Class Conscious

Live and learn with some of Houston's most entertaining courses

His class will give you tips on how to play the game and promote yourself in a "professional and ethical way" to improve your standing in the nine-to-five pecking order -- even if it means dealing with that cubicle dweller you really, really despise. "If you don't like someone, don't get them in your network. But you can still deal with them -- just be up front about your differences," Sarmiento says. And who knows? The two of you might end up making out at next year's office Christmas party.

Classes will be held February 1 and March 29; $25, plus $5 for materials.

After the spiked eggnog wears off, do you think that person is right for a longer-term relationship? Take an analytical approach in "How to Evaluate a Potential Spouse." The class will look at things that can destroy a marriage -- including one biggie: "Many people are attracted romantically to others that they would never marry," says instructor Tom Kennedy.

He adds that potential "deadly differences" include finances, personality and romantic and sexual expectations. Even in successful, long-term marriages, couples aren't always "happy" or "in love" at all times. Maybe that has something to do with one basic rift between the sexes: "Women prefer much more romance than men do," he notes. "And men prefer much more sex than women do." Really?

For information about these or other Leisure Learning Unlimited classes, or to request a catalog, call 713-529-4414 or visit www.llu.com. Rice University School of Continuing Studies

If your New Year's resolution is to turn your brain from mush to the sharp, keen gray glob you know it can be, try "Mental Gymnastics to Boost Brainpower and Communication Skills," even if you've never spent a minute on the parallel bars. And don't believe that "we only use 10 percent of our brains" bull. "That's just misinformation -- the human brain is active at all times, even during sleep," says instructor Bernard Patten. "But most neurologists would agree that the human brain doesn't think at maximum efficiency at all times -- such as when we're tired, bored, sick or watching TV."

The class will teach students how to use the brain to increase memory skills, read faster, interpret other people's body language and express themselves better. "Students who really apply themselves will look ten times smarter with increased mental agility," Patten says. "And notice I didn't say they will be smarter."

The class begins February 15 for seven sessions; $139.

For information on this or other classes at the Rice University School of Continuing Studies, or to request a catalog, call 713-348-4803 or visit www.scs.rice.edu.

Houston Community College

If you're agoraphobic, or if you're on the computer so much that your hand has permanently fused to your mouse, never fear: Houston Community College is offering more than 1,000 online courses. "Students can work at their own pace or when their mind is up for it," says Madeline Burillo, HCC's director of online education. "And you don't have to deal with Houston traffic!"

The popularity of crime shows such as CSIand Bones and James Patterson's books has sounded a clarion call to all writers looking to the dark side of human nature -- and you'd better know how long it really takes a body to decompose or how much DNA you can extract from a pubic hair. In "Demystifying Forensic Science: A Writer's Guide," students will learn how to write like they've been playing with corpses at crime scenes for years. "Fiction does not need to be realistic, but writers who want to become better shouldn't rely on fiction for information about the real world," Burillo says. "You don't want errors sabotaging your credibility."

And, since it can be hard to get quotes from serial killers awaiting trial, maybe you should also consider "Achieving Success with Difficult People." Students will learn how to improve their relationship with Mr. or Mrs. Grumpy at home and, especially, the office. "Difficult people and their behavior can cause problems by undermining morale, creating conflict and impeding effectiveness," Burillo notes. "And a head-in-the-sand attitude can only make things worse." Yeah, but at least it blocks out having to hear those people.

For information on these or other online courses offered by Houston Community College, call 713-718-5149 or visit www.hccs.edu/onlineceu.

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