the upcoming "Status of Pluto: Is It Really a Planet?" Most lectures cost $12 each. For more information, call 769-5000.

Does the city that never sleeps leave you with a clear case of information overload? Find yourself grappling to decide which play to see, movie to catch, or restaurant to dine at? The "Brain Gym," a class offered on weekends by CUNY's Baruch College, will show you how to flex your mental muscles and sift through information rapidly and comprehensively. Other courses offered by Baruch include language immersion, creative development, and computer skills programs. Held on evenings and weekends, the classes start at $35. For more information call 802-5600 or see http://cstudies.baruch.cuny.edu.

Is someone close to you prone to making aggravatingly cryptic remarks that drive you up the wall? Well, analyze this! Learn how to decode their indecipherables over the summer by registering at the Center for Modern Psychoanalytic Studies (260-7050). Workshops run two to four weeks in June and range in price from $50 to $100 each .Ginger Otis

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computers

Squash the Y2K bug before it attacks! With the prospect of obliterated files, disabled finances, and crippled computer games only eight months away, you should be running to the nearest year-2000 computer-protection course. To help make the millennium transition worry-free, The Learning Annex (371-0820) is offering a quick preparation seminar on April 28 for about $40.

What should I do if my computer crashes? How can I manipulate photographs and compose my own digital artwork? These and other basic questions will be answered at the Seminar Center's "Computer Series." Classes are ongoing and cost $189 for members and $199 for nonmembers. For more information, call 655-0077.

Does the thought of your corporate-climbing colleagues leave you shedding tears every happy hour? Then trade in your beer money for after-work classes at the Universal Business and Media School (360-1210), which was founded to serve underprivileged minorities. Sharpen your software, Internet, and HTML skills and, by promotion time, you might be serving up some stiff competition for the window office. Classes run "all the time" and are 15 hours. Karen Mahabir

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cooking

Learn how to toss the "Best Dressed Salads" at The Natural Gourmet Institute for Food and Health's one-day workshop. The three-hour class, taught by Myra Kornfeld, is on April 17 and costs $65. Registration will be open until then. For more information, call 645-5170 or see www.naturalgourmetschool.com.

Why should mothers spend their honorary day over a stove? Because, at the New School, you and your little one can cook until your heart's content without having to wash the dishes. Held on May 9, "Moms and Kids Cook Together on Mother's Day" costs $35 per person and $15 for material fees. For more information, call 229-5690.

Go on a caffeine craze at The Seminar Center (655-0077) and learn what it takes to "Own Your Own Coffee Bar." While you daydream of how many points your trendy franchise will rack up in Zagat's, the center will grind out a dozen or so techniques to keep your café up and running. The three-hour class will be held on April 21 and June 2 and costs $38. — Jazell Andujar

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dance

An 8000-square-foot, four-studio complex in Soho, the Abizaid Arts: World Dance and Fitness Studio (941-8480) was started by Carol Abizaid, known for the body alignment and creative movement program she developed for women, injured athletes, and dancers. In addition to modern, ballet, jazz, and hip hop, the studio conducts a range of classes with an emphasis on African styles. Classes are accompanied by live percussion and cost from $11 to $13 each, with the option to purchase discounted five-, 10-, and 20-class cards.

With offerings at the basic, intermediate, and advanced levels, the New Dance Group Arts Center (719-2733) has a slew of open classes, including "Hip Hop Flavors," "Funk Fusion," "Capoeira," "Martial Arts," "Body Conditioning," and "Theatre Dance." NDGAC evolved from the New Dance Group Studio, which was founded in 1932 and focused on innovative methodology in performance and education. Single classes cost $10.

Currently run by Fazil Cengiz, the Times Circle Rehearsal Studios is one of the oldest rehearsal studios in the city and was once graced by the likes of Fred Astaire. Although some at the studio admit that it's lost a bit of glitz and sits in a "seedy part of town," an impressive number of top-flight instructors rent teaching space here. The emphasis is on Middle Eastern dance and flamenco, but classes in hip hop, house, argentinian, tango, tap dance, and mime are also offered. With 25 regular teachers, and another five to 10 guest teachers, Times Circle is an excellent, affordable resource at about $15 per session. Classes at all levels of expertise begin in the evening. For details, call 541-4455 or 245-9504. Hillary Chute

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