(A note from me: this is my first column online. Nothing has really changed yet as this was going to be the one to go into the paper back in September when I started to see signs that my relationship with The Record Enterprise was over. This online thing may take some time, but for now…)

Greetings, and thanks for joining me for another week. Starting us off are a few news stories you may have missed. First, slaves to fashion. According to a Wall Street Journal report, a woman, for about $10,000, had one toe shortened and another straightened so that now she can wear today’s ever-pointier, open-toed pumps. Need I add anything there here (except platforms are back)?

Next, resting easy. Reuter’s reported on New York City’s new, 16-page antiterrorist preparedness manual, created by a consortium of 20 government agencies (which may explain something) and released it this past summer. It contains such helpful advice as: “If you encounter radiation, go outside (if you’re inside a building) or go inside (if you’re outside a building)”; and “Do not accept packages from strangers”; and “If you find yourself holding a mysterious substance, put it down.” Also offered is the familiar advice from a generation ago: “If you can’t get out of a building, [Duck] under a sturdy table or desk.” Thank me later.

Finally, a jury of his peers: a few months ago, a judge in Westmoreland County, Pa., rejected the request of a 15-year-old boy, on trial for beating another teenager to death, for a jury composed entirely of teenagers. (Can you hear it – “Whoa, that’s phat, man; he doesn’t sound guilty to me. Heh, heh!”)

Technology to the max! The South Florida Sun-Sentinel carried the latest enrollment figures in Florida’s statewide program allowing high school students to take physical education courses by computer: 614 have signed up. (Administrators say they can detect any student cheating; critics don’t think so [I don’t either].)

The Washington Post ran some of the more interesting t-shirts out there. (1) “I Used to Have a Handle on Life, But It Broke” (2) Some Days You’re the Pigeon, Some Days You’re the Statue” (3) “I Childproofed My House, But They Still Get In!” (4) “I’m Still Hot — It Just Comes in Flashes” (5) “At My Age, Getting Lucky Is Finding My Car in the Parking Lot.”

In a tribute to banks and how well they treat customers, Ananova reported on a Hong Kong man who, protesting low interest rates on savings accounts, withdrew his life savings of about $40,000 and began burning it in the street. I certainly wouldn’t go to that extreme, but I do know how he feels.

Berman’s Bits Tips for Women. According to Netscape news, several questions have been identified as those to avoid as they will freak men out and have them “run out the door.” Here are a few: (1) What are you thinking? (2) Where is our relationship going? (3) Do you love me? (4) Do you want to meet my parents? (5)What should we do for Valentine’s Day? (5) Do you read Berman’s Bits? (Actually, that last one wasn’t on the list, but it should be – it would help you know what kind of person with whom you are getting involved.)

A lengthy Bit (which I will endeavor to shorten and which should strongly serve as a warning not to try this at home or anywhere else) from Australia’s Illawarra Mercury proves Stupid Pills are everywhere. Possibly imitating the aptly named movie Jackass, a man “accidentally” set off a firecracker which he had wedged in his, um, backside. The hospital called what they saw similar to a “war injury.” Among other things, the man suffered a fractured pelvis, severe burns to his, uh, well, let’s just say severe burns, is incontinent, and, um, unable to do what it takes to procreate. He will remain in the hospital for months and is being evaluated to see if any of the injuries can be corrected (let’s just hope he can’t breed).

On the other hand, just when I believe all is lost, a Bit that says maybe, just maybe, there is hope. From Reuters (again), a federal judge threw out a revised lawsuit against McDonald’s Corp . that accused the fast food restaurant of using misleading advertising to lure children into eating unhealthy foods that make them fat. In dismissing the current suit, Sweet said that the plaintiffs had not followed his detailed instructions and he barred them from filing another version, quelling litigation fears the suit had sparked in the food industry. (You know, for a moment I actually thought he might have said it’s a stupid lawsuit, and it’s time people took responsibility for their own actions. Sigh.)

Time for Roland’s Corner – a collection of facts, which actually might be true! (1) A mother hen supposedly turns her egg approximately 50 times in a day.

This is so the yolk does not stick to the shell. (Amazingly, the resulting offspring aren’t scrambled.) (2) There is no tipping in Iceland (just lots of slipping?). (3) Iceberg lettuce, which is also called “head lettuce,” was called “crisphead” until the 1920’s. The name was changed to iceberg lettuce because when the lettuce was being shipped by California growers they would put lots of ice underneath the lettuce to keep it crisp. (4) In a sad statistic, which comments on what’s important to some Americans, between 1997-2002, there was a 228% increase in cosmetic procedures in the United States. (5) Back to when it all began – in 1955, only 330 Volkswagen Beetle’s were sold at a price of $1800 each in the United States.

Finally, Yahoo’s “Oddly Enough” reported that Dutch airport customs officers, alerted by the stench coming from a suitcase, found up to 2,000 baboon noses believed to come from Nigeria and to be destined for traditional healing. All the noses, which were discovered last week, have been destroyed. “The baboon noses are suspected to have been destined for consumption or for use in the manufacture of traditional medicines,” the inspectorate said. “It is known that many inhabitants of Asian and African countries use these medicines because of the healing properties attributed to them,” the statement said.