It's that time of year again. Time to take stock of the previous 12 months so that you can avoid making the same mistakes in the coming 12 months. Which, of course, you won't. You'll make them over and over and over.

That, my friend, is what they call history. And if you are old enough to be reading this column, you are old enough to have history. They say that those who don't study history are doomed to repeat it. What they don't tell you is that those who do study history are also doomed to repeat it - the difference is, they know they're repeating it.

What I look forward to every new year is a fresh crop of new mistakes. Sure, I'll repeat the old ones. But the great thing about life is the capacity for surprise. That is what you call history in the making.

With the new year right around the corner, let's crane our necks backward for one last look at the year just past to see what mistakes others have committed. Maybe we can learn from them.

Learn from them HAAAEEEE … What a howler … HO HEE YA … . Oh, man, wait a minute.

Learn. BLEEAAAHHHHHH! Oh. Ohhhh. My side hurts. Okay, okay, I'm better now. Whew. Sometimes I just crack myself up. Learn. Oh, man.

Okay, where was I? Oh, yeah - learning from mistakes. Brrraaaagh. Oh, no, not again. I'm just glad I'm not drinking anything; it'd come out my nose. Okay, all right. That's enough now. Hnnnn, hnnnnn. Ahh. All right.

Yes, we can learn.

But mistakes aren't the only things from which we learn. We learn, too, from accomplishment. Others' accomplishments, usually.

And last year was distinguished by both great accomplishments and great mistakes. Given that, we have a lot to learn in the coming year.

And so, without further ado, a review of 2004.