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Archives for October, 2020

Paotaiwan Wetland Park

October 31st, 2020

Paotaiwan wetland park (炮台湾国家湿地公园) is a small nature reserve in Shanghai’s BaoShan district on the southern bank of the Yangtze river. It’s quite peaceful compared to most of the city’s tourist attractions and even on a Sunday afternoon it wasn’t particularly busy. I liked the viewing pier where you can watch the big cargo ships sailing by. You can travel there either on foot or by bus from Shui Chan Road (水产路) station on line 3.

First sight of the Yangtze river

I initially thought the name 炮台湾 (炮 cannon, big gun; 台湾 Taiwan) was an alarming nationalist call to blow up Taiwan with a cannon, but apparently it’s 炮台 “gun emplacement” 湾 “bay”, after the fort that guards the mouth of the Yangtze river, so there you go.

The titular gun emplacement

Shanghai Metro Line 3

October 30th, 2020

Line 3 has got to be Shanghai’s most iconic metro line. I’ve even seen it featured in some promotional tourist ads. To my knowledge it is the only line to be entirely elevated above the ground and riding on it gives some great views of the city.

But what is it like to walk nearly 26 miles underneath it? Today I can reveal the answer is: a bit dull.

I walked the route over three afternoons which I’ve merged together in the map above.

To my great shame I didn’t make it quite to the end, stopping one station short at Tie Li Road. The last section really wasn’t great for walking being just a sparsely populated industrial area.

The problem is, unlike line 12 which I walked last year, the route doesn’t pass through the city centre or cross the river, and most of the latter half runs parallel to a large noisy highway. So there isn’t much in the way of scenery apart from the elevated concrete structure itself. And you can’t even really see the trains.

But it wasn’t a total loss as I got to visit Baoshan district for the first time. Another tourist attraction there will be the subject of a later post…

Yangpu Bridge

October 13th, 2020

I’ve wanted to walk to the Yangtze river for a while now, seeing as it’s only just a bit north of Shanghai. I tried last week but the attempt ended in failure. As I got to the edge of the city I found myself walking through an endless expanse of warehouses and docks, which was not a lot of fun. It also wasn’t obvious if I’d be able to see much once I finally got there so I gave up and went home.

Typical scenery

Before the industrial wasteland there was a nice footpath along the Huangpu river. I passed another impressive bridge, the Yangpu bridge. This one is the 38th longest cable-stayed bridge in the world. Shanghai really is a great place for bridge spotters.

Yangpu bridge

Puzzling

October 9th, 2020

Finally finished!

What with having to stay in a lot more recently I’ve taken to doing puzzles. This one took ages: most of the pieces are either just blue or black.

Reaching the most difficult part

Thames Town

October 4th, 2020

With China clamping down on imitating foreign architecture of late it seems like a good time to visit Shanghai’s “Thames Town”.

Obligatory red phone box

This isn’t the first time I’ve visited one of these curiosities: back in 2018 I visited Paris-lite in Hangzhou.

Thames Town is way out in the suburb of Songjiang. I decided to make the trip more interesting by walking there from Qixin Road subway station which is at the end of line 12.

The route was surprisingly rural in places. But there was always some apartment complex or tower block visible on the horizon.

Rice fields next to the road

Eventually I got to Songjiang which was once a self-contained town but now merged into the Shanghai suburbs.

Lake in Songjiang

It was getting a bit late by the time I finally reached Thames Town, which limited photo taking opportunities. It’s just on the other side of the lake in the picture above.

Tourist information board!

They’ve done a pretty good job of replicating a generic “English market town”. The houses looked pretty authentic too, although it was hard to get a good look as they all have tall fences around them. I guess the occupants must be pretty annoyed with the number of tourists.

Xcowsay 1.5.1

October 1st, 2020

Back in February I wrote about xcowsay 1.5 which had been updated with Gtk3 support. At the time I knew it would cause problems with non-compositing window managers but I wasn’t sure if this would affect anyone. Well, I received complaints. I always hate it when software updates break otherwise working systems so I’d like to apologise for this and it’s now fixed with xcowsay 1.5.1.

The problem was caused by Gtk3 removing the gtk_widget_shape_combine_mask function which xcowsay used for transparency around the cow and the bubble. In xcowsay 1.5 I simply added an alpha channel to the windows and the compositor will blend them with the desktop underneath. However without a compositor it results in ugly black squares like this:

To work around this xcowsay 1.5.1 grabs the pixels from the root window and uses that as the background to draw the cow and bubble onto. This works fine unless the windows underneath move while the cow is displayed, but I think in practice this is unlikely to cause a problem.

Download the new release here: xcowsay-1.5.1.tar.gz

This release is also signed with with my PGP key: xcowsay-1.5.1.tar.gz.asc