Letters: Illiniwek, Table Legs, Professional Couples

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Listeners weigh in on recent coverage, including the passing of Chief Illiniwek, a mathematical solution to wobbly table legs, wives who don't "work" and a visit with two former politicians.

SCOTT SIMON, host:

Time now for letters. Several people wrote to correct my reference to the University of Illinois retiring Chief Illiniwek. Donna Reekman(ph) of Greensboro, North Carolina spoke for many when she said, Chief Illiniwek was never a mascot. The students who portrayed Chief Illiniwek are band members, and the Chief Illiniwek dance is only performed during half-time athletic events with pomp and dignity. The purpose is to honor the Native American tribe for which Illinois is named.

Kevin Kingery(ph) of Urbana added, There never were any war whoops by either the chief or the audience. He dances silently.

We got these letters about our conversation last week with Keith Devlin, who provided a mathematical solution to wobbly table legs. Pat Spann(ph) of Americas, Georgia wrote, I have owned a small restaurant pub here for 27 years, have known the secret of rotating the table to get the wobble out from most of those years. It drives me crazy to find the folded up napkins or beer coasters on the floor under one of the legs. Now I can let my customers and employees know that this is not only true but that it can be explained mathematically.

Amanda Kirshner(ph) of Weslaco, Texas, heard the piece and thought, How random. That evening, while grading papers at Starbucks, his math worked and gave me a wobble-free evening. Thank you.

Now, in his story about two-income families, our reporter Chris Arnold angered a number of listeners with his characterization of an earlier generation of doctors' wives, quote, "who didn't work." Joanne Scott of Washington, D.C. said, I'm a retired lawyer; in my 12 years between college and law school, I was a housewife raising four children. I worked far harder as a housewife than I ever did as a litigation attorney.

Many letters about my brief comments about the death of Anna Nicole Smith. Molly Mulligan emailed us to say, You reminded listeners that she was human, once young and foolish, who made mistakes just like everyone else.

Arthur Migitas(ph) sent these comments. Given that that the contours of the human heart are often inexplicable and unfathomable, we shouldn't be so quick in our rush to judgment. You weren't today, and I commend you for it.

Several listeners enjoyed our recent conversations with former Senators Alan Simpson and Bob Kerrey. Candice Kissinger(ph) of West Lafayette, Indiana wrote, What a delight to hear those voices from the past and listen to the quips of Senator Simpson once again. Senator Kerrey is still a genial, level-headed voice; two guys from opposing parties who can disagree without being disagreeable, unlike the sourpusses and chowderheads who represent us now.

Plus, they seem not to take themselves too seriously, added Mickey Myers(ph) of Johnson, Vermont, which Lord knows we need in our commentators during the race ahead.

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