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Ralsina.Me — Roberto Alsina's website

Sacrifices & Rock & Roll

Sor­ry: eng­lish on­ly be­cause my kbd is act­ing up an typ­ing is a chore.

Here I am, writ­ing in a place of evil so deep they charge you $56 (that's pe­sos) for a tiny sand­wich and a bot­tle of wa­ter: the Gi­an­ni & Vit­to­rio café at Cór­do­ba Air­port.

It's like Mor­dor, ex­cept the wa­ter is kin­da-­sor­ta-s­light­ly-­cold, and I car­ry no rings. And there is very lit­tle la­va. But the evil... the evil is dense, as it can on­ly be at air­port­s, Mi­nas Morgul, and per­haps the choripán place near Lisan­dro de la Torre sta­tion (which I strong­ly rec­om­mend).

But why do I do it? Be­cause I have al­ready failed. I will not post ev­ery­day this year. I may not even be close. But I will post as much as I can. And I prom­ise it won't be filler about why I did not do a re­al post.

So, on­to the meat of this post we go.

It's in­evitable that air­ports will have ex­pen­sive and bad food. It will be ex­pen­sive be­cause there are a lim­it­ed num­ber of sell­er­s, and get­ting to be one of them is ex­pen­sive. Since they can charge what­ev­er they wan­t, they have no in­cen­tives to pro­vide qual­i­ty or ser­vice.

Plus, they own a cap­tive cus­tomer base, since you are locked there, and there is no place to go out­side the air­port eti­her.

That is clas­sic gov­ern­men­t-­man­dat­ed mar­ket dis­tor­tion, with the air­port man­age­ment as the gov­ern­men­t, and you play­ing the role of you. This kind of clear ex­am­ples are good be­cause they show cap­i­tal­ism and free mar­ket ad­vo­cates ac­tu­al­ly have a de­cent point when they re­mark on the de­fects of im­per­fect mar­ket­s.

OTO­H, I don't see any com­mu­nists around here op­press­ing me, I see on­ly hap­py cap­i­tal­ists tak­ing my mon­ey.

PS: it seems there was a tor­na­do here to­day.

The problem is is. Is it not?

This has been a re­peat­ed dis­cus­sion in the Python Ar­genti­na mail­ing list. Since it has not come up in a while, why not re­cap it, so the next time it hap­pens peo­ple can just link here.

Some peo­ple for some rea­son do this:

>>> a = 2
>>> b = 2
>>> a == b
>>> a is b

And then, when they do this, they are sur­prised:

>>> a = 1000
>>> b = 1000
>>> a == b
>>> a is b

They are sur­prised be­cause "2 is 2" makes more in­tu­itive sense than "1000 is not 1000". This could be at­trib­uted to an in­cli­na­tion to­wards pla­ton­is­m, but re­al­ly, it's be­cause they don't know what is is.

The is op­er­a­tor is (on CPython) sim­ply a mem­o­ry ad­dress com­par­i­son. if ob­jects a and b are the same ex­act chunk of mem­o­ry, then they "are" each oth­er. Since python pre-cre­ates a bunch of small in­te­gers, then ev­ery 2 you cre­ate is re­al­ly not a new 2, but the same 2 of last time.

This works be­cause of two things:

  1. In­­te­gers are read­­-on­­ly ob­­jec­t­s. You can have as many var­i­ables "hold­ing" the same 2, be­­cause they can't break it.

  2. In python, as­sign­­ment is just alias­ing. You are not mak­ing a copy of 2 when you do a = 2, you are just say­ing "a is an­oth­er name for this 2 here".

This is sur­pris­ing for peo­ple com­ing from oth­er lan­guages, like, say, C or C++. In those lan­guages, a vari­able int a will nev­er use the same mem­o­ry space as an­oth­er vari­able int b be­cause a and b are names for spe­cif­ic bytes of mem­o­ry, and you can change the con­tents of those bytes. On C and C++, in­te­gers are a mu­ta­ble type. This 2 is not that 2, un­less you do it in­ten­tion­al­ly us­ing point­er­s.

In fac­t, the way as­sign­ment works on Python al­so leads to oth­er sur­pris­es, more in­ter­est­ing in re­al life. For ex­am­ple, look at this ses­sion:

>>> def f(s=""):
...     s+='x'
...     return s
>>> f()
>>> f()
>>> f()

That is re­al­ly not sur­pris­ing. Now, let's make a very small change:

>>> def f(l=[]):
...     l.append('x')
...     return l
>>> f()
>>> f()
['x', 'x']
>>> f()
['x', 'x', 'x']

And that is, for some­one who has not seen it be­fore, sur­pris­ing. It hap­pens be­cause lists are a mu­ta­ble type. The de­fault ar­gu­ment is de­fined when the func­tion is parsed, and ev­ery time you call f() you are us­ing and re­turn­ing the same l. Be­fore, you were al­so us­ing al­ways the same s but since strings are im­mutable, it nev­er changed, and you were re­turn­ing a new string each time.

You could check that I am telling you the truth, us­ing is, of course. And BTW, this is not a prob­lem just for list­s. It's a prob­lem for ob­jects of ev­ery class you cre­ate your­self, un­less you both­er mak­ing it im­mutable some­how. So let's be care­ful with de­fault ar­gu­ments, ok?

But the main problem about finding the original 1000 is not 1000 thing surprising is that, in truth, it's uninteresting. Integers are fungible. You don't care if they are the same integer, you only really care that they are equal.

Test­ing for in­te­ger iden­ti­ty is like wor­ry­ing, af­ter you loan me $1, about whether I re­turn you a dif­fer­ent or the same $1 coin. It just does­n't mat­ter. What you want is just a $1 coin, or a 2, or a 1000.

Al­so, the re­sult of 2 is 2 is im­ple­men­ta­tion de­pen­den­t. There is no rea­son, be­yond an op­ti­miza­tion, for that to be True.

Hop­ing this was clear, let me give you a last snip­pet:

>>> a = float('NaN')
>>> a is a
>>> a == a

UP­DATE: lots of fun and in­ter­est­ing com­ments about this post at red­dit and a small fol­lowup here


Hel­lo, my name is Rober­to Alsi­na. You may know me from my ap­pear­ances in "KDE De­vel­op­ers in the Stone Age" and "PyQt pro­gram­mers gone wild".

On the oth­er hand, I am not:

  • Rober­­to Al­si­­na, who lives in Hous­­ton and is ac­­tive in the Ar­­gen­­tine ex­­pa­tri­ate com­­mu­ni­­ty.

  • Ama­­do Rober­­to Al­si­­na, paraguayan poli­ti­­cian.

  • Rober­­to Ariel Al­si­­na (a­­ka Rober­s­tor­m) who drives a mo­­tor­­cy­­cle.

  • Rober­­to Al­si­­na, puer­­tor­i­­can ar­chi­tec­t.

  • Rober­­to Al­si­­na, who lives in Vil­la Ale­m­ana and at­­tend­ed Cole­­gio Buck­­ing­ham.

  • Rober­­to Al­si­­na Ruibal, who I hope is wear­ing a wig.

  • Rober­­to Gon­za­­les Al­si­­na, who lives in Canelones. I on­­ly eat canelones.

  • The FEARED Rober­­to Na­­va Al­si­­na who, while on­­ly 15 years old, is scor­ing goals in some am­a­­teur league some­where.

  • Rober­­to Le­bron Al­si­­na (I have slight­­ly more hair)

  • Rober­­to An­­to­nio Gómez Al­si­­na, ac­­tivist against bul­l­­fight­­ing

Hope­ful­ly, this will clear things up. Thanks for read­ing.

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