Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Sources of Confusion: a "mea culpa" [Updated]

 I am not patient. I have been dismissed as one who does not suffer fools gladly.

This is a bad attitude, and I absolutely suffer from it. No denials here. I'm aware it limits my ability to help the deeply confused.

My personal failing is not being patient enough to discover the root cause of their confusion.

It's not that I don't care -- I would truly like to help them. It's that I can't keep my mouth shut while they explain their ridiculous chain of invalid assumptions as if things they invented have some tangible reality.

I'm old, and I'm not planning on becoming more empathetic. Instead, I've become less curious about wrong ideas. I find silence is helpful because I don't yell at them as much as I could.

Recently someone tried to tell me that a Python tuple wasn't **really** immutable. 


That's what they said.

A tuple of lists has lists that can be modified. (They did not have the courtesy to provide examples, I've had to add examples based I what I assume they're talking about.)

>>> t = ([], [], [])
>>> t[0].append(42)
>>> t
([42]. [], [])

"See," they said. "Mutable." 

Implicit follow-up: Python is a web of lies and there's no reason for it to be better than a spreadsheet.

I did not ask how the immutability of a tuple was magically transferred to the lists contained within the tuple. 

I did not ask about their infections disease theory of protocol transformation of types. Somehow, when associated with a tuple, the list became tuple-like, and lost a bunch of methods. 

I did not ask if they thought there was some some method-shedding feature where an immutable structure forces other data structures to shed methods.

I did not ask what was supposed to happen to a dictionary, where there's no built-in frozen dictionary.

I did not ask what would happen with a "custom" class (one created in the app, not a built-in collection.)

I did not ask what fantasy land they come from where a tuple of mutable objects would lead to immutability of the contained objects.

I did not ask if it worked the other way, too: was a list of tuples also supposed to freeze up? 

I did not ask if it transferred more than one level deep into the lists inside the tuple.

I should have.

It was an epic failing on my part to not dig into the bizzaro world where the question could arise.

BTW. They had the same complaint about frozen data classes. (Again. They did not have the courtesy to provide code. I'm guessing this is what they meant. My failure for not asking.)

>>> from typing import List
>>> from dataclasses import dataclass
>>> @dataclass(frozen=True)
... class Kidding_Right:
...     one_thing: List[int]
...     another_thing: List[int]
>>> kr = Kidding_Right([], [])
>>> kr.one_thing.append(42)
>>> kr
Kidding_Right(one_thing=[42], another_thing=[])

Triumphant Sneer: "See, frozen is little more than a suggestion. The lists within the data class are *not* frozen." 

Yes. They appeared to be claiming frozen was supposed to apply transitively to the objects within the dataclass.  Appeared. My mistake was failing to ask what they hell they were talking about.

I really couldn't bear to know what caused someone to think this was in any way "confusing" or required "clarification." I didn't want to hear about transitivity and how the data class properties were supposed to infect the underlying objects. 

Their notion was essentially wrong, and wickedly so. I could have asked, but I'm not sure I could have waited patiently through their answer.


"little more than a suggestion".


This is an strange confusion.

A dynamic language (like Python) resolves everything at run-time. It turns out that there are ways to override __getattr__() and __setattr__() to break the frozen setting. Indeed, you can reach into the internal __dict__ object and do real damage to the object.

I guess the consequences of a dynamic language can be confusing if you aren't expecting a dynamic language to actually be dynamic.


  1. It might help people if they read the following Python documentation


  2. "I guess the consequences of a dynamic language can be confusing if you aren't expecting a dynamic language to actually be dynamic."

    Exactly. You were TOO patient