why cannot assign to function call

Derek Martin code at pizzashack.org
Mon Jan 5 20:21:09 CET 2009

On Mon, Jan 05, 2009 at 01:23:04PM -0500, Steve Holden wrote:
> Even if they really are small-minded or stupid I agree this wouldn't be
> helpful behavior. But neither would your characterization of Python's
> assignment model as "bizarre" (even ignoring that you SHOUTED IT AT US),
> and I have yet to see you admit that such a characterization was, shall
> we say, inappropriate.

Actually I did, in one of my two most recent posts.  But as Steve
D'Arpano just pointed out (even though he clearly disagreed with me),
such a characterization is subjective, and as such you can't rightly
say it's inappropriate.  That's the largest part of my point in
posting in this thread.  Many folks do exactly that, very often.
Someone disagrees with you, tries to shed some light on a different
perspective, or simply fails to understand something, and some members
of this community treat them like heretics, fools, or criminals.

I understand why the assignment model works the way it does, and it's
quite sensible, *when you understand it*.  However, I do also think
that to someone who has not encountered such a model before, and who
has not had it explained to them, and/or who has not the background to
understand why it is implemented that way, it very likely might seem
"markedly unusual in appearance, style, or general character and often
involving incongruous or unexpected elements;" as dictionary.com
defines the term bizarre.  So no, I don't think that's a
mischaracterization at all. 

As for using the term in all caps, I did so precisely because it was
clear to me that many people here think that it could not be unusual,
and I wanted to emphasize the fact that other perspectives exist...
That they are not the same as yours does not invalidate them!

> It takes little to admit one is in the wrong even when one isn't. I've
> had to learn to do it because I often *am* wrong about things. Could you
> be persuaded to consider the possibility that you met with a somewhat
> hostile reaction (whether or not such a reaction was useful or
> necessary) because you were, in a small way, poking people in the side
> with a sharp stick?

I fully expected to receive a hostile reaction, because I am
criticising the behavior of the collective, and supplying a dissenting
perspective -- something I knew from the start would trigger such
hostility *because it always does*.  I have witnessed hostile
reactions time and time again in this forum, from some of the same
people who are dumping on me for suggesting that the assignment model
might be something other than obvious, and from others, for much less:
I expect it because I see it in response to nothing more than asking a
simple question, when the question displays a clear indication that
the poster has missed something critical preventing them from
understanding how to achieve their goals.  My intent was exactly to
point out this behavior, in an attempt to call to people's attention
that it is what they are doing, and thereby discourage it.  I fully
expected a negative response.  You in particular have responded quite
well, but the rest of the community by and large has sadly not failed
to live up to my expectations, even in the face of me saying that that
is exactly what they are doing.  Quite impressive.

Some of the comments from people include the idea that the assignment
model is nothing special, if you've encountered any one of a dozen
other languages.  I didn't realize programming in any of those
languages was a prerequisite for posting questions here, or for
programming with Python.  And that speaks to my ultimate point:  Some
members of the community seem to make assumptions about what people
know or should know, or have experienced, and talk down to people who
haven't met their expectations.  They meet different perspectives with
hostility.  Posts which phrase questions in terms commonly used in
other programming paradigms are generally even more likely to be met
with that same hostility, when they could simply instead explain
politely that Python behaves according to a different model than what
they are used to.  Often this happens, but too often not without
someone also letting the OP know what a mindless jerk he is...

*This* is the "common understanding" which I'd hoped could be
reached...  But you were right... it's very difficult for people to
admit that they might be wrong.

Derek D. Martin
GPG Key ID: 0x81CFE75D

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