Photos C/O Kyle West

By: Andrew Mrozowski

Big cities are beautifully illuminated at night, however one drawback is that it’s not often you can look up at the night sky and see constellations and planets. Hamilton is unique as it not only features a lot of green spaces that set the scene perfectly for stargazers, but also has a dedicated group of astronomers to keep the interest as alive as the stars in the sky.

One group that takes advantage of the clear, starry nights is the Hamilton Amateur Astronomers. The non-profit organization is the Canada’s largest independent astronomy club and is made up of 200 members who range from beginner to expert level astronomers.

“We strive to further not just the understanding of this fascinating science but also, and most importantly, the enjoyment of it,” said John Gauvreau, chair of the HAA.

Through free monthly events, the HAA holds meetings that are open to the public. At each of these events, a speaker showcases a presentation on astronomy or a related topic.

 

 

 

Kevin Salwach, a member of the HAA since 2009, presented A Step Back and a Look Up on March 8. Since the event was catered towards the general public, Salwach dropped all technical aspects of astronomy and highlighted the importance of amateur astronomy. He encouraged attendees to take a look at the bigger picture of the universe.

“I find stargazing to be one of the most humbling and relaxing hobbies out there. There is something about sitting under a clear, dark sky that brings me complete peace of mind,” said Salwach.

Starting from a young age, Salwach found himself fascinated with the world of astronomy after visiting the William J. McCallion Planetarium at the Burke Science Building on campus.

“I remember the student doing the presentation pointing out Orion’s belt on the projector, and then going home later that night and seeing the belt in the night sky with my own eyes got me hooked. I’ve been going back every Wednesday ever since,” said Salwach.

Originally opening in 1954, the Planetarium was the conception of William McCallion, a professor in the department of physics and astronomy. Before finding its permanent home in the basement of BSB in room 149, an old war-surplus parachute was hung from the ceiling and used as a planetarium dome. The planetarium was the first of its kind in Ontario to offer public shows.

Featuring two shows every Wednesday night, graduate students who are studying astronomy create and design a one-hour show on the topic of their choice.

Two upcoming shows at the planetarium are based on pop-culture. One show is set around the Star Trek universe. Attendees will be taken around the universe to explore different stellar objects and phenomenon that have been featured in the show. The other is set around the theme of Harry Potter as many names of the book’s characters are inspired by the field of astronomy.

For PhD candidate and manager of the planetarium, Ian Roberts, the space has become a second home during his time at McMaster.

“For me, I think it’s a totally unique experience — something that you are not going to get a chance to do in many places, to come in here when a show is going, it’s totally dark [in the room],”said Roberts. “The first time the night sky comes up, it is completely amazing. It’s very striking. Getting the opportunity to come to a facility like this is something that is super unique.” he added.

Between the McCallion Planetarium at McMaster as well as the numerous other events that the Hamilton Amateur Astronomers run every month, there is room for anybody to study the night sky, whether they have a general interest or are aspiring astronomers themselves.

“Anyone can go out and take a look at the night sky, it belongs to all of us. Especially for a university student who is bogged down with study and schoolwork, stargazing is a nice repose to the stress of school,” said Salwach.

There’s a lot of life down here on Earth, but if you take a look up, you will be introduced to a brand-new world filled with wonder and awe that is sure to strike your curiosity.

 

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Photo by Kyle West

By: Rimsha Laeeq

As a commuter at McMaster University, getting home early isn’t always an option. For students who commute, studying late for a midterm in the library or attending an evening event is hardly an easy decision to make.

When deciding to stay late on campus as a commuter, transit is an issue to consider. It is crucial for students to be involved in the many activities that the university hosts. Students should not have to worry about their safety when commuting home from school.

This is why the Hamilton Street Railway should extend their bus schedules to the later hours of the evening.

The HSR has many buses that operate throughout the day, from the eastbound to the westbound, including the 5, 1, 51 and the 10, otherwise known as the B-Line Express.

Nevertheless, after 7:00 p.m., the B-Line stops running, meaning off-campus students have to either arrange their own rides or take one of the three other buses, which usually requires transferring onto another bus in downtown Hamilton.

As an off-campus student, the last B-line bus I can take to reach home under an hour departs from McMaster at 6:43 p.m. With most events ending after this, it becomes difficult for me to get home.

My 50-minute commute on one bus turns into an hour and 15-minute commute over two buses, and includes waiting in the heart of downtown to catch the second bus.

Students living off-campus are often forced to leave campus early and miss amazing events that McMaster offers because their bus won’t run after a specific time.

Being a university student does not mean to solely “work with academics”. I believe it is important for the HSR to extend their bus timings not only for the safety of their students but to allow students to become more involved with the different events taking place on campus.

With extended bus timings, students can engage in the abundant cultural events occurring at McMaster, with the opportunity to meet several other students at the university from a variety of programs and levels. This gives students the benefit of learning about the diverse cultures present at McMaster.

Off-campus students shouldn’t feel like they don’t belong, or don’t have a say in many of the events taking place due to inconvenient bus timings. These students, including myself, need to be a part of the university culture.

When it comes to academics, H.G. Thode Library of Science and Engineering is open until 2:00 a.m. during exam season for students to effectively study, whether that be alone or in groups.

For most students, once you sit down to study and are motivated to do so, you can study for hours on end. With a restricted time period due to bussing, this can often demotivate students, as getting in a ‘grind’ mode may be quite difficult for some.

Additionally, students study differently, which means that they need to be able to switch up their study environments. Some students prefer to study on campus while others prefer their home. Students shouldn’t have to compromise their academics because a bus doesn’t run at a later time.

For students who commute using the B-Line Express, this bus only runs on weekdays. With midterms, exams or other events occurring on the weekend, students are forced to take two or more buses or find alternate means of transport to get on campus.

Students should not be afraid of staying late at the school they attend. They should feel safe and have no difficulty commuting back and forth from campus on the daily.

When considering the safety of students, their involvement at McMaster and networking with people to make their university career a more fun-filled experience, HSR bus timings should most definitely be extended.

For students who are currently commuting and have to stay late, the McMaster Students Union offers a volunteer service, the Student Walk Home Attendant Team, who will walk or bus with students to their destination. This service is open seven days a week from 7:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m.

 

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Photo from Silhouette Photo Archives

By: Rob Hardy

Eight years ago, as a rookie contributor to The Silhouette, I wrote one of my very first pieces on the sorry state of the Hamilton Street Railway. It still survives online under the title of “Public Transit Blues”. So what's changed since for McMaster University students and the city itself? Not much.

Some things are a bit better and some have gotten worse, but overall I would say the HSR is the same miserable experience it's always been.

There do seem to be more student buses during peak times on campus so it's not as packed as it used to be. We also have been able to negotiate year-round bus passes for Mac students, which previously only gave us an eight-month deal.

While I believe the HSR functions as best as it can within its limitations, the truth is that this is often not even remotely good enough.

In my case, coming in from Stoney Creek, the time spent commuting is brutal. If I take the B-Line, it still takes roughly 50 minutes. Trapped in a compartment full of stale air, at times too overheated, and shaking like hell as it travels our streets, the experience can be uncomfortable.

What's worse is that unlike previously, where the B-Line used to come right onto campus, it now stops on Main Street. Having to then walk all the way down to Togo Salmon Hall, in often unpleasant conditions, is ridiculous.

Moreover, the B-Line still ends around 7:00 p.m. This results in having to make two connections, which significantly adds to the trials of an already long day. While I can understand that express buses may terminate service at night, it would greatly help if a consecutive route ran from at least University Plaza to Eastgate, even with regular stops.

I use the B-Line as merely one example. Anyone living on the mountain, who also has to first get downtown before progressing into Westdale, suffers similarly.

Part of this dilemma is that Hamilton has unique geography to contend with. Our city layout is not a simple grid like you would find in Edmonton, for example, with nothing other than a river to divide us.

But much of the fault lies with the HSR itself. My biggest issue is with buses that arrive early, causing them to leave many people behind. Sometimes I have been able to trace this to drivers who began their route early, because there is no other way, logistically-speaking, they could have already arrived at that stop.

This is notable given that the HSR has been trying very hard to rebuild ridership — somewhat of a fool's errand considering their target market is people who take the bus out of necessity.

What's more striking is that even intra-city travel within Hamilton becomes “a commute” if one were to cross the length of the city twice a day. The current system as it stands is simply too broken and not meant for people in Stoney Creek to travel by bus all the way to Ancaster mountain.

During this decade, the light rail transit promised to offer innovation, as we moved from the planning stages to acquired funding to implementation. After all, Canadian cities of comparable size can now reasonably be expected to have an alternative public transit option on their most travelled route.

But as things stand, the latest news is that certain council members are now weary of paying additional costs should the project go over-budget, a reasonable possibility considering its timeline has been continually delayed due to endless council motions on the subject.  But why should the province keep footing the entire bill anyway, especially for a city whose factions are still so divided on this issue?

While the HSR is a crucial part of Hamilton, their monopoly on public transit leaves bewildered riders powerless to really express their concerns. When we are caused to be late for school or work, an apology is pretty useless, and most people don't even bother to complain.

What some have done is stop riding. Yes, the HSR wants to regain their numbers. But many previous and potential transit users are waiting for more than a hollow marketing campaign to be convinced.

 

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The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern

This is the book to turn to when you are suddenly no longer impressed by your own reality; when everything seems grey and bleak. When I picked up this book, I found a story of love and magic, the most wonderful imagery and an overwhelming reminder of the poignancy of opposites, of black and white.

Favourite Quote: “It is like realizing someone in a photograph is no longer the same age as they were when it was taken, and they seem farther away because of it.”

The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephan Chobsky

This story is for anyone who has ever had an existential crisis; for someone who loves music on an almost transcendental level; for someone who finds it impossible to name just one favourite novel; or for you, if you get it when Charlie says he feels infinite.

Favourite Quote: “The outside lights were on, and it was snowing, and it looked like magic. Like we were somewhere else. Like we were someplace better.”

The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho

When you forget that you already have everything you need, read this book. When you are reminded that there is more to what meets the eye, when you’re stuck at the bottom of your personal wheel of fortune – read this book. When you have a moment, and all the other books on your list are too long or too daunting, read this book.

Favourite Quote: “You must always know what it is that you want.”

Complete Journals of L. M. Montgomery (The PEI Years, 1889-1900): 

As I read through her journals, Lucy Maud Montgomery’s writing style reminds me of myself, aged 8, 10, 14, 17: (re)reading Anne’s adventures, and graduating, finding my own Patty’s Place, falling in love. There is almost a feeling of ‘inception’ because suddenly I find myself reading and maturing along with Montgomery – someone who would grow up only to affect my childhood.

Favourite Quote: “What care I if it be ‘wild and improbable’ and ‘lacking in literary art’? I refuse to be any longer hampered by such canons of criticism. The one essential thing I demand of a book is that it should interest me. If it does, I forgive it any and every other fault.”

Time Was Soft There: A Paris Sojourn at Shakespeare & Co – Jeremy Mercer

This summer (which was possibly the best one of my life), je suis tombée en amour avec Paris. Extremely cliché I know, yet with my friends, I did much better than just fall in love. We found, like many before us, the famous Shakespeare & Co. bookstore, the star of this story. While reading this memoir I could hear, amidst all of the colourful characters, the trilling of an old piano, low laughter, the clacking of an old typewriter, an occasional snore – and the sounds of pages turning.

Favourite Quote: “In a place like Paris, the air is so thick with dreams they clog the streets and take all the good tables at the cafés. Poets and writers, models and designers, painters and sculptors, actors and directors, lovers and escapists, they flock to the City of Lights.“

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