June 9, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 6:57 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Deep Cut: Behind the Scenes with a Knife-Making GeniusNobody crafts knives quite like Quintin Middleton. Probably because his story is one of a kind. (STINSON CARTER, JUN 9, 2022, Gear Patrol)

I cruise slowly down the gravel road and park in the grass beside his new home, currently under construction. By the time I step outside, he's greeting me with an outstretched, work-gloved hand. We had met a week earlier at the Charleston Wine + Food Festival, where he presided over a table draped in a white tablecloth, every square inch covered by his stunning chef's knives, paring knives, fillet knives, cleavers, and his newest creation: a crowdfunded folding chef's knife called the Ona.

There, he held court in a black leather jacket zipped to his neck and a different set of gloves to keep fingerprints off the blades, sharing the fruits of his labor with all manner of aspiring foodies. At his home, I saw the other side of the show table. A world of grinder belts, steel dust and hard work. I would come to learn that Middleton's ability to move in and out of different circles is one of the keys to his success.

"That's not just my cool swagger, that's a limp," he says as we make our way to his shop, referring to a physical disability resulting from nerve damage in his leg caused by a benign tumor that compressed his spinal cord. Parked in and around his shop are a golf cart, a three-wheeled motorcycle and a two-wheeled electric motorcycle that help him easily traverse his property. Everyone I have spoken to -- his friends and mentors -- confirms my impression of a man who rises to face this measure of adversity like he would any other. As an ordained minister and a "very spiritual person," his well of positive resolve runs deep.

The inside of Middleton's workshop is dark on this overcast day, with fluorescent lights hanging where they're needed most, like over the band saw he uses to cut the knife shapes out of sheets of stainless steel, or above the row of six grinders where he freehand-grinds his blades. Metal dust clings to everything, and on the wall hang hundreds of grinder belts, each with a different job to do.

Middleton makes both stainless steel and carbon steel knives, and each type begins in a different way. Stainless steel knives are cut out of small sheets of steel in a process called stock removal. Carbon steel blocks start off thicker and are heated in a forge and hammered out or kneaded into shape.

"A lot of people romanticize forging, and say that's the only way to make knives, but truthfully, everything is forged," he explains. That's because stainless steel has already been forged in the manufacturing process, whereas with carbon steel, you complete that step manually. "I learned how to do forging first, but after having all these issues with my body, forging is a little harder on my body and stock removal is easier for me," he says. Yet Middleton still makes knives both ways, and he makes a lot of them -- typically 30 a month.

Once the basic shape is outlined, Middleton uses belt grinders with varying grit levels to fine-tune the silhouette. Then it undergoes heat treatment. The first stage is high heat, around 1500 degrees Fahrenheit, for 15 minutes. Once rapidly cooled, the metal is extremely hard but also brittle. That's where tempering -- reheating the blade at 400 degrees over two hours -- comes in, lending much-needed resilience to the final product. One needs a deep understanding of how to use heat to manipulate the grain structure of the steel for the perfect balance of hardness and strength.

Next, Middleton grinds the bevel, or the cutting edge, of the knife. He etches a line down the middle of the steel as his grind-to point. "Everything for me is done by hand," he says, and this freehand grinding stage seems more art than science.

A chef's knife must be super thin for delicate tasks, unlike a hunting knife. Or as he puts it: "A chef's knife is a Ferrari, and a Bowie knife is a Hummer." When the blade is finished, he adds the handle material, using grinders to carve out his signature contoured "Coke bottle" handle shape, a tribute to the style of his mentor, Master Bladesmith Jason Knight.

When does he know a new knife makes the proverbial cut? "I have two rules," says Middleton. "It needs to perform well, and it needs to look sexy."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


How Utica Became a City Where Refugees Came to Rebuild (Susan Hartman, June 9, 2022, LitHub)

"The refugees helped stem the decline," Ms. Callahan said. "They have a great work ethic and are willing to take jobs that native folks don't want." The refugee center helps cushion the landing: It spends about $1,100-- federal and state money--on each refugee. Newcomers are given a furnished apartment, with the basics to get started.

Every refugee initially accesses public assistance--but is supposed to take the first viable job offered. "Refugees don't come here to be on public assistance," Ms. Callahan said. "That's not the dream."

Many currently work as dishwashers, groundskeepers, janitors, cooks, housekeepers, and card dealers at Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York. Others are employed at Chobani, the yogurt factory in New Berlin, owned by Hamdi Ulukaya, a Turkish immigrant. Chobani estimates that approximately 30 percent of its manufacturing workforce in New Berlin are immigrants or refugees.

The Bosnians have been the most successful group.

Many arrived with educations and building skills. "All of us had everything," said Sefik Badnjevic, 62, a retired machinist, referring to the many middle-class lives uprooted by war. "We try to find here what we lost in Bosnia."

Mr. Badnjevic was offended when his new neighbors asked questions like: "Did you have stores in your country? Did you have a TV?"

He would show them a video of his home, which he shot before the war: "This is my apartment! This is my car!" he said.

The Bosnians quickly adapted, often working two jobs to get ahead. Then in the late 1990s, there was a stunning confluence of events: The fires, which had been raging for decades, abated. The city tore down almost 200 vacant structures; the National Guard helped clear away the debris.

And the Bosnians bought hundreds of run-down houses in East Utica. The stage was set for what amounted to a massive rebuilding project: Bosnian families--sometimes three generations--did the work themselves. They tore out and rebuilt kitchens; they put in extra bedrooms. They fixed up garages, built decks, and planted gardens.

Many chose two-family homes, living in one as they rebuilt the other.

They often rented the second to parents or siblings.

Every Saturday, for seven years, Mr. Zogby gave a ride home to a Bosnian woman who worked for his family as a housekeeper; in Bosnia, she had been a police officer. One Saturday, she told him she had moved, and directed him to her new home.

"It was only a few blocks from where I had grown up," Mr. Zogby said. It had been a photo studio, in a two-family house that had declined.

He pulled up to her new residence: She, her husband, and two tall sons had transformed it into a one-family home with white pillars.

"Outside was a massive American flag," he recalled. "I knew what she was saying: 'I turned this into my palace.' "

The Bosnians have now been in the city for two generations. They are doctors, nurses, physical therapists, contractors, police officers, firefighters, restaurateurs, bar owners, and restaurant managers. They work in Utica's banks and at City Hall.

Many have stayed in their renovated homes--rather than move to New Hartford, an affluent suburb--even as new, struggling refugees have settled in their neighborhoods.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Why more European firms are choosing Vietnam over China (Deutsche-Welle, 6/09/22)

Vietnam was one of the few Asian countries that did not experience an economic contraction during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 and 2021. This year,Vietnam's GDP is expected to grow by around 5.5%, according to the World Bank.

Vietnam's economic performance during and after the pandemic has captured the attention of some major European firms.

German automotive supplier Brose, which has 11 factories in China, is currently deciding between Thailand and Vietnam for a new production location.

In December, Denmark's Lego announced it will build a $1 billion (€935 million) factory near the southern business hub Ho Chi Minh City, one of the largest European investment projects in Vietnam to date.

"It currently looks as if, in particular, medium-sized companies are increasingly striving to enter the Vietnam market or are putting their activities out of China on a broader basis," said Daniel Müller, manager at the German Asia-Pacific Business Association.

All China does is assemble parts of products we design--there's always a next location for that.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


EU lawmakers vote to ban sale of petrol cars, rejects 'weak' reforms to emissions trading (Deutsche-Welle, 6/09/22)

The world's third-largest polluter voted to outlaw the sale of CO2-emitting vehicles and rejected reforms to the EU's carbon market in Strasbourg on Wednesday as part of its biggest ever "Fit for 55" emissions reduction plan to try and prevent the dangerous impacts of climate change.