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Q: The duchess of Windsor — what was her name? Did they live in the Waldorf Astoria in New York after he abdicated?

A: Her name was Wallis Simpson. She and the Duke of Windsor in later years divided their time between Europe and the United States and often did stay at the Waldorf when they were in New York.

Q: What came first — wine or beer? We have a bet riding on this.

A: We’re afraid no one knows for sure. The history of both goes back many thousands of years. A recent book, “Uncorking the Past: The Quest for Wine, Beer, and Other Alcoholic Beverages,” by archaeo-chemist Patrick McGovern, said the earliest chemical evidence for an alcoholic beverage dates back 9,000 years to China’s Henan province. Researchers analyzed residues extracted from pottery fragments and concluded the people were drinking a mixed wine-and-beer-like beverage made with grapes, hawthorn fruit, rice and honey.

Q: What’s the difference between a piano and a harpsichord?

A: The instruments look similar. But pianos make sound by striking strings with hammers and vibrating them. A harpsichord makes sounds by plucking strings and vibrating them.

Q: How many city council meetings have Tom Powers and Tom Lind missed since the election?

A: There were six Waterloo City Council meetings between the Nov. 7 municipal election and the end of their terms. Powers attended all six meetings, participating once via telephone. Lind only attended two of the meetings.

Q: How many employees are there in the Waterloo Street Department?

A: There are 37 employees, including clerical staff, in the street department.

Q: Who do we call to have a home checked where children live?

A: We will assume the caller is asking about the lead paint remediation grant the city of Waterloo is getting from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Contact the Waterloo Community Development Office, 291-4429, to get on a list for inspections. If you’re asking about some other kind of program you will need to ask a more specific question.

Q: Who can we contact about the city of Waterloo’s phone system? It’s impossible to speak directly to a person.

A: Maybe you called on a day when City Hall was closed for the holidays. We call the city of Waterloo and its various offices frequently and the phone is almost always answered by a person during working hours. If you want to raise an issue about any city service you can always contact the mayor or your city council representatives.

Q: When will there be public information meetings about changing Ridgeway from four to three lanes?

A: The Waterloo City Council must first decide whether it will accept the grant from the Iowa Department of Transportation to make the safety improvements. Any scheduling of public informational meetings would be made after such a decision is made.

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Questions are taken on a special Courier phone line at 234-3566. Questions are answered by Courier staff and staff at the Waterloo Public Library.

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