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September 02, 2012, Sunday

Highlights from the summer of 2012

Summer 2012 has passed. Tomorrow is Labor Day, a federal holiday in the US. All government offices, schools and organizations and many businesses will be closed.

This is the last weekend for trips and parties before the summer ends and school starts again. Thus there may be some congestion on highways and at airports. This weekend, people in many neighborhoods organize fireworks, picnics and barbecues. The football season starts around Labor Day; this year it starts on Thursday.

My neighbor Nancy told me that in her childhood, traditionally, people didn’t used to wear white, especially shoes, after Labor Day. However, wearing white sneakers in all four seasons caused this custom to die out. Nowadays, people wear all colors throughout the year.

This summer was extremely hot in the US as well as in much of the northern hemisphere. The Science Committee of the NASA Advisory Council announced that “this past June more than 170 all-time US heat records were tied or broken -- many of them originally set in the historically hotter months of July and August. By early July, 56 percent of the contiguous US was experiencing drought. That’s the largest percentage in the 12-year record of the US Drought Monitor.”

Americans cooled off while they were proudly watching 28-year-old swimmer Michael Phelps with 22 medals, who is the most decorated Olympian of all time.

In July, the worst mass shootings of the past 50 years happened when a gunman opened fire during a screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” in Aurora, Colorado, killing 14 people and wounding 50. Still, “The Dark Knight Rises” has made over $900 million worldwide and will definitely push it over the $1 billion mark soon.

The first American woman to go into space, Sally Ride, and the first man on the Moon, Neil Armstrong, died and a little later NASA broadcast the first human voice from another planet! A car-sized, robotic rover, The Curiosity, is exploring Gale Crater on Mars, as part of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission. The Curiosity was launched from Cape Canaveral on Nov. 26, 2011, and successfully landed on Aeolis Palus in Gale Crater on Mars on Aug. 6. I happily witnessed The Curiosity’s launching at Cape Canaveral last November when it was sent to investigate the Martian climate, geology and its habitability for water. It was like a dream at that moment, but this summer we started watching how it writes history in the Red Planet for the first time in human record as The Curiosity rover transmitted the first-ever feature song from the surface of Mars last week: The song, “Reach for the Stars,” reached out to Martians.

Last week, Hurricane Isaac battered much of the central Gulf Coast. Across the region there was heavy rain, high winds, coastal storms and flooding. Thousands of people in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama were under states of emergency. More than 310,000 homes in Louisiana were without power. The storm brought memories of Hurricane Katrina, which killed nearly 1,800 people in 2005. However, we were luckier this time and didn’t have that much damage.

After President Barack Obama called for marriage equality and last May said, “I want everyone treated fairly,” for the first time in US history the US Defense Department and Pentagon recognized June as “Gay Pride Month” and they changed the rules so US troops actively serving in the military could attend Gay Pride in San Diego, California, while wearing their service uniforms.

Home prices nationally jumped up last quarter by the most in more than six years. Americans signed more contracts to purchase homes in July than for the first quarter of the year. This is a good improvement for the economic recovery, and during summer the US economy grew faster than in the first quarter.

Summer 2012 is over. Tomorrow is Labor Day, the unofficial last day of summer. We have to get ready for the fall. It’s time to pass from T-shirts to sweatshirts, flip-flops to loafers, shorts to pants, cottons to wools… It’s about time to arrange afterschool activities, apple and pumpkin picking, pumpkin carving and treat-or-trick rituals for Halloween, and then of course Thanksgiving dinner…

Time flies as we get older and hopefully more mature at every season’s change. Everyone must take the time to enjoy watching the leaves turn and fall in autumn with their wonderful colors in 1,000 different tones of yellow, orange and red. It is a great time for contemplation of who we are, what we have and what we do in life since the essential value of existence depends on awareness and the power of thoughts rather than on mere being.

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