On the evening of Saturday, April 10, 2021, we lost Jim Pagels. To preserve his memory, I’d like to scribble down a fraction of the man that I remember, before time cruelly takes that away too. Maybe this isn’t the Jim you knew; to others, he was a son, a brother, and a fellow graduate student, among other things. But this is the Jim that I knew — a good friend — and I miss him dearly.

I first met Jim when we had both just moved to DC — a city that he was enamored with — in 2015…


Urban legend has it that Isaac Newton invented calculus while working remotely from home as the black plague ripped through Cambridge. In a nod to this tradition, I have spent much of my downtime amid the COVID-19 quarantine thinking about Animal Crossing, a life simulation game released for the Gamecube in 2002. The fifth entry into the series, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, released today on the Nintendo Switch.

Animal Crossing is, at its core, a celebration of small pleasures. Where other games reward players for kill counts or quick reflexes and terminate in a definitive conclusion, Animal Crossing sets no…


Are you…

  • …a practicing city planner?
  • …a member of the American Planning Association?
  • …a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners?

Do you support SB 50?

If so, please consider signing our open letter to the California Chapter of the American Planning Association, which has wrongly decided to oppose SB 50. Read the full text below. A Google Doc can be found here; we will start adding signatures on Monday, April 8.

To the California Chapter of the American Planning Association:

We the undersigned represent a national coalition of practicing urban planners, members of the American Planning Association (APA)…


An experiment in redividing the country

Credit: Nolan Gray

From ancient Greece to Renaissance Italy to the Four Asian Tigers, city-states have always punched above their weight. They’ve driven culture forward, facilitated global commerce, and charged ahead of their nation-bound peers.

Indeed, cities — and the metropolitan regions that orbit around them — make sense as a political and economic unit. The key services we depend on government to do, from building infrastructure to ensuring public safety, are mostly handled by cities. And contrary to earlier predictions, the forces of globalization and the rise of the information economy have only made cities more important as economic engines and innovation…


Video games are often characterized as a kind of interactive movie. This is superficially true of all video games and perhaps substantially true of many short, highly visual games like Ico and Journey. But in my estimation, video games are much more like books. Like books, video games are a substantial time commitment that require serious imaginative and critical engagement on the part of the consumer. Increasingly, the best games — The Elder Scrolls, Mass Effect, Grand Theft Auto V — simply throw you into a world and invite you to find your own way.

Whenever I play games like…


It’s a social game, they said.

Many of Oldschool Runescape’s towns and cities, from Port Phasmatys to Lleyta, are dead. This wouldn’t necessarily be a problem in many other MMORPGs, where towns and cities merely act as hubs for adventures in the countryside. But in OSRS, towns and cities really matter to core gameplay. With its unusually sociable player base and sophisticated market economy, OSRS needs bustling towns and cities just as it needs deserts, dungeons, and dragons. Losing these places means losing the heart of what brought so many of us into Runescape in the first place. …


Guatemala City

Where in the world is the temperature perfect year round? Growing up in a place like Lexington, Kentucky, you get used to cold, icy winters and hot, humid summers. When those delicious few weeks of perfect weather arrive in the spring and fall, the city briefly bursts to life with block parties, cookouts, and art fairs. Outside of these brief periods, we spend the vast majority of our lives inside, with the windows up, and either the heat or AC cranked up. For most of my life, having eventually moved to DC and now living in New Jersey, I took…


“You’re wasting your vote!” If you’ve considered not supporting Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, you’ve probably heard this line. “Voting for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein is a wasted vote! They will never win,” the reasoning goes.

As a matter of fact, “wasted vote” actually has a technical definition that will apply to the vast swaths of American voters in 2016. That’s right: if you’re one of the 254 million Americans who live in any of the 42 states (or DC!) …

Nolan Gray

the once and future city planner // AICP // @UCLAluskin // kentuckian in california

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