As the book editor for the Deseret News, I've been interested in the popularity of those "end-of-the-world" books brought on by Desert Storm.

Nostradamus, an ancient mystic, is outselling Stephen King; dozens of modern-day psychics have jumped into print with their own quirky visions.I was raised in a no-nonsense home, so I take such "visionary" books with a grain - no, make that a shaker - of salt. But I was also raised in a culture that keeps an open mind about prophetic dreams and such, so sometimes I peek between the covers of "prediction" books the way boys lift the edge of a circus tent to glimpse the sideshow inside.

What I've found is that most psychics are pretty predictable.

Oh, they may get some flashes of things, but not enough to parlay into a full-time job. If they could predict things on command, they'd help their friends with their stock futures, not their romantic futures.

Most psychics, I think, are about 5 percent prophet and 95 percent profit. They're simply astute observers of people and human nature. They listen well, they have great instincts and they recognize "types" on sight - not unlike psychologists, policemen, journalists, doctors and other professionals.

In fact, most psychics would make great counselors. Utah could save a bundle by hiring them instead of psychiatrists to do court evaluations.

I was musing on such things at a party not long ago. The hostess had hired an "aura reader" to tell our fortunes. And as people emerged from their $10 session with the woman, I found myself getting a little snide.

"I told her I was divorced," a normally sane friend of mine said, "and she went on about how she knew I didn't think I'd ever commit to anyone again, about my fears and nightmares. She got me right on the button."

"Right," I said, "You, me and every other poor schmuck who's been through a divorce."

When it came my turn, I swaggered in with a chip on my shoulder. She saw it.

"I can tell you're a confrontational person," she said, "a future senator, perhaps."

I let out a laugh that sounded - to my ears - like a samurai warrior laughing in the face of fate.

"Well, if not a senator, I see you at the Capitol. Do you go up there?"

"Not much."

"I see you on the front steps on the Capitol with a briefcase or a package of some sort."

"It's a bomb," I said.

My glib tone was getting on my nerves, so I cooled down. Eventually she even let me try out my theory - that anyone with a job that involves asking questions and listening to people - such as a newspaper columnist - could pass themselves off as a psychic.

"Give it a go," she said.

"Let's see," I said. "I see you tend to procrastinate [everyone doesT. I also see you're single [no ringT and are having trouble finding a companion [who doesn't?T. The men you meet either bore you because they're predictable or bother you because they're unstable. You want someone in the middle, someone who's trustworthy but a little unpredictable."

"Not bad," she said.

I knew she was from Idaho and I spotted a glass of wine on the table by her.

"And you've had religious conflict in your life," I said. "In fact, you've spent years trying to reconcile your past with the person you've become."

"Not bad at all," she said, "you may have the gift."

The story could end right there, of course. And perhaps it should. But there's more.

I was telling some friends about the experience, but they weren't half as impressed with me as I was.

"The difference between you and her is she's not afraid to go public with her predictions," they told me. "If you had any guts you'd put some stuff in print for others to laugh at."

They were trying to bait me into making an idiot of myself in print, of course.

And it worked.

So here are my predictions. I've extended my columnist's antennae, called up all my experiences with people, taken a reading of human nature, factored in the rumblings I get from the grapevine and offer the following for 1991:1. Henry Kissinger will be involved in a major scandal.

2. U.S. kids will begin wearing one black shoe and one brown as a rebellious fashion statement.

3. Somebody will take a potshot at Madonna with a handgun.

4. Madonna will take a shot at somebody with a handgun.

5. And if none of that happens, it happened on a "spiritual" level, not a "physical" one. Eventually we'll see I was right.