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Orchestra leader Andre Rieu's wonderfully sounding instrument has such acoustic qualities that I wonder about the maker and other particulars about this masterpiece.

Andre Rieu, 60, is a Dutch violinist, conductor and composer. In 1987, he created the Johann Strauss Orchestra, and he is generally credited with helping spark the revival of waltz music.

On his website (, he has this to say about his violin:

"The violin came into existence in around 1550 as the successor to the viol, a medieval string instrument. The idea behind the violin was to imitate the high female singing voice, with all its musical possibilities - 'singing' long, romantic melodies, whether loud and strong or soft as a whisper. And the instrument even has a feminine shape, with its nice rounded shoulders, its waist and hips, neck and head. Playing the violin is a real experience. When you play an instrument like this it is actually like a relationship with someone you really love.

"In my life I've played a number of beautiful violins, but my present instrument is the best of all! It was built in 1667 by Antonio Stradivarius, undoubtedly the best and most famous violin builder of all times. He built this violin when he was 23 years old, in the year when he married. He must have been very much in love at that time, and sometimes I imagine that his betrothed was a very beautiful girl and that he built this violin especially for her. He may even have built it to celebrate her qualities, who knows? The sound of the instrument is so romantic, loving and warm!"

Incidentally, Rieu is playing at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa at 8 p.m. on Dec. 10. You can buy tickets here:

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Calculating dew point difficult

The article about relative humidity in Ask the Times on June 21 was very informative. I can buy relative humidity gauges all day long but have never seen one that reads in dew point values. Are there such things? Where might I find one?

Again, we turn to our TV partner, Bay News 9, for this answer. Chief meteorologist Mike Clay writes:

"The relative humidity gauges are cheap and don't work well. They are also based on the humidity in your home, not outside. Calculating the dew point correctly is expensive and difficult. Even a good home weather station doesn't do a good job in reading the dew point, in my opinion.

"The easiest thing to do is check the official observations from the very expensive and correctly calibrated airport weather stations. On baynews9.comin our weather section, we show a map (updated hourly) with the current dew point and relative humidity across the region. The dew points don't vary much from place to place, so a few miles won't make any difference."