I was born in Cairo, Egypt and grew up in the UK, in the northwest of London. I pronounce my first name more like “huh-SANE”, not “who-sane”; my surname is just all the sounds in order. (IPA:
/həˈseɪn elˈgrIdli/, or just listen here.)
I started my career in the video games industry, which is about working collaboratively across many different disciplines (art, 3D modelling, animation, audio, design, game and engine code) to build something creative, often within hardware constraints. Titles I’ve worked on include Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, DmC: Devil May Cry, and the multiplayer for Batman: Arkham Origins.
As I got older, both crunch and the often-toxic gaming community became steadily less appealing, and I emigrated to the US to work at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. As a longtime (and enthusiastic) employee I was featured in a “come work for us” promotional video, the closest I’ve come to being famous.
I have been practising Zen meditation since early 2015. In June 2022 I formally took the Zen ethical precepts and received the Dharma name 徹 元 tetsu gen: “penetrate [the] source”, a reference to my desire for deep understanding.
I like to rock climb, and I’m a fair-weather sailor on Boston Harbour. My favourite boat is the Lightship Nantucket, whose bell you can watch me gleefully ring below:
Very occasionally I construct crosswords, though none have made it to the New York Times yet. My latest is Cold Season.
About the butterfly on my face
The picture of me on the landing page was taken at a butterfly farm. The butterfly in the picture was unable to fly. Here’s the story:
Butterfly wings are all crinkled up and wet when they’re in their chrysalis – and extremely delicate. When the butterfly emerges, it pushes out some… juice(?) from its body into hollow vein-like structures in the wings, which is what uncrinkles them. Within a couple of hours, the wing juice hardens, giving the wings their final structure.
If something goes wrong with this process - maybe the butterfly lands badly and the wing gets bent, or the juice doesn’t flow quickly enough - well, it hardens however it does, and it’s permanent.
This butterfly got messed up wings and couldn’t fly. The butterfly keeper said they put out fruit juice for the butterflies to drink - which ferments, so over the course of the day the butterflies get drunk. A good life? 🍹
Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat is an incredible book on the technicals of how to cook. (You’ve probably seen the Netflix show!) I also own The Food Lab and Lateral Cooking, which are both also in the genre of “read cover to cover and instantly become a better cook”.
I have always been a night owl, and my Philips SmartSleep wake-up light made mornings go from alarm-clock-panic-rage to pleasant and gentle. Especially in winter, I make heavy use of my Luminette light glasses: they’re essentially a SAD lamp, but on your face. Similarly, I can’t live without my Bose QC20 noise cancelling earphones, which travel everywhere with me.
I am a podcast junkie, but my favourite – by a very long distance – is Everything Is Alive. It’s a series of interviews with inanimate objects.
If you’re going to London, I have a list of recommendations. I’m biased, but it’s my favourite city by far.