Thursday, 30 April 2009

Life is Grueling

This morning started at a very AM of an hour as I got up to watch the live broadcast of the Champions League semi final between Manchester United and Arsenal, with the latter being “my” team (or, to be more accurate, the team that once upon a time I chose to support for some very unreasonable reason). There can be no doubt that ManU is the better team at the moment, so this was always going to be a tough game to watch. Indeed, “they” won the game 1:0, making Arsenal’s life really hard ahead of next week’s rematch in London.
As grueling as the experience was, it’s important to note the score could have easily been 5:0 if it wasn’t for Arsenal’s goalkeeper, Manuel Almunia, having the performance of his life. It’s important for me to say this, because normally I’m the first person to point a finger at Arsenal’s defense as the source of their problems this year and call for a new keeper.
To compliment this morning of gruelling football and to demonstrate some similarities between football and life in general, I thought I might recount two childhood football stories of mine.

Let’s set the dials on our time machine to when I was in sixth grade, roughly 11-12 years of age.
Times were different; in fact, I tend to miss those days when I hardly had any responsibilities, my duties – school – were easy, and I was well taken care of by people whose help I certainly didn’t appreciate as much as I should have (but then again who does). Times were different: computers and video games were yet to conquer kids’ leisure time, and the single TV channel Israel had running at the time didn’t offer much of a competition either. At the time I would normally come back from school in time for lunch, do my homework, and either read or go back to school in the afternoon/evening in order to play some sort of a ball game with my friends. I was lucky: I had a football of my own, so as long as I showed up it was always likely we’ll end up playing football. For the record, I sucked in football big time; I still do, but it doesn’t mean I couldn’t enjoy it.
One of those afternoons started out the normal way, with a bunch of kids playing football. Come dinner time most had retired and it was just me and my friend Eli that stayed to fool around a bit longer. It was already dark when we were approached by a kid a year below us, who was obviously eyeing my football: he invited the two of us to play against him on his own.
Eli and I were both amused. Two against one, even when one of the two is a generally bad player, is a bit on the tougher side of challenges; and that kid was a year younger than us, which does make a difference when you’re just a kid. Still, what did we have to lose? We switched the school’s flood lighting on to have a bit of a play in the dark.
And play we did. Or rather, we were played with. Toyed with. That kid ran circles around us with the ball glued to his feet. Come eight o’clock we were down 25 to 6, out of breath, and utterly humiliated.

For the second story we will need to rewind yet another year. This time around all the boys in my class were playing football at our school’s biggest pitch; it was PE class or gym class. Whatever you want to call it, it was the class I usually dreaded the most given that “physical” and me never really went together. From time to time, though, our teacher got lazy, so instead of doing the usual workouts he just let us play ball; and that was different. That was fun!
Thus we found ourselves playing at our school’s biggest pitch, the one we usually couldn’t play in after school because the older kids would scare us away so they can play instead. At the time that pitch looked big and impressive, but during the last time I visited Israel I passed by and couldn’t help notice it wasn’t that big. Add to that a recently added roof (don't ask me why it was needed) and the whole place looks different and alienating.
On that particular day my father just happened to pass by, walking the adjacent street. He saw me playing, so he stopped for a few minutes to watch the game through the school’s fence. I don’t know why he was there that time of the day and how come he wasn’t working, but what happened next had all the makings of a fairy tale to it.
Because I was never that physical, my team football duties were usually around defence. That is, if the ball crosses over to our half, I should do my best to kick it to the other half; no actual finesse was required, and there was none available to begin with. And then, just as my father leaned against the fence to me/us playing, the ball crossed over to “my” half. I ran to it, and with a single touch aimed at the general direction of “the other side of the pitch” I kicked it as hard as I could.
Spectacular things rarely happen, but that time around they did: my ball curved beautifully and landed at the top corner of the goal. The keeper couldn’t help it, it was just too good a ball; and when you add the distance into the equation then you have to admit that by kids’ standards, this was a wonderful goal. All the more when the rival team’s keeper was Asher, a boy I didn’t particularly like at the time (in retrospect, he didn’t really deserve this attitude of mine; sorry, Asher!).
I was all happy and ran over to my father, seeking confirmation for that spectacular goal. He was happy, of course, but not half as ecstatic as I was. The way I remember it, he was fairly indifferent. Maybe it was because he was well aware of the undeniable: that my spectacular goal was no more than a fluke.
Now, this is not a story where I am blaming all of my life’s miseries since on this treatment I got from my father; that was never the case and my father and I have had a generally healthy relationship, as much as any relationship inside a typically dysfunctional family can be. The only thing I take out of this story is that you can make an effort and you can be spectacularly successful once in a while, but in order to be truly acknowledged as spectacular you need to be systematically successful. This harshness of reality doesn’t apply to sports alone, which is probably the reason I still remember this event the way I do; and let’s face it, given the time that has past since it is highly likely I only remember some very specific aspects of it and in a very specific way.
The same thing will happen to Arsenal and Almunia: A few months from now no one would remember Almunia’s heroic performance; people will only remember that at the end of the day, it was Manchester United that went on to play in the final.

