by Trey Nosrac
Near the entrance door leading into the banquet room was a table. On the table was an assortment of name cards. I found my card, hand-written in an excellent calligraphy script, and the instructions directed me to Table 12. This table was for oddballs, out-of-towners and possibly wedding crashers. Table 12 consisted of an elderly couple from St. Louis and six of us singles. The St. Louis lady suggested we say our name and why we are here in an effort to break the ice.
She nodded in my direction. “My name is Trey. I drove in from Cleveland. The groom’s father is a high school pal. I sure hope his son’s marriage works out better than his old man, and I hope I don’t have to appear to testify in divorce proceedings with his kid.”
After a nervous chuckle, we continued around the table and ended with the guy sitting beside me. He was a middle-aged, half-bald guy who introduced himself as Peter, a step-nephew, whatever the hell that is. I liked Peter’s outfit, no shirt or tie, just a blue fleece zippered jacket with the collar sticking up over a sportscoat.
I also liked that Peter was not a small talker. After a server set down our salad plates, he leaned in my direction and asked me, “Are you into crypto?”
I shook my head, “Nah, I prefer to squander money that I can see. I don’t understand the whole bitcoin deal.”
He said, “Me neither, but I’ve spent the last month trying to learn. I’ve watched videos, read books, learned the terminology and spent hours listening to blogs.”
“And what’s your verdict?”
“Frustrating. I learned plenty, but I still know nothing. Still, the cryptocurrency world is weirdly fascinating.”
“What sent you down that rabbit hole?” I asked.
“I saw a YouTube about data mining, where a person can set up a mining operation in their home. I still feel stupid about blockchains, ledgers, fungibility, nodes, proof-of-work…”
I interrupted, “Proof of work? Whoa, dude, I’d bail right there.”
He snorted a laugh, pulled out his phone, and handed it to me.
“Proof of work is a consensus mechanism used to confirm that network participants, