On the removal of a hideous growth

The title of this post is not an allegory.

At 10am this morning, I had a previously-scheduled appointment with an oral surgeon to remove a large, hideous, occasionally painful growth on the inside of my lower lip. (I’d delayed getting it looked at for several months because of covid, but I no longer could.)

So right now I’m laying in bed at home, with gauze on my lips, dazed, hopped up on painkillers. I regret that things ever got to the point where this was needed. I believe, intellectually, that the surgeon executed about as competently as anyone could ask. But I still wish, if we’re being honest, that there hadn’t been quite this much pain in the surgery or in the recovery from it.

Again intellectually, I know that there’s still lots more pain in the days ahead. I’m not sure that whatever it was won’t just quickly grow back. And yet, I couldn’t be feeling more joy through my whole body with every one of these words that I write. At last I can honestly tell myself: the growth is gone.

61 Responses to “On the removal of a hideous growth”

  1. Boaz Barak Says:

    Hope you are feeling well. Did your growth come with a second smaller one, that tried to show the surgeon a laptop?

  2. travis Says:

    scott, we would all like to see the results of you attempting to write your next ‘forcing’ blog post while doped up on painkilers

  3. Sebastian Zimmer Says:

    At least you knew immediately that the growth was gone. Imagine if you had to wait for days where you didn’t know whether the growth was staying or going.

  4. Itai Bar-Natan Says:

    The first line of your post is an obvious falsehood. Perhaps you mean to say that it’s not just an allegory, but also literally true.

  5. Scott Says:

    Travis #2: Sorry, I’ve been looking for additional insights about the curriculum hypothesis out at this level of reality, but I haven’t yet found any. You’re going to have to rely on the insights from the normal level.

  6. simurg Says:

    Glad that you are feeling better Scott! I just really hope the long term therapy you will receive wont provoke allergic reaction that might be far more uncomfortable than the original medical condition ;).

  7. asdf Says:

    I’m glad to hear about a new no-growth policy, and in Texas of all places. Congrats, that’s the kind of growth hacking I like to hear about ;-).

  8. Scott Says:

    Quote that people will encounter when they read about 2020 in the textbooks of the future: “Put on your big boy pants.” —said by the Mayor of Philadelphia to the President of the United States.

  9. anonymous Says:

    Scott #8: I think the most defining quote will actually be Joe Biden’s “Will you just shut up, man”. It represents the left receding into its own “don’t offend me” echo bubble that avoids any communication which leads to rivalry and inconvenience, the social media’s censorship and the acceptance of ignoring conflict as a valid way of dealing with it.

  10. no thank you Says:

    After having my enjoyment of math surgically extracted by my math teacher back in high school, I rediscovered it years later while high on painkillers after a wisdom tooth removal.

    I was in my room, extremely bored but feeling great, when I wandered over to my bookshelf, and decided to leaf through the linear algebra section of Advanced Algebra for Dummies. I remembered that my teacher had once described linear algebra as “cheat codes” to his class, and I figured I should see what he was talking about. And it just clicked! Linear algebra just felt so *natural*, and I knew I needed to learn more.

    The medication helped me get over that initial barrier of fear and insecurity that had built up over the years. Of course it took a lot of work later on, after I had sobered up, to really tear down that wall, but at least I knew there was something beautiful and worthwhile on the other side. But it also helped me understand how people can get attached to the feeling that everything is just OK, when in sober world things are most definitely NOT OK. It’s scary stuff.

    All of that is to say, I’m not saying *nothing* good can come of doing math on painkillers. But maybe stay off the blog until you’re sober. I’ve known several people who said bizarre things after coming back from surgery with a bottle of Vicodin.

  11. 1Zer0 Says:

    I hope you are recovering quick. Is it a serotonin enhancing pain killer? I personally found an amazing increase in mental ability when I work under Tramadol influence – a medication I have to take due to chronic backpain despite regular long hiking tours in between endless PC work. So if it’s some Serotonin enhancing painkiller, this might be a mental boost for the next “Forcing post”.

  12. g Says:

    anonymous #9: It really doesn’t represent that, though. Biden didn’t say that because he didn’t want any communication that leads to rivalry and inconvenience, he said it because he and Trump were meant to be having a debate and Trump kept on talking over him.

  13. Scott Says:

    anonymous #9: I thought you were going to say, “it represented the point at which the Democrats finally, belatedly, realized that what can be delivered as the wild, evidence-free conspiracy theory of a sad ranting minds, can be answered as though it were the wild, evidence-free conspiracy theory of a sad ranting man.”

  14. John Baez Says:

    People are dancing in the streets of Philadelphia, Scott. They are glad the hideous growth is gone, and are eagerly awaiting more posts on forcing.

  15. Scott Says:

    John Baez #14: I’ll get to work as soon as the pain and the painkillers wear off!

  16. STEM Caveman Says:

    > I’m not saying *nothing* good can come of doing math on painkillers.

    A well known mathematician from a country known for alcoholism said that all his best results came to him when hung over the morning after a night of hard drinking. Rearranges the logic gates or something. He’s surely not the only one.

  17. Nick Says:

    Scott #5

    > I’ve been looking for additional insights about the curriculum hypothesis out at this level of reality, but I haven’t yet found any.

    I’m sure everyone is interested to hear your thoughts on education, but could you hold off on that until you’re finished with the forcing series???

    Seriously though, this post is somehow both too much information and not enough information. What is the nature of the growth? I assume it’s within the bounds of politeness to ask, since you brought it up in the first place. (I’m reminded of a reality show contestant I once saw who said that their grandfather had been murdered, but did give any further details.)

  18. vn Says:

    Hope you can take cannabis in Texas instead of opioids.

  19. Scott Says:

    Nick #17: Apparently it wasn’t anything cancerous, just a “bubble” that sometimes forms when saliva ducts get sealed off. Then it’s in the way of your teeth, so you bite down on it, and that makes it even bigger, and so on in an endless loop. Since you asked. 😀

  20. Mike Says:

    Scott #19 That’s a relief! I was worried that it might be something more serious. Anyway, I’ll join the chorus of people looking forwards to episode 2 of forcing!

  21. David Says:

    This is funny, but NYT accidentally confirmed one case of counting a dead person’s ballot, William T. Bradley:


    “The city appeared to have mistakenly recorded the vote of William T. Bradley under his dead father, who had the same name and ZIP code. Mr. Bradley said in an interview that he had voted by mail for the first time because of the pandemic. He said that the ballot did not ask for his birth date and that he simply filled it out, signed it and sent it in mid-September. According to the State of Michigan website, his dead father mailed an absentee ballot on Sept. 19. It said Mr. Bradley never returned his.”

    So they did record a vote of at least one dead person lol

  22. Scott Says:

    One other thing: I join the chorus calling for Andrew Yang to be appointed a secretary in Biden’s Cabinet, particularly given how right Yang seems to have been about what would and wouldn’t be winning issues for Democrats in 2020. I’d also love to see a cabinet position for Stacey Abrams, who was instrumental in delivering Georgia to Biden. I think Yang and Abrams could both have bright futures in presidential politics.

  23. Bruce Smith Says:

    > … I’ll get to work as soon as the pain and the painkillers wear off!

    I’m as eager as everyone else for that next post, but — take your time, get rest, preserve your health and sanity — we can be patient!

  24. Maurice Says:

    Scott, what are your thoughts on Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren getting positions in Biden’s cabinet? Do you think Bernie is right about the issues plaguing the American people? Also, Stacey Abrams took millions from Mike Bloomberg to push his candidates and endorse him in the Democratic primaries, and she still hasn’t conceded in the Georgia Governor’s race to her Republican opponent and says she lost because of fraud, much the same way as Trump hasn’t conceded yet and is claiming fraud. Surely she’s a shady character?

  25. Rahul Says:

    For being such a ugly and painful growth, it’s a wonder that very close to half of all the doctors consulted opined to have it not removed?!

    Isn’t that the crazy thing. How do we explain that?!

  26. Rahul Says:

    So as an analogy, if there was a contest for reformer of the centuary and Gandhi and Mandela got very close votes it wouldn’t surprise me.

    But this is like Pinochet and Gandhi having a nailbiter, photo finish in a contest.

    What gives? How can half of America be so wrong! It’s easy to believe any one individual is stupid or evil but is it credible to scale that sort of assessment to almost 50% of an entire nation? Very puzzling.

  27. OhMyGoodness Says:

    The joy you are feeling throughout your body is only a fleeting illusion created by your brain.

    This was like a Super Bowl victory for academia so enjoy because next season will be here sooner than you can imagine (well unless the development of the Oligarch’s Neuralink system is farther along than I realize). 🙂

  28. Scott Says:

    Rahul #25: If indeed almost half of doctors would want my growth left in, I’d find that bizarre and astonishing, but here would be my guesses as to why. Maybe half of those doctors (so, almost a quarter of all the doctors) would have religious beliefs according to which my growth has an independent soul and its removal would be murder, and that one issue would override everything else for them. And maybe the other half of those doctors would simply dislike me, find me smug or condescending or whatever, and think a painful medical condition is actually good if it brings me down a peg.

  29. Scott Says:

    Maurice #24: I could certainly get behind Elizabeth Warren having a position in Biden’s cabinet — anything with opportunities for exposing corruption (DoJ?) would be great. As for Bernie Sanders, maybe, but if so, for me it would mostly be out of deference to the preferences of the many passionate Bernie supporters in Biden’s winning coalition. (A bit like how Mike Pence occupies his position in Trumpworld out of deference to the role of the religious right in that coalition!) With Bernie, unlike with Biden or even Warren, I fear a Republican attack saying that even if he brilliantly diagnoses some of the nation’s ills, he really, genuinely doesn’t understand why what they tried in Cuba or across Latin America, or in the very early Bolshevik revolution (before all the violent and evil Stalinism, of course) wouldn’t be a great solution. For it’s only with Bernie, as not with Biden or even Warren, that I fear that such an attack might have some element of truth.

  30. Shecky R Says:

    Best wishes and sympathies to you… but honestly, I do much prefer thinking of the title as allegory.

  31. Filip Dimitrovski Says:

    Wishing you a speedy recovery (in both ways) 😊

  32. Maurice Says:

    Scott #29: But what about Bernie’s policies remind you of Venezuela, Cuba, or the Soviet Union? Sure, he pretends he is a socialist, but isn’t he, in reality, mostly a Nordic-style social democrat? Would you not support a $15 minimum wage, universal healthcare, or a Green New Deal? Europe has a lot of these and they are doing fine. Even very capitalist countries like Singapore or Chile have something similar to Medicare-for-all.

  33. Marc B Says:

    I hate to discourage you, and I really do hope you have a speedy recovery, but have you considered that this growth may be merely a symptom of an underlying disorder? I would recommend that after you recover from the surgery that you have a full physical examination, and perhaps do a little soul searching as well, to see how you might best prevent a recurrence of this nasty tumor.

  34. Scott Says:

    Maurice #32: I could totally get behind most aspects of Nordic-style social democracy, including all the ones you mentioned (though I’d rather go even further and institute a UBI, thereby replacing the need for dozens of government programs with a simple cash transfer). And I agree that Nordic-style social democracy is almost certainly what Bernie would pursue in practice (with Congress vastly watering down even that). But given a history whose horrors give even Nazism a run for its money, I think it should be utterly beyond the pale even to pose as a Bolshevik or a tankie, let alone actually to be one — in exactly the same way we rightly said it was unacceptable for Trump to pose as the leader of a violent white-nationalist insurgency, even supposing that he’s “””just playing to his base and doesn’t literally mean most of it.”””

  35. Jelmer Renema Says:

    @ Maurice 32, Scott 34:

    Social democracy is generally regarded as a form of socialism, and not all socialists are bolsheviks. So I don’t think Bernie is posing as anything that he isn’t.

  36. Maurice Says:

    #35: Umm, no. Social democratic states are by definition still capitalist states.

  37. fred Says:

    I’m looking forward to Biden reconnecting with our traditional allies, esp France, Germany, Canada, Japan… more than ever the free world need this.

  38. fred Says:

    Scott #19

    Non cancerous? What a relief! I was really confused and worried by your post… (I read it many times, not sure it was real or not… maybe you should add in the post that your growth was benign?).

    It’s awesome to read your endorsement of Andrew Yang!

  39. Raoul Ohio Says:

    Somewhat to my surprise, I found that I was enjoying the news the last few days (after it became clear how things would go) as it gave the orange clown an opportunity to repeatedly set new records in dirtballness, stupidity, etc.

    This might prove to be a major development, because it appears there will be a double runoff in Georgia with major impact on the Senate. Note that many people tend to stick with bad decisions for way too long, and then swing rapidly to the other side when pushed too far. (insert your own dynamics systems analogy here.) This happened with Nixon supporters back in the day. In the ensuing weeks, as Republicans rush to abandon orange clown (insert favorite rats/sinking ship analogy here), one might hope their “get out the vote” efforts will be in disarray.

  40. anonymous Says:

    Am I the only one who thinks that just like you should wait for all mail-in ballots to declare winner, you should wait for legal processes and recounts to happen before the media declare victory?

    Why do they have the patience to wait out mail-in ballots, even saying counting could take weeks, but not for legal challenges? Just feels wrong.

  41. Scott Says:

    anonymous #40: You mean, you’d like me to show the same patience for challenges and recounts that the Republicans so admirably modeled for us in Florida in 2000? By all means! 😀

  42. fred Says:

    anonymous #40

    For what it’s worth, Fox news also called the Biden victory.
    I think the gap in PA is enough to not warrant a recount, and no other close races are going in Trump’s direction.

  43. anonymous Says:

    Scott #41: Not you, just the media. Wasn’t the narrative in 2000 that it’s still undecided until the point it was decided?

  44. Maurice Says:


    Let’s hope Biden ends funding the Saudi genocide in Yemen, pulls out of the never-ending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, does not declare new wars in Syria and Venezuela, ends clandestine US military engagements in Africa, ends bombing the countries the US is bombing right now, goes back into the arms control agreement with Russia, and does not support right-wing coups in Latin America or anywhere else in the world. That is what the free world needs. Not empty rhetoric like “connecting with our allies.” Why do I feel he will not do any of this and will not be held accountable by the people who voted for him if he does not do any of this?

  45. Echo Says:

    Now we’ll see if your derangement is tied to Trump, or if you’ll just switch to a new outlet for it.
    I have my suspicious about what “hideous growths” you’ll be calling to be excised in a few years.

  46. Nordic-Style Comment Says:

    Ah, Nordic-style. I’m delighted to hear Bernie would pursue the lack of a federally-guaranteed minimum wage (contrary to what Maurice #32 and to some extent Scott #34 imply about “Nordic-style” economy), some of the least regulated markets in the world, practically zero barriers to foreign investment, school vouchers, most roads being private, and on and on. Not to mention Swedish minimal Covid-19-related intervention, for better or worse.

    Finally some sensible plan by Bernie!

    … when will people, even intelligent well-meaning Shtetl-reading (and writing!) people, stop identifying the Far Left’s platform with Nordic countries? There are some similarities (mostly on the spending side). There are fundamental differences (mostly on the money-making side). Get over it.

  47. James Gallagher Says:

    I don’t understand your hostility towards Sanders, I would understand in normal times, but it’s a real missed opportunity that this is one time in modern history when a truly progressive socialist society could have been attempted in the USA and it will not happen. You will have piecemeal policies and fixes and a lot of PR and virtue signalling with barely any real change.

    European nations like the UK have almost shut down their economies this year and are paying nearly full wages to millions of people who have not had to work during this time, so it seems almost anything is possible if the will is there.

    But you can’t just argue for UBI without a whole load of other measures, it won’t work if there are not also major reforms on work conditions, education, healthcare provision etc.

    Tony Benn famously explained Churchill’s landslide defeat to the socialist Labour Party in 1945 by the fact that people thought “If you can have full employment by killing Germans, why can’t we have full employment by building hospitals, building schools?”

    The UK couldn’t afford to create such a system in 1945, but now it has paid close to a trillion dollars in less than a year to support something even more extreme. It’s very obvious that much more radical policies are possible when you are a major well-established rich country, you just need courage. Such a shame it took a pandemic to wake people up, too late.

  48. Deepa Says:

    I’m all for UBI. Gives people choice and forces the marketplace to create options for them. That’s what I liked about an Andrew Yang candidacy. He was pro-UBI (but against standardized tests for college admissions though, which is often the only way for poor gifted kids to distinguish themselves). I also really like Tulsi for being deeply genuinely anti-war.

  49. jk20 Says:

    Scott #41: So you sort of admit, by using that analogy, that we are again dealing with an electoral fraud ?

  50. David Says:

    I’m not in the US, but I feel that an oppressive cloud has suddenly lifted from my mind.

  51. Douglas Knight Says:

    What good are quantum simulations? Sure, if you had a quantum computer, you could compute the predictions of quantum chemistry, like the spectrum of the helium atom, but would it have any practical engineering applications? People say that you could use it to design useful chemicals or pathways, but what does that really mean? The implication is that you could do a brute force search for ammonia synthesis methods. But brute force search is still exponential. The quantum computer just has a constant effect of making it cheap to test each proposal. But if these proposals are so valuable, why not test them on the existing quantum computer, the physical laboratory?

  52. Taymon A. Beal Says:

    Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are sitting senators from states with Republican governors, so if they were appointed to the Cabinet, the Democrats would lose Senate seats, which they really can’t afford right now. So I don’t see that happening.

  53. sneerclubber Says:

    Having a great time reading all the MAGA whining. I don’t like Biden and am not even American (though I *wish* he was this badass communist right-wingers think he is), but Trump and his cult are going to provide us great content in the days to come. Happy recovery, Scott.

    anonymous #9: but he’s right though. Why won’t you shut up, man?

  54. Yiftach Says:

    This might be naïve, but Biden is talking about being a president for all the American. Wouldn’t it be sensible of him to try and appoint mild republicans in his government?

  55. penttrioctium Says:


    Words cannot describe how happy and relieved I am right now. Thanks, Scott, for being a voice of sanity throughout all this.

    Margin wasn’t as big as I think all of us hoped, but not as narrow as we feared — it should be enough to make the hideous growth’s intended shenanigans harder. (Thank God for Stacey Abrams!!) I was also thrilled to see that the nerds are still very much in charge over at the Fox News Decision Desk. The more nerds invade, take over, and run mission-critical parts of our civilization, the better!

    A part of me will be on edge until Dec 15, and a smaller part until Jan 20 — but a giant weight has been taken off my shoulders. After five long years of the 2016 election, it’s over.

    Hoping the Dems take back the Senate in January’s Georgia runoffs (I especially like Ossoff). Ideally, we can fix our democracy so this never happens again. I think HR1 would be a great start.

    BTW, is the background going back to blue sometime soon? After the inauguration?

  56. Jelmer Renema Says:

    @ Maurice 36: The distinction between capitalist and socialist isn’t all that binary; you can for example have mixed economies where there is substantial government intervention in an otherwise free market.

    But anyway, the larger question was whether Sanders misrepresents his own position by calling himself a socialist. Given that there are many holding positions similar to or even to the right of Sanders who call themselves socialists (e.g. the UK Labour party, which according to its constitution is a democratic socialist party), I think it’s not a charitable interpretation of his words to say that Sanders is misrepresenting his own position.

    See also e.g. Heywood’s textbook on political ideologies (quote from 3rd ed): “Socialist political parties progressively adopted legal and constitutional tactics, encouraged by the gradual extension of the vote to working-class men. By the First World War, the socialist world was clearly divided between those socialist parties that had sought power through the ballot box and preached reform, and those, usually in more backward countries such as Russia, that proclaimed a continuing need for revolution. The Russian Revolution of 1917 entrenched this split: revolutionary socialists, following the example of Lenin (see p. 132) and the Bolsheviks, usually adopted the title ‘communist’, while reformist socialists retained the name ‘socialist’ or ‘social democrat’. “

  57. Jelmer Renema Says:

    @ Nordic-style 46: These are all half-truths.

    With 80-90% of the workforce covered by collective bargaining and around two-thirds of the labor force enrolled in a trade union [1], there is no need for the government to set a minimum wage.

    Yes, much of the Swedish road network as measured by length is private, but half of the private roads are logging roads [2], and the rest is used by farmers and summer cottage owners [2]. In most other countries these would be seen as private property and not counted as part of the road network, but since Sweden has right to roam laws they are publicly accessible and therefore considered part of the road network. All roads in towns are municipal (as they are in most of Europe) and all highways are owned by the state.

    And yes, there are independent schools in Sweden, but they are obliged to follow the same curriculum as state schools [3], as subject to the same school inspection board as state schools, cannot refuse admittance based to pupils and must hold the same examinations as state schools.

    Anyway, a worthwhile article on the way the US imagines the Nordic countries is here: https://nordics.info/show/artikel/imagining-nordicity-in-the-american-political-discourse/ ‘US media coverage often positions one or more of the Nordic countries between the monolithic and highly politicized understandings of ‘socialism’ and ‘capitalism’ – with the many shades of mixed economies that coexist within the Western liberal and democratic sphere unacknowledged’

    [1] https://nordics.info/show/artikel/trade-unions-in-the-nordic-region/
    [2] https://www.vti.se/sv/sysblocksroot/swopec-test/cts2011.6.pdf
    [3] https://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friskola

  58. fred Says:

    I don’t want to rain on the parade, but Trump will try and create a maximum of legal confusion in order to delay the certification deadline of early December (4th?).

    We can only hope that more republicans will stand up against this.
    But, so far, only Chris Christie and Romney have done it.

  59. Nordic-Style Comment Says:

    @ Jelmer Renema #57

    Certainly that wasn’t an in-depth coverage of Nordic governance – which I wasn’t the one quoting as allegedly what Sanders pursued. But before providing further nuance, can we agree, unequivocally and forever, that the old “socialism is fine look at Norway” trope is absurd? That, good or bad, Sanders and his proposals do not gain or lose anything from irrelevant appeals to Sweden? That saying “high law-enforced minimum wage like in leftist Scandinavia” reveals an abyss of ignorance? I do see the article you link to as agreeing.

    Now, to the actual content.

    Minimum wage
    I did specify “federally-guaranteed”, didn’t I? I know perfectly well that wages there are typically the result of collective negotiation. What’s missing is that it’s a result of a free negotiation between roughly equally powerful groups. Employers in some domain vs the trade union of their employees. Not vs a monstrous mega-union summoning the power of all other unions and breaking the fundamental justification behind unions – a justification that even an almost-libertarian like me is quite fine with. Let’s recall that one. An employer has a hundred employees. When negotiating one-on-one with each employee, he risks only 0.01 of his production, while the employee risks 100% of his income. All 100 employees together do have a roughly equal negotiating power, so they should negotiate as a single entity. It’s far from perfect, but I have 0 quarrel with this logic as a simplified starting point. Now unite all those different groups into a single mechanism that brings all its firepower to every single negotiation – and that logic goes out the window. FWIW, this is precisely what’s going on in my own country.

    Note, BTW, that a federally-guaranteed minimum wage not only harms the delicate process described about – it may actively lead to decreased minimum wage! This point is not lost on unions in Norway.

    Now, you’re going to tell me with a straight face that *this* is what Sanders is talking about when he proposes an increased uniform minimum wage (not to mention the minimum-wage-multiplying factor for emergencies, y’know, the ones USA will be having for at least a year, creating a crippling effect on small businesses)?

    That’s a good point, though I wasn’t claiming Sweden was a role-model of extreme Libertarianism. Still, it does provide one possible, partial, example of a functioning private road model. Incidentally, your own description is also not perfectly accurate – land owners may ban vehicles from their roads.

    I… don’t know what claim of mine are you disputing. The voucher system in Sweden may not be David Friedman’s dream, that’s true. But to quote Sanders:
    “I am strongly opposed to any voucher system.” Tell me more about how “Nordic-style” is an apt description of his views.

    Lack of regulation and of barriers – are those half-truths? You said “these are all half-truths”, yet some of the main claims remain unmentioned. One might say that your statement is, even ignoring the elaborations above… a half-truth.

    In general, you seem to be debating a strawman internet Libertarian who gives Sweden\Norway as a surprising “gotcha” example of Capitalism. That is far from what I’ve expressed and far from what I believe.

  60. pete Says:

    My immediate reaction to the media calls of Biden’s win was pretty simple:

    Ding Dong!!!!

  61. Scott Says:

    penttrioctium #55:

      BTW, is the background going back to blue sometime soon? After the inauguration?

    How about if I change the background after the attempted coup fails?

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