Monday, 27 April 2009

Idle Worship

Last night's ABC news finished with a report on a tribe from Vanuatu that worships the English Prince Philip. Of all men, they picked on that guy.
This major bit of investigative news reporting was obviously meant to make audiences laugh a bit, so they'd finish watching the news with a good feeling and forget about swine flu and such.

Me, I was left wondering what the big difference is between worshiping this sad dude and worshiping dudes who have been dead for several thousand years. Who's the real fool here?

Saturday, 25 April 2009

The Unsinkable

So, it appears as if The Pirate Bay has been dealt the death blow. With the main four people running its show sentenced to jail and severely fined, surely this spells the end of The Pirate Bay and surely this deals a severe blow to what certain people dub as internet piracy. After all, The Pirate Bay had been one of the main flag bearers of internet piracy, playing a crafty game with the authorities for a few years now; well, now it appears as if it had lost.

Or did it?
Last time I had a look, which was less than a minute ago, The Pirate Bay's website was still up and running. If anything, they are improving their services, with a new initiative coming up that allows the exchange of peer to peer contents without any records whatsoever being kept of who transferred what and while providing the tools allowing its users to avoid immediate detection.
At the broader level, my opinion is that even if the specific Pirate Bay website is stopped, the trend will continue and the business model that the record companies and the film studios are fighting so hard to preserve will, sooner rather than later, have to change. Remember that company called Napster which was sued and shut down for offering pirated contents? That company is gone, at least in its old shape; but piracy has flourished since. And piracy is here to stay, taking newer forms. Sure, legislation might cut some of its heads off, but it won't cut them all; and innovation is at the side of the so called pirates.
The spirit of The Pirate Bay will linger, and it will win.

Friday, 24 April 2009


There was this woman from the Northern Territory, today on Triple J radio's Hack program, arguing that if a 15 year old boy was to go buying condoms he should be reported to the police. The reason given was that this boy is a minor for whom it is illegal to have sex, and that this is important in order to reduce the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
What is the matter here? Are we turning into a police state where everything is regulated according to some divine, as in inhumane, standards? I would argue this woman making the claims should be desexed, because that will also effectively reduce the chances of sexually transmitted diseases' spread. More seriously, though, I argue that 15 year olds should be encouraged to buy condoms. Sure, they're probably not mature enough to deal with sex the way I think it should be dealt, but let's not put our heads in the sand and ignore that everything around them is calling on them to go with their flow and have sex; we're all surrounded by porn. When these kids do follow their basic instincts, and it's a question of when rather than if, I'd much rather them to go about it while using condoms. If anything, it's a sign of taking responsibility.
For the record, I would be more than happy to buy condoms for Dylan, especially if it became illegal for him to do so. The only catch is that a parent acquiring condoms for him might make the whole affair look too uncool.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Checking the Scores

One of the sad truths in life is that you can't watch a not-live sporting event and expect not to know the final score so that you have yourself a thrill. If there ever were days in which you could tape a football match in order to watch it later while pretending to keep all the original tension, these days are long gone. Between radio, TV, the internet, colleagues, your mother in law, an invading alien - someone is bound to tell you the score when you least expect it. You cannot just turn yourself off from this world, not even when you want to, and not even for a few hours.
I relearned this lesson last week, after recording the [very] morning Champions League matches involving both Manchester United and Arsenal under the false aspiration to watch the matches at night after we put Dylan to bed. To be fair, I didn't really expect to be able to pass the day without knowing the scores, even if I did withhold internet surfing during the day.
What really put me down was the way in which I got to know the scores. I went inside work's elevator; the luck of the draw brought me one of the new refurbished elevators, with revised and polished interiors. Thing is, these elevators also feature an LCD screen that flashes completely redundant trivia down your face, as if making an extra effort to generate additional carbon emissions while dumbing you down. That time around, that stupid LCD flashed me the scores I was trying so hard to avoid.
Who could have guessed an elevator would be the news breaker?

