› The return of Austin's Trail of Lights, which ended last weekend, was an overwhelming success. Many thousands packed the Zilker Park event, and volunteer organizers led by Paul Carozza of RunTex said they would try to return the holiday celebration to two weeks next year (through New Year's) and stagger admissions to cut down on overcrowding. Indeed, the traffic snarl that accompanies most Zilker Park events was the one major downside to the week.
› The city of Austin rings in the new year with a recycling-themed celebration at Auditorium Shores, 5-10:30pm, Monday. The third annual Austin's New Year (not-so-well-known as ANY) will feature a fireworks display at 10pm with music by the pipe-and-drum outfit Capital City Highlanders. Capital Metro will offer free rides after 6pm on New Year's Eve.
› Austin is surveying residents on what they need to make Austin more arts-friendly. A collaboration between the city, Austin Playhouse, and Artspace Projects, the survey takes input from individual artists and from businesses and organizations about creating new and affordable creative spaces. Visit www.artspaceaustinproject.org before Dec. 31 to fill out the form.
› The LBJ Presidential Museum reopened on Dec. 22 after a $10 million renovation. Aside from the introduction of an admission fee, the biggest controversy has been about the museum's popular animatronic model of the 36th president: The renovation takes him out of his folksy Western clothes and into a more statesmanlike tailored suit.
› Texas's four biggest teachers' unions have rejected the findings of a new report on teacher retention, saying it repeats mistakes made in other states. The unions have asked for their names to be taken off the report, released on Dec. 19 by the not-for-profit Texas Teaching Commission and paid for in part by "education reform" movement paymasters the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
› North Texas got a rare white Christmas, but Austin was satisfied with the punch of cold air that blew in, dropping temperatures into the 20s at night and offering a welcome reprieve from the unseasonably warm weather. Temperatures and rain chances are expected to climb as we head toward New Year's Eve.
› Arguments over gun control continued to simmer this week in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, and public officials faced continued pressure to respond to the tragedy and the ubiquity of guns, especially semiautomatic weapons and assault rifles. President Barack Obama appointed a task force on the question, led by Vice President Joe Biden, and asked them to make recommendations within the first few weeks of 2013.
› With the "fiscal cliff" and federal debt ceiling both looming on Jan. 1, Republican House Speaker John Boehner is reportedly under growing pressure from centrists in his own party to strike a deal with the Obama administration.