FOOD: Arro strikes clean on West Sixth Street. At first, I sensed familiar social warning signs. Arro, located in the former Haddington’s, was open, noisy, warm, inviting. Yet I’ve learned that many an Austin eatery opens that way. The darling for the moment, the social magnet for months. Then comes the rest of the first year. Ask the owners of Haddington’s, at one point the hottest spot in town. Arro, however, seems geared for the long run. Great attention is paid to the highly seasoned bistro fare and the close, attentive service. We ate at the bar and the prices for Cinq à Sept (Québécois for Happy Hour) were overwhelmingly welcome: Four filling winter dishes and four glasses of good wine + tip for under $50. (This might be my new quick Happy Hour dining spot!)

MUSIC: Ruthie Foster joines Conspirare in Christmas cycle. It had been ages. Conspirare’s inspiring Christmas program, blended together from traditional, gospel, pop, classical, show tunes and other music, charmed the first few times I shared it at the intimate Carillon. But Craig Hella Johnson’s vast seasonal experiment has grown and altered. Now it plays eight performances at five venues, including the concluding show at the Long Center, which Jacob Stetson and I caught on Monday. So glad we did. Such heavenly sounds, complemented and constrasted by hearty-sounding Foster. Afterwards, we mingled with the performers at the after-party, where soprano Mela Sarajane Dailey won us over with a couple of extra gems. (Maybe not every year, but, like "The Nutcracker," every other.)

WORLD: Obama thrills crowd as he honors Mandela. From Alan Clendenning’s AP story: "U.S. President Barack Obama exhorted the world Tuesday to embrace Nelson Mandela’s universal message of peace and justice, electrifying tens of thousands of rain-lashed spectators and prompting a standing ovation by scores of heads of state in a South African stadium. In a speech that received thunderous applause, Obama urged people to apply the lessons of Mandela, who emerged from 27 years in prison under a racist regime, embraced his enemies when he finally walked to freedom and promoted forgiveness and reconciliation in South Africa. "We, too, must act on behalf of justice. We, too, must act on behalf of peace," said Obama, who like Mandela became the first black president of his country. Obama said that when he was a student, Mandela "woke me up to my responsibilities — to others, and to myself — and set me on an improbable journey that finds me here today." http://shar.es/Om4I3(This is where he still shines brightest.)

LAW: Poll says Texans support rehab, treatment programs. From Mike Ward’s article in Tuesday’s Statesman: "Texans by a wide margin support more treatment and rehabilitation programs for non-violent lawbreakers instead of prison time, a new poll showed Monday, the latest indication of a significant about-face by voters on the issue in recent years. The poll commissioned by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank that supports prison reforms, showed 84 percent of all likely voters contacted favor alternative-to-prison programs for non-violent drug offenders — including 81 percent who identified themselves as Republican, 89 percent as Democrat and 86 percent as independent. Support was nearly as high among likely voters for putting more low-level offenders on strict probation programs, for allowing them the "opportunity to rehabilitate their behavior," even for letting them pay restitution to their victims for non-violent offenses — all before they are sent to prison." http://shar.es/OmhBb(Finally, we are wising up.)

MEDIA: Selfies just one part of life in evern-shifting social media. From Omar Gallaga column in Tuesday’s Statesman: "Sure, it was a little gimmicky, but it should have come as no surprise last month that Oxford Dictionaries chose "selfie" as its word of the year for 2013. The word, which Oxford defines as "a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website," is one example of how we’re currently using social media and why those who try to avoid it can find it vacuous and time-wasting. I’m way too self-conscious to take selfies regularly (I’m not even crazy about the mug shot with this column), but I understand the appeal. Every day, more and more of us are carrying this crazy-powerful, do-all computer — the smartphone — in our pockets and purses. Why not use it to do what people have been doing for thousands of years: document your place in space and time at a given moment? That’s not new, but being able to share it with the world in less than five seconds from practically anywhere is still a jarring change that many of our brains haven’t adapted to yet." http://shar.es/Om4tu(Always good to check in with the latest trends.)