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Baseball and Coffee (Again)

Sorry I haven't posted in a while (or a week...). To be perfectly honest, the past few days haven't been the most interesting--and most mornings I've just spent putzing around on the internet and making myself hungry by reading the Restaurant and/or Dining section of the Chicago Tribune online. But from here on out the weekend is setting up to be pretty interesting.

Three brief events of note this week:
1. PII (or half of them anyways) visited the top high school in Kanazawa for a cultural exchange-conversation practice thing. I attended (and participated), but the topic this year was food culture and food manipulation issues (think GMOs) which is difficult to talk about in one's primary language--let alone when half the participants are struggling in a second one! Half the discussion took place in Japanese and the other half was in English so it wasn't a one-sided struggle, but I still noticed conversation lagging--or turning to tangents--in many of the small groups

2. Pre-Koshien Regional Baseball Tournament
The Koshien is effectively the holy grail of high school sports tournaments. It's fanatically followed and televised every single year. The official tournament is composed of 49 teams: one from each prefecture (except Tokyo and Hokkaido, which get two apiece). When I arrived at the office on Thursday, I was handed a taxi-ticket and suddenly told to go to the Ishikawaken Ritsu Baseball Stadium.

Attendance included former pro-baseball player (in both the US and Japan) Masao Kida (left), who is now the assistant general manager for the Nippon Ham Fighters and co-owner of Miyabi Sushi in Seattle, in case any of you are in the mood for some grub.

I was sitting in the reporters "dugout" of sorts behind home plate so it was difficult to watch, but I got to see an entire game. Each school's entire population, it seemed, came to cheer in support with highly coordinated chants, dances, and drumming to rival the bucket-boys that hang out on Chicago sidewalks. I'm constantly surprised, awed, and inspired by the 100% dedication that is thrown into everything here--even if it's just cheering.

3. Professor Hirose and the Ig Nobel Prize (oh and Hydrogen Coffee)
Today I went to Kanazawa University to speak to Professor Yukio Hirose about his work with arsenic-alloy and his new project, hydrogen-infused coffee.

Professor Hirose was an enthusiastic, talkative man who used hand gestures and laughed often. He recounted the story of how he discovered that a statue in Kenrokuen--

--didn't attract birds. When he was allowed to analyze the statue's components, he realized that compared to other statues that did have birds (cough bird poop) all over them, the statue was an alloy of 15% arsenic, which repelled birds, compared to a normal statue's 2-3%. He was able to test this theory by making his own alloy (at risk to his own health--arsenic isn't the safest of substances) and in 2004 he won the Ig Nobel prize of Chemistry. (For those who didn't know what that was, like me, the Ig Nobel Prize is a parody of the "real" Nobel Prize for sciences that make people laugh and think.) What really fascinated me was that Professor Hirose's initial observation of the birds (or lack thereof) was when we was 18--and he didn't solve the problem (and the reason WHY arsenic repels the birds) for 44 years. 

I am including a link to a very well-written and easily-understandable article about Professor Hirose and this research (and the long process). I highly recommend reading it--I certainly did after listening to his explanation in Japanese to make sure I'd understood everything!

Technically retired, Professor Hirose's current project is infusing coffee beans with hydrogen to make it healthier. 

A selection of beans at different roast times/ different types...I like the color gradient. 

Yeah. There was an explanation for why he's doing this infusing-thing, but it wasn't easy to understand. The coffee was pretty tasty, though. 

That's the machine that puts the hydrogen in the coffee beans.

Apparently the ice was also infused with hydrogen. And this cup of coffee is really expensive! $12! Wow. I admit it was tasty, not bitter, and easy to drink but $12 is a lot for some iced hydrogen coffee...and I haven't been able to find anything online written in (understandable) English about it. He gave us some to take home (along with these ginger snacks enhanced with calcium and magnesium) so I'll give it another shot.

Since Kanazawa University is in the foothills of some nearby mountains, this is the coffee shop that sells said hydrogen the middle of the mountainous nowhere...go figure. 


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