Perhaps it's for the better. My theory is that my team tends to do worse when I'm not watching them live, and I have a perfectly plausible explanation for that. You see, when I'm not watching live, the players have no way of hearing the instructions I issue them with; I'm to blame when they mess things up.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

A Day at the Museum

We took Dylan to the Melbourne Museum today.
As I have said here in the past, it's a really nice natural history museum. Unlike counterparts I have had the pleasure of visiting in London and New York it is not overwhelming; while it does not have the same shock and awe factor as the big guns, it is rather charming and very digestible as a result.
I am also proud to report that Jo & I signed up to become museum members. For a fee of $70 per year we will now be entitled to visit as many times as we want. The deal includes visits to the Science Museum (which we are yet to visit), visits to similar museums in Australia and New Zealand, and discounts on special exhibitions and the planetarium.
One of the special exhibitions coming up in June is the Star Wars one Jo & I have seen in Sydney back in 2002; I'm looking forward to attacking it again, this time with a digital SLR (that last time was one of the last occasions I had used my film SLR). Another reason I am looking forward to this exhibition is me wanting to have a new book marker: you see, the one I have been using over the last few years is actually my ticket from that 2002 exhibition.
I do have to add that an important reason for me being proud of my museum membership is to do with what the museum stands for. Instead of explaining why I'll just say the museum has a prominent exhibition on Darwin, genes and evolution; and in the area dedicated to the human mind they explicitly say that scientists today are of the opinion that the mind is the product of the brain activities. They don't talk about souls or other things that do not have evidence to back their claims up with; they think the way I do.

As for the above video:
While at the museum, and in addition to taking some photos (but not too many because Dylan didn't allow us to see much of the museum), I took several short video clips of Dylan in action at the museum's playground. They have this area dedicated for kids, which means that now we're members the place will be a good venue to take Dylan to so he can exhaust his energy supplies.
At home I have combined all clips to one long video (seven and a half minutes), and the result is up there for you to view. It's not the most intriguing video you will ever see, but it does document a lot of things about the way Dylan is: The things he's attracted to, his claim of ownership over everything in his vicinity, his ability to repeat things fifty times, his short attention span, his speech, and his general cuteness. It also demonstrates kids' ability to be truly nasty to one another, but I guess this is where parents are meant to participate in the creation of a civilized person.
It was a lovely day with a healthy and happy Dylan. I just know that with winter in the air it's going to be all downhill from here...

Saturday, 18 April 2009

The Trouble with Australian Politics

I find myself in a position where I'm just amazed at how frustrated I am with the state of Australian politics. So frustrated I thought I'd summarize what I think of it in a post.
When narrowing things down, I think there are three problems we need to talk about. Here goes:

Problem #1: The Labor Party
The Labor party, now in power both at the federal level and in the State of Victoria, simply fails to live up to its own ideologies.
At the federal level, they are doing hardly anything to address global warming; in fact, I argue they are taking us backwards with badly crafted emissions trading schemes that failed to work anywhere else in the world where they were implemented and only serve to create income to some power traders. On the internet front, we have a Communications Minister who seems to be on a crusade (literally) to censor the internet and maim it in the process. And these are just two examples.
At the state level, it is obvious that the whiff of corruption coming from the federal government's handling of global warming is turned into full stench when one looks at the way the Victorian State Government has been handling its water, transport and construction policies. Essentially, anything that could lead to some powerful private company making lots of money is sacred, and anything else is not even considered. Decisions are made privately and are essentially whim based, and afterwards weak justifications are made to silence the public while actual facts are hidden behind a curtain of "commercial in confidence" (that is, "we're not allowed to say anything because the info would hurt the companies involved with the project").

Problem #2: The Liberal Party
The problem with the Liberals can be summarized in short by saying they suffer from all of the previously mentioned problems inflicting Labor, only that on top of that they suffer from a twisted ideology.
As more than ten years of John Howard have indicated, they are just as corrupt as Labor if not more (check out the reasons for waging war in Iraq and the AWB scandal). But then there's their ongoing drive to ensure those with the money make an even further killing at the expense of the rest of us: check out their private school funding policies, their wholesale of Telstra, their pushing forward of private health at the expense of public health, and their Work Choices policy that seemed like a policy aimed at reinstating slavery. Lest we forget the handling of the refugees they tagged as "illegal" despite international legislation saying otherwise.
In my opinion, the Liberals are a cruel bunch of people. It is very sad most Australians consider them the only alternative to Labor.

Problem #3: The Aussie voter
Which brings me to what I consider to be the biggest problem of the lot: The Australian voter. Why the voter thinks of an election as a contest between Labor and the Liberals alone is beyond me, especially when so many people will not fail to hide their dissatisfaction with both parties and when history clearly shows both parties have often failed their voters.

The question is, what can I do about my frustration? How can I vent it, and what can I do to help improve things?
Thus far I managed to come up with two actions worth taking. The first is to blog about it, in the hope that readers may take a minute to think of their voting habits.
The second is to join The Greens, the party that is by far closest to my own opinions and the only party that seems to have some sort of a pulse and a little bit of a conscious.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

A Happy Easter

There seems to be a trend with religious holidays. Colleagues come up to me and express a certain difficulty in wishing me a happy holiday given that I don't believe in the reason behind the holiday. Some do so because they think I'm Jewish, others do so because they know me as an atheist, but the result's the same.
My reply is that I assure them I am going to enjoy the upcoming holiday. What I do not usually add, given that these events tend to take place at work and work regulations prevent me from doing so while keeping my job, is the following:
I do not need an imaginary friend to enjoy a break. Especially if that friend happens to be a chauvinistic, blood thirsty ego maniac deity. I can easily rise to the occasion whether you want to call your holiday Christmas, Passover or Easter; to me they're just "that break around the end of the calendar year" and "that long weekend in April".
Doesn't sound like much, but to me that means a lot.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Twinkle Twinkle

The stars and the planets of our solar system have been the subject of many a poem; just take Jupiter or Neptune as examples. Yet, as physicist Richard Feynman accuses in his book Six Easy Pieces, production on those poems seems to have ceased once we started understanding the true nature of these objects.
If anything, as Keats had done in his unweaving the rainbow accusation, poets have been blaming scientists for ruining the beauty of this world for all of us. I, however, take the opposite side, Feynman’s side, when he asks where all the great poets had disappeared to when no one can come up with a poem worthy of the marvel that is a massive giant cloud of gas ala Jupiter.

In my opinion, the worst offenders are children songs. Having had the opportunity to listen to many of them lately (as if I had a choice), it became obvious they suffer from lyrics that are stupidly archaic and often make no sense whatsoever. Stuff that was written in an age when prevailing morals were significantly different to ours and when many children didn’t live to adulthood (e.g., "One two three four five six seven, All good children go to heaven": how can a child get to heaven without dying first?).
The problem is that these songs can actually hurt a kid’s sense of curiosity and dumb them up. Take one of the most popular nursery rhymes ever:

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky!

Well, kid, let me break the news to you:
we know what these little stars are, and they’re not little at all. They are not really “above” us, because our world is round; they’re around us. And they’re nothing of the likes of diamonds, although they are responsible for the manufacturing of all the carbon out of which diamonds (and you, for that matter) are made.
These stars that you see, child, are distant suns.

Now, where can one find a poet capable enough to add that explanation to the song so that our kids can be kept up to date?

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Brave New World

At the rate the news have been reporting it, one might be excused in thinking Americans have found an ingenious way of dealing with unemployment: Those that lose their job go out on a shooting spree, killing themselves and many others in the process.
I guess that's what you get during harder times when you put money as your topmost ideal and when you have guns easily available.

Someone out there is talking about making a difference, and for a change he seems worth listening to.
During his current tour of Europe, president Obama has been repeating quite explicitly his agenda of totally disarming the world from nuclear weapons. I would have totally dismissed it as a gesture of popularism if the statement was not made by the most powerful guy around.
Given my very published opinion that nuclear weapons are the most immediate threat to human civilization (with global warming being a less imidiate and some astronomical calamity less probable in the near future), I would do everything I can to support Obama with his initiative.
Even when everything I can is writing a post about it. Go get 'em, tiger!

Monday, 6 April 2009

Hats Off

A breakthrough in the concept of open sourcing has been brought to my attention recently.
MIT, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, now features on its websites a section called Open Course Ware (or is it OpenCourseWare?). The idea is that MIT provides all the course material it has on its hands for anyone to access, including videos, audio recordings, and papers. Isn’t that fascinating? One of the world’s topmost universities sharing its knowledge with anyone willing?
According to MIT, they’re doing this because their services are going to be sought after to capacity whatever they do, so they might as well help anyone out there who can’t acquire their services directly. In particular, they are aiming at institutions in poorer countries where materials are not easily available.
I don’t have much to say other than praise MIT for its actions. And praise as in big time praising, hats off and everything.

On a personal basis, this news reminds me that a couple of years ago, during a midlife crisis type moment, I was entertaining the thought of doing an Open University course. MIT’s move makes these thoughts look particularly silly: I was never into it for the degree but rather for the experience. Given that MIT is offering several courses of personal interest to me in its Open Course Ware program, my Open University days seem to be officially over before they begun.
Open Course Ware is the way instead. I started things off with an introduction to psychology. The future includes an introduction to biology and some literature courses, including film appreciation stuff.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

True Lies

Connex, the company running Melbourne's train services, has announced today that it had reached an agreement with its train drivers' union. The drivers will receive a 15% pay rise (not bad given the current atmosphere), and in return the classification of train faults would be revised so that more problems would now count as lesser issues so as to allow train services to continue without repairs.
For the purpose of this discussion, I will ignore the politics involved here and the potential for having faulty trains running at increased passenger risk. What I do want to focus on is the person making the announcement on behalf of Connex, a person with whom we share more than 99% of our genes. A person that can blend in a crowed without us ever knowing there was anything special about him.
Announcing the agreement, Connex' spokesperson proclaimed over the radio that "the new agreement will improve the trains". Notice he didn't say the agreement would improve train services' reliability; he said the agreement will improve the trains. Now I know that salespeople all over the world and spokespersons across the universe are well versed in the art of making a big fuss out of some small truth as well as the art of creating spin to help guide people towards their preferred interpretation of facts.
What I am not used to, though, is blatant lying. There is no way in which disregarding certain faults can improve the trains, and obviously anyone making this claim is knowingly lying. My question to this spokesperson, who seems to have come from Orwell's Ministry of Truth and who acts as if he is closely related to Joseph Goebbels, is this:
How can you look yourself in the mirror after uttering such bullshit to the whole of Melbourne? Don't you have a conscience? How can you look yourself in the mirror?

Friday, 3 April 2009

Viruses R Us

A lot of traffic went past this week in the media concerning the Conficker computer virus. The virus, or trojan, or warm, is/was supposedly able to take control over your PC and make it do things you don't want it to do. The bottom line is you don't want Conficker to attack you.
The thing that the media, or at least most of it, had forgot to mention is that this Conficker thing is only a danger for Microsoft Windows users. For the record, my finger is pointed mainly towards the mass media, where most of the public were likely to hear about Conficker in the first place. As it is, users of the Mac and Linux operating systems have nothing to worry about, yet the media has failed to acknowledge that fact.
Now, you may reply to my complaint by saying Windows users represent the vasy majority of PC users. You'd be right: Surveys indicate Linux is being used on about half a percent of PC users while Apple's operating systems are running on around 5% of PCs (I'll leave it up to you to determine whether 5% is negligable or not).
My problem, however, is not with the media's avoidance of telling things the way they are to a minority of the public. My problem is with the media failing to tell the majority of the public how they can rid themselves of the threat of computer viruses altogether. The cure is there; it's just that the people are too ignorant to recognize it, and it's the media that is cooperating and doing its role to ensure the public remains dumb.
Is Microsoft that scary, even for the mass media?

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Friends Apart

During the weekend we’ve had friends coming over for a visit. Hooray!
The official excuse was us getting a new barbecue and therefore us being required to system test it. We actually got the BBQ a few months ago and already had several friends invited to help us with the testing, only that up until this weekend we had to cancel out because of various reasons (mostly to do with Dylan being sick).
In preparation for the festivities we went to a high spec butcher and decided to stray from the usual line of just getting steaks in favor of something more creative. We’ve ended up with various types of marinated chicken breast bits on a stick (professionally known as chicken shishlick), minced lamb on a stick (kebab shishlick), marinated lamb steaks, and a few different types of sausages. As a backup we got a rump steak.
I feel it is important to note that I don’t like lamb meat; I disapprove of its aftertaste. However, after reading lately about the effects cooked (especially charred) beef meat can have on us humans, I wanted to try greener pastures; you see, I don’t particularly fancy a cancer (one of the several negative aspects that are more beef exclusive). So yes: as a wise cow once said, eat more chicken! It’s also ten times better environment wise, as in methane emissions, the destruction of vegetation to support the cows, and the consumption of energy and water required to generate beef meat over other types of meat. I would go further and urge you to all become vegetarians, only that I know my life will not be the same without some meat in it.
I ended up surprised with our barbecue: the lamb meat we ate had virtually none of the lamb aftertaste I distaste so much. Apparently, that taste is directly related to the lamb's age, which means our high spec butcher uses really young lambs (how nice it must be for the lamb). Lambs are not the only area where the butcher seems to have an edge: even their home made sausages were tasty, which is quite an achievement considering sausages are made of high fat shit. Their sweet chilly sausage, for example, felt the way chilly chocolate does, starting off sweet up until the hotness of it decided to kick in.
As another anecdote, I have to add that in order to support all the meat we also bought a pack of 24 beer bottles from Aldi. This Santiago beer, made in San Salvador, is obviously a copy of Corona; only that it's a good copy and that at a bit more than $30 for the lot it's quite cheap. Thing is, we don't drink much alcohol; my calculations indicate that if we drink a bottle with every second film we watch at home this purchase should last us some six months. But we won't, so we need to have more friends over to help us before the beer goes out of date.

It would probably sound weird for me to state, at this stage, that the main point I’m trying to convey with this post has nothing to do with meat. The main point is that friends have paid us a visit. And they were nice and we enjoyed their visit: they're the same age as us, and between sharing similar professions, living close to one another, sharing an affection to video games and an inclination to science fiction, we have a lot in common. Who knows where this will lead to?
We don’t have many friends in Australia. To be honest, I was never the type to have many friends in the first place; so when someone does come over it is a good enough reason to party. The trick is to get the few friends we have to come over!
While this sounds simple it is definitely not the case. Not anymore, at least: both us and virtually all of our friends seem to be maintaining a calendar that is mostly full of obligations and leaves very little opportunities for seeing one another. The question I would like to ask is, why have we reached such a situation when the most pleasurable and rewarding activity we people can do – interacting with our friends – has become an endangered species?
I don’t think I can offer a reliable answer to that question. What I can say, though, is that things weren’t always this way. As a child I clearly remember just roaming around the street or my school, perhaps equipped with a ball, bumping into friends, and gradually getting some sort of an activity out of it. As a bachelor I remember going to visit my friends while providing no advanced warning and just playing computer games together or something; reciprocal visits took place regularly, too. Generally speaking, yesteryears were marked with me having more time than things to do with, a lot of it because I lacked the means to fill my time up.
Today it’s different. Today I have way too many things I would like to do but only enough time to do a portion of them. Today people think it is perfectly fine to resort to a lifestyle where seeing your best friends is a matter to be decided by the time slots available in one's diary.
I suspect we got this far because of our increasingly demanding lifestyles. We have to work longer in order to keep up with the Joneses (they just bought a new car and redid their backyard) and afford a private school for the kids. And if in doing so we work ourselves to death and lead a frustrating life because we lack the intimate experience of being and doing stuff with our friends, then so be it.
Something is wrong with this picture.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

United in Atheism

Let me break the news to you: The Pope’s an atheist.
As they say in films, “I shit you not”. If you don’t believe me just go ahead and ask him: “Mr Pope, do you believe in Thor?”
“No, my son/daughter.”
“Do you believe in Zeus?”
“No, everyone knows that Zeus is a god invented by people.”
“So, do you believe in Buddha?”
“Come on, don’t mess me with trivial eastern belief systems.”
“Alright then, what about Muhammad?”
Seeking to get away with it while sounding politically correct our Pope would give you an evasive answer here, but trust me – he does not believe in Muhammad.
Similarly, you can go with him over a list of hundreds if not thousands belief systems in actual use by people somewhere around the world and see that the Pope dismisses them all. He won’t be able to disprove many if not most of them, but he will still tell you they are improbable enough for us to be able to avoid paying them any attention.
So let’s look ourselves in the mirror and admit it: It’s not just the Pope, we are all atheists towards a great many things.

When looked at this way, the only difference between the Pope and I is that while he is an atheist towards all belief systems but one, I’m an atheist towards all of them. Our disagreement is on just one out of a multitude if faiths.
And when I go about explaining why that single difference exists between the two of us I will be using the exact same arguments the Pope had used to dismiss all belief systems but his.