Talk Back: U.S. and Cuba
Do you approve of President Barack Obama's efforts to normalize relations with Cuba?

(Tell us why or why not?)
Alameda: Thompson Avenue aglow at Christmastime

Christmas Tree Lane -- also known as Thompson Avenue in Alameda -- is an annual event that draws people from all over the East Bay and beyond as they enjoy holiday lights, decorations, carolers and a visit from Santa. The annual tradition since 1938 runs through New Year's Eve. 
Courtesy of Joe Scalise family
Known by legions of loyal customers as "Joe the Butcher," Joe Scalise passed away peacefully surrounded by his family on Dec. 19. He was 80.  
Alameda Theatre & Cineplex, 2317 Central Ave., will host its sixth annual New Year's Eve event with a carnival-themed affair. Admission includes games, prizes, clown performances, magic shows, Pacific Pinball Museum games, face painting, a grand prize drawing, and two live simulcast ball drops at 9 p.m. from Times Square in New York and at midnight from San Francisco.  
On Dec. 20, Capone's Speakeasy donated 250 toys collected by the Alameda High School girls (frosh) basketball team to the Alameda Police Department for the Toys for Tots program.  
As a new year begins, people often make resolutions of things they want to accomplish. Friends of the Alameda Animal Shelter (FAAS) suggests these great pet-related resolutions for your consideration.  
Monday Matinee. It's a free showing of holiday favorite, "Elf." 2 p.m. Dec. 29. Alameda Free Library, 1550 Oak St., Alameda. Free. 510-747-7777, www.alamedafree.  
For an end-of-the-term project, Wood Middle School math teacher Kasey Brown said, a group of students came up with an idea that was engaging, enlightening and also entertaining -- making toys for dogs and rabbits living in local animal shelters.  
Kudos to lone vote against Del MonteThanks to Councilmember Tony Daysog for voting "no" on the master plan for the Del Monte project at the Dec. 16 special meeting.  
Attorney No l Wise, 46, replaces Judge Carrie McIntyre Panetta, who leaves to serve as a judge in the Monterey County Superior Court.  
The applications are available on the district website, at Hard copies are also available at the front desk of the district's office at 2060 Challenger Drive in Alameda. The deadline for submitting the applications is 12 p.m. Jan. 9, 2015.  
( Victoria Will )
50 things we learned in 2014

Here's our annual look back at the 50 things that surprised us, or reassured us, or that we simply didn't see coming.