E-Scribe : a programmer’s blog

About Me

PBX I'm Paul Bissex. I build web applications using open source software, especially Django. Started my career doing graphic design for newspapers and magazines in the '90s. Then wrote tech commentary and reviews for Wired, Salon, Chicago Tribune, and others you never heard of. Then I built operations software at a photography school. Then I helped big media serve 40 million pages a day. Then I worked on a translation services API doing millions of dollars of business. Now I'm building the core platform of a global startup accelerator. Feel free to email me.

Book

I co-wrote "Python Web Development with Django". It was the first book to cover the long-awaited Django 1.0. Published by Addison-Wesley and still in print!

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Programming and Ice Cream

There are connections between programming and my favorite ice cream.

In our new book on Django, I used the sentence "My favorite ice cream is Herrell's" in some example code where I needed text -- a tribute to my favorite local ice cream parlor.

Walking by Herrell's this afternoon, I saw Steve Herrell inside. Because I had a copy of my book with me, I decided I'd see if he wanted to take a quick look at the code snippet. He did. He took this odd testimonial with grace and good humor, and thanked me.

Then he surprised me by bringing up a connection between programming and his ice cream that I hadn't considered. Mixins.

In ice cream, mixins are chunks of good stuff like chopped up Heath Bars. Herrell is the man credited with inventing this practice. He did this in his first parlor, Steve's Ice Cream, in Boston (Somerville, actually) in the '70s.

In object-oriented programming, a mixin is a class used to add specific attributes or features to another class. Not so much a "parent" class as a clever uncle. Some sort of mixin funcionality is possible in any language with multiple inheritance, as far as I know.

What I didn't know until reading the Wikipedia article on mixins was that the programming term itself was inspired by Steve's Ice Cream! This adaptation of terminology was the handiwork of workers at Symbolics, a Lisp company headquartered in nearby Cambridge.

So, not only did today's little outing give me an excuse to get a dish of Key Lime Cardamom ice cream, it gave me a fun new bit of trivia as well.

Tuesday, November 11th, 2008
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4 comments

Comment from sharon fisher , later that day

hmm. When in the 1970s? I went to the Cream Machine, in downtown Troy, in 1977, and that was the first place I encountered mixins.

Comment from Joe Brandt , later that day

I think I'll have to gather up the kids and make the trip over the river to go to Herrells again. It's important for them to understand history (even if it only matters to their father), and if eating ice cream is part of that process then so be it.

Comment from Paul , later that day

Sharon -- according to the Herrell's website he started Steve's in 1973 and sold it in 1977. So, I guess the answer is, somewhere in between!

Comment from akahn , later that day

Mm, key lime cardamom. I didn't know the book was out, congrats!

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