I didn't get the jollies from 2004. Was the November election a cause for joy or melancholy? Depends on who's looking at it. We've all had our own kind of year, good or bad, so...

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I didn’t get the jollies from 2004.

Was the November election a cause for joy or melancholy? Depends on who’s looking at it.

We’ve all had our own kind of year, good or bad, so we probably remember the year differently. Year-end lists and recollections are always a reflection of whomever is doing the recalling.

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All of us forget a lot of things. Stuff happens, we’re affected by it, then we move on. But even events we might not remember to put on a list changed us in some way while they were the news of the moment. Sometimes we forget the details of events, but our perception has been altered by them.

Abu Ghraib stunk up the place early in the year. The mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners clashed with our stated goals and with our self image. Revelations later in the year about the torture of prisoners at Guantánamo made it clear the reprehensible behavior wasn’t just about a handful of people. The illness is systemic.

That was one of the things that bummed me out in 2004.

We heard about genocide in Sudan and eastern Congo. We eventually called genocide by its name in Sudan, but we’ve done little to stop it.

There are people in Congress who are worried about whether U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s son profited from his dad’s position, but not about whether millions of people are dying in genocides.

This month’s “Hotel Rwanda” is a movie about the 1994 Rwanda genocide, which the West watched without acting. People will go and moan, and I suppose 10 years from now somebody can make a movie about the other tragedies.

It’s been that kind of year. Iraq is a mess. Civilians, soldiers and aid workers are all targets of insurgents. We can’t keep our troops properly equipped, and the National Guard has an enlistment shortfall. Wonder why?

The economy is supposed to be humming back to life, finally, so why is everyone so worried? Maybe it’s that big national debt hanging over us, or maybe the potential for more lost jobs.

Global warming kept playing with the weather, but nothing could remove the cloud that hangs perpetually over the Seattle Public Schools.

Several icons have passed

We lost some human institutions — Ray Charles, Julia Child, Bob Keeshan, Marlon Brando. Ronald Reagan left with his legacy soaring, and Yasser Arafat died without having accomplished his life’s goal.

Dan Rather and the guy over at NBC, Tom Brokaw, decided to retire. Their leaving was heralded as the end of the big network anchor era, but I didn’t cry. I stopped regularly watching the nightly news years ago. I’m not always home when it’s on, and when I am, there is usually something else keeping me busy.

Anyway, I prefer to read my news. I’ll watch developing stuff on CNN, or catch something I want to see video of, but TV news is no longer a ritual.

And, of course, there is the Web. Cruising, browsing and hunting are more stimulating than sitting and watching, but being parked in front of a computer monitor gets tiresome quickly.

Technology this year has been more about stress than solutions for me, and a lot of other people too. Hackers created thousands of viruses that tried the patience of Windows users, and pop-up ads continued to plague us.

I was going to write a column about one of my worst computer experiences this year, but before I could get to it, I saw columns by two other writers that said just about everything I was going to say.

This summer while I was on vacation, my firewall software subscription expired. The company sent messages to me saying I was about to be naked in a prickly world, but since I was away, I didn’t see them.

When we got back, my son logged on to one of his favorite game sites and in no time was having troubles. The wall was down and viruses poured in.

So the short story is that I eventually lost everything, had to wipe the hard drive clean and start over. I didn’t write about it, but I felt a little better knowing so many people were suffering along with me.

Some of 2004’s news whipsawed us around.

So, who’s right?

Americans have been beaten up all year for being too fat, but just this month there was a study in the news that said maybe being fat wasn’t so bad. Apparently a good chunk of the fat was laid on by people who otherwise would have been smoking, which is far worse on the body than a few extra pounds.

Headlines played ping-pong with flu shots. Everybody should get them, they said. Then, when a shortage developed, we were told healthy adults didn’t really need them. Later it turned out the shortage wasn’t as bad originally reported; some places had too much.

Stories saying birth-control pills cut the risk of heart disease were eventually discredited.

We read about the heroic death of a former football player, Pat Tillman, who volunteered to fight terrorists. Turns out the details of his death differ from the military’s early description. He was killed by friendly fire.

You can’t predict the future, but sometimes you can’t know the past either. You’re always waiting for the next revision — 2004’s top stories aren’t done with us yet.

Jerry Large: 206-464-3346 or jlarge@seattletimes.com. His column runs Thursdays and Sundays and is found at www.seattletimes.com/columnists.