Archive for October, 2005

On the root canal right of passage

October 29, 2005

Every culture has its rights of passages, rituals which mark the transitions from one stage of life to the next and in our American culture having a root canal is definitely such a transition point, serving both as a marker (usually) from early to middle-aged or older adulthood and as a true pain-based right of survival passage that tells the world you now have the wisdom to understand that you know you’re not immortal and that you have the longer-term vision to want to live as long as you can and are willing to put up with massive amounts (usually) of temporary agonizing pain for the benefit of your (hopefully) longer term lifespan.

Let me say this upfront…when it comes to going to the dentist, I have been a total and complete chickenshit, this time around going to the dentist was only the fourth time in my adult life that I had been to any dentist for any reason, and Yes I was beyond dreading it, what having heard those apocryphal stories all my life as we all have of the root canal right of passage being rough equvialent to a Dr. Mengele At The Spandau Concentration Camp For One Night Only torture just for the sheer hell of it.

Imagine my surprise when Dr. Robert P. Sopko, D.D.S., P.A., a professor of endodontics (in other words all he does is teach dental students how to do root canals for his day job and then sees patients sent to him privately on referals from other “general” dentists as well) at UNC School Of Dentistry not only turned out to be not a sadist but one of the nicest gentlemen and most concerned about not giving me pain medical professionals I have ever met, and I shall sing his praises forever.

The on my first appointment a month or so ago, my two hours+ “in the chair” was completely, and I do mean completely and totally, painless. Because of the nature of my weird body, of course I couldn’t have a normal tooth with only one root or even with the rarest cases for my Number 13 toot – the second bicuspid on the left side), No, of course not, in one of God’s little jokes He likes to play on me of course I couldn’t have been born with just one or even two roots to that tooth, The Big Guy had to give me a grand total of THREE roots on that tooth, yeah, suck it up big boy you know you’re body has always been “special”, which needed to have root canals done on each and every one of them.

Dr. Philip Thomas (who I also like) who is my wife Kris’s dentist and who agreed to see me told me that in his 36 years as a practicing general dentist he had never seen three roots on a Number 13 tooth and just shook his head in amazement when he looked at the X-ray of it, and even Dr. Sopko who has done nothing but teach students how to do root canals and then do them in private practice all day too for over twenty years told me that I was the second or third patient he had ever seen with this condition in all his years as well. Yeah, don’t ever think God doesn’t have a sense of humor, He does, trust me.

So anyway, the procedure for doing the three roots was so involved that it took two seperate appointments a month apart, the first to make an accurate assessment and then have me on antibiotics to cure the incredibly bad infection that had resulted from the tooth basically just rotting away, it coming out one Saturday in early June as Kris and I ate out (which we do almost every day anyway) at a Mexican restaurant (which normally I can’t eat the cuisine of because of all my food allergies but we were with a group of friends breaking bread together that night) when I bit down a very soft bite of plain taco, the tooth being so rotten at that point that if I had bitten down on air it would have probably broken and come out anyway, and the second the finish “going deep” into the actual root canals and finish filling out the old material and packing the holes with a special kind of antibacterial and inert elastomer, gutta percha (sp) which they used to use to stuff the inside of golf balls in the late 1800’s and which is needed to fill the space of the micro-sized holes that the endodontist creates by using these metal files so thin that they’re often no thicker than a few human hairs but which are so strong that as in my treatment by Dr. Sopko he literally had both hand on the tiny end-handles of them and was going as deep as he needed to get all the bad stuff out and we’re talking about files less than 2″ long and just a fraction of a fraction of a millimeter in diameter.

Thank God that Dr. Thomas referred me to Dr. Sopko, as pain-tolerant and resistant as I am I honestly don’t know if I could have stood being “in the chair” for two hours plus for two different times with anyone else, with another endodontist who wasn’t as caring for my well-being as a person as well as a patient and who made damned sure that whatever he did, whatever he had to me wasn’t going to give me pain, yes Thank God indeed.

While he doesn’t accept patients for root canal work directly, if you’re local to Raleigh/Cary/Apex/Wake County/the RTP/Research Triangle Park area and need a root canal, please do consider asking your general dentist to refer you to Dr. Sopko; his contact info is:

Dr. Robert P. Soko, D.D.S., P.A.
4601 Lake Boone Trail, Suite 2A
Raleigh, NC 27607
Phone: 781-2334

On the issue of costs and billing, they do take dental insurance (which my company dental insurance didn’t cover because they’re dicks) but if your dental insurance doesn’t cover the procedure or if you don’t have insurance then Dr. Sopko does require pre-payment in full. In my case, I had to pay $950 upfront and that was totally inclusive, covered both sessions and would have covered even a third or fourth of how many more if more had been needed…your cost and mileage may vary depending on what’s up in your mouth, of course…he does take Visa/MC of course as well as cash/check.

So, I sit here writing this hurting like a motherhummer, while Dr. Sopko was absolutely 100% painless in his application of cure and technique there are after-effect pains and such you need be prepared for. Mine actually aren’t that bad, I haven’t taken anything for pain for them, but hey I am and can be stubborn at times and yesterday, the morning after the second and last procedure, the left side of my face was very swollen and while at breakfast with my wife I did have a pain-wave hit and turn as white as the proverbial sheet and had to go the men’s room to throw up from the tsunami of after-effect pain that unpectedly swept over me, but while feeling like I’ve had a spear shoved up through my jawbone into my left sinus cavity I’m okay, at least now I’ve survived my latest right of middle-aged adult passage and hopefully will never have to have, God Bless Dr. Sopko and his painless technique but still, another one of these ever again, Amen.


What I actually do for a living

October 26, 2005

I’ve had some enquires about, what with my primary personal website having a welcome screen that is my Web designer personna mainly plastered on it but my site containing tons of other stuff and makes many references to my HVAC/mechanical contracting career among other professional interests, what I actually do for a living.

Well, welllll, my primary job, what I get paid every week to do, is Senior Estimator and Manager Of The Commercial Division for Goldstar Mechanical Services Inc. out of Charlotte, N.C,

, Goldstar Mechanical at this moment being (very highly probably) the largest new residential construction HVAC contractor in North Carolina.

While I run the small commercial division as Manager of said that sells new and replacement HVAC/heating & air conditioning systems to/for new and existing commercial buildings, a lot of most days is spent running heat loss/gain calculations (used to properly size HVAC equipment installations) using an expensive but necessary program called WrightSoft,

, which I have a love/hate/tolerance relationship with after having used it on a daily basis since this past April, both their residential and commercial versions. This is engineer-level work but I’m one of those engineer-level folks on many levels who just happens to have the knowledge and experience without the engineering degree per se’.

I also do extensive market research using Reed Construction Data’s proprietary construction market database,

, from which, it’s one among many other sources of leads for new work, I sell Goldstar’s services including design/build HVAC systems for commercial and residential installations.

Yes, I did do Goldstar’s website and yes I know it sucks but I did it according to the specific direction of my boss who also signs my checks so as long as he’s happy with it which he is then I’m also not too ashamed of it, Smile.

Speaking of that, of course I also, in my one hour of free time per month, also create websites, re-do existing websites to make them more user-friendly and compliant with Federal Section 508 guidelines and offer my SEO/Search Engine Optimization services for customers who have a hard time working the “natural” i.e. non-pay-per-click listings on Google and MSN Search and Yahoo etc., and will do most anything for a legal dollar if it involves The Web which I’ve been on since 1990.

And, of course, I also Contributing Editor For Project Management for “Contractor” magazine,

, which I have been since 1998 and is a lot of fun, my editor, the best editor I have ever worked with, Bob Miodonski, giving me the opportunity to pass on bits and pieces of my accumulated so-called wisdom and knowledge of mechanical contracting to the next generation of project managers and estimators coming up through the ranks, that and did I also mention I get to raise a little hell and kick the shins of pompous jerks mainly General Contractors while also educating? Yeah, it’s more fun than the proverbial barrell of monkeys and I’d ALMOST pay them to do that, Bob, you didn’t read that if you just did, okay, Grin?

And, AND I’m also US Business Agent for my brother, Gary Hoops, who owns Circle H Ranch in Tanzania, he growing up in East Africa while I grew up in NC, if you don’t know this story you need to go to the more sections of my website, , and poke around some to find out the story or stay tuned here as I post occasionally about this and that dealing with African issues because of this connection.

and, AND, ANNDDD of course I’m trying to get back into my art and my music, art right now is easier than music since art doesn’t require daily practice while music does.

AnnndDDDDD, well, enough for now, don’t want Mike, my boss at Goldstar and whom I routinely give 45-50 even 60 hours per week when required, thinking I have much of any actual free time on my hands, Smile But Sincere, since it’s through his graces and his signing of my weekly check that allows me to pay my bills and make a decent living for my family and my job with Goldstar always does, all kidding aside, take precedence over my other business and hobby interests.

The World Series, baseball, legacies and life

October 26, 2005

I admit that while I’m no great baseball fan during the regular season, oh, I’ll watch a Braves or Cubs game or two during the summer if one happens to be on, will channel surf in and out of a game now and then, out of cultural habit I do try to watch The World Series pretty close, watching 90%-95% of most World Series games while surfing in and out occasionally.

My father, Harold Craig, taught me an appreciation of baseball growing up that is one of his many positive legacies in my life.

Growing up in the Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina, in 1939 as a young man of 18 years of age he was fortunate enough to be given two options that summer to escape the grinding poverty of the western NC Appalachians: 1) volunteer and join the Army, at a time when the US military was very small compared to 2-1/2 years later and they weren’t really seeking out recruits because of they didn’t need to because of The still on-going Great Depression, or 2) sign and join the Chicago Cubs organization and begin his apprenticeship in their minor league farm system, on the basis of their scouting of him playing local amateur and semi-pro ball, “Pop” being considered one of the best if not the best pure hitter that Wilkes County NC had ever seen.

He chose the Army, believe it or not, because even as a buck private the Army paid more than the Cubs offered him, offering him less actual salary than the Army and more importantly no signing bonus at all (this was The Depression, remember), so he picked the Army.

While in North Africa in 1944, Pop busted his right leg up in a bad Jeep accident which left said leg a full two inches shorter than his left one and effectively cut out any chance he would have to play pro baseball once his enlistment in the Army was over.

Still, and you know I have to brag on Pop some, at age seventy-seven as in 77 years young in 1998, he lead his church softball league (about ten teams or so if I remember correctly) in batting average with a solid .800, yes, eight hundred batting average and his slugging percentage was off the charts since basically every single hit went for extra bases (they allowed a younger “pinch runner” to run for him from home plate once the ball was hit) and most were actually home runs over the fence and into the woods.

I was talking with he and my mother about this mind-blowing fact the other day when she told me something I had never known before, that Pop was so good that some nutcase who played for another team had actually brought a pistol to one of their games and was brandishing it about, threatening to kill Pop because Pop’s team and Pop routinely embarassed them. Yeah, geez!

What life took away with that Jeep accident in North Africa in WWII, his promising baseball career after The Great War gone for good, it also gave back in his decision to become a plumber after he got out of the service in 1945 and served four years as an apprentice before he opened his own plumbing business in 1949, a circumstance which lead me to choose mechanical/HVAC/plumbing/etc. project management and senior-level estimating as a more or less primary career. If he had made it through The War intact and had chosen baseball over plumbing as a career, who knows how my own life would have eventually turned out. Such are the wheels of life, turning.

In 1964, I remember Mum & Pop buying us our first color TV, a giant piece of solid hardwood furniture with a Zenith 25″ color TV stuffed in the middle, that same-said TV cabinent I still have as a heavy-duty workbench in my shop with a giant industrial vice mounted atop it, just so “we can watch The World Series in color now” said Pop.

So, when my new-to-me wife (GRIN, Dear, just joking with ya’!) Kris and I set up housekeeping in our new home this past June, we having met on March 12th of this year and married on May 14th, what do think was the very first piece of furniture I insisted we buy together? Yep, a nice new 35″ flat screen Sony Trinitron for our nice new living room, with the pronouncement by me that “this is so we can watch The World Series and The Super Bowl (so, I’m a pro football fan more than a baseball fan, sue me) in style in ‘our’ new home”, Kris being a man’s woman and knowing and understanding and actually liking baseball and football and hockey too, very lucky for me. The son has grown into father, and father has grown into contentment.

Hello to all & the dance begins again, again

October 25, 2005

I write these small words with some hope and some dread as well because the last time I tried to do a semi-conforming-to-protocols blog the time and energy I spent on it just about drained me dry. However, with WordPress’s many cool and time-saving features, I hope that the entire fifteen minutes of free time I have per day typically will be better spent documenting and archiving my thoughts and life on the front end instead of having to deal with those blackhole issues on the backend. If WordPress is anything like what I think it is, I can simply write/blog/document/expouse/etc. and let them do all the work…Cool!

 The one thing I won’t do is force myself to the discipline of trying to post something every single day like I did when I hosted my first blog on my own website ( for the main welcome page, for the main personal category pages where the good stuff is accessible from) but I will post frequently, sometimes every day for a week and sometimes only once or twice a week, depending on what I have to say if anything.

You know, it’s strange how despite my having taken the links off to my old blog posts on my personal site, that a couple of months’ archives are still in the top ten of pages accessed, and it’s been a full year now since they were posted. Such is the apparent power and weird allure of blogging, which is why I sought out (asked for) and was granted a WordPress blog account.

Look for a slightly eclectic mix of commentaries on tech, society, popular culture that I personally like or dislike, local restaurant kills and bills, stuff peculiar to North Carolina and Southern culture, more local stuff about local issues to the Cary/Raleigh/Apex and Research Triangle Park N.C. area, business-related stuff including whacks about sub-topics dealing with senior-level project management which I’m the world’s leading navel lint picker expert on for the mechanical (HVAC/heating/ventilation/air conditioning/plumbing) contracting field by acclaimation and the fact that I have been the Contributing Editor For Project Management for “Contractor” for since 1998 (, the devilishly handsome fellow on the left-hand navbar is the one and only me, click on the link for my most recent column), oh well, you get the idea, I’m eclectic and a bit eccentric at times but almost never boring and am constantly living life…enjoy, my friends, and share a virtual beer with me as the dance begins again, again.