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Memorial Day 2011

One of my favorite stories as a cub reporter right out of college was a Memorial Day feature about an annual survey of the nation's best beaches. So I was amused to see that even though Steven "Dr. Beach" Leatherman works at a different university now, he's still doing his annual survey -- a slide show of sun and sandappears on

As my colleague Jill Schlesinger reminds us, however, this long weekend is a time to commemorate the men and women who have died to protect your right to enjoy those beaches, my right to write these words, and our economy to flourish. Among those fallen soldiers is a Marine who was Jill's nephew. When the holiday was established by a Civil War General in 1868, May 30 was to be the day for decorating the graves of soldiers with flowers. It's easy to forget that right now, there are a lot of Americans all around the world who continue to risk, and lose, their lives to keep us free.

In a flourishing economy, of course, commerce does not go away, so Farnoosh Torabi provides MoneyWatch readers with a guide to some of the best deals you'll find at Memorial Day sales. With a nod to the (rapidly) climbing temperatures, Farnoosh also runs down a list of the best deals on air conditioners as recommended by Consumer Reports.

As the unofficial beginning of the summer driving season, with gas prices up about a buck from this weekend last year, it's a good time to remind you of the steps you can take to improve your gas mileage, and debunk some of the myths. Just one example: Sometimes turning off the air conditioner and rolling down the windows will hurt more than it helps.

But instead of driving around shopping or staying inside and cranking the A.C., I'd rather take Dr. Leatherman's advice and hit the beach.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Christine Phares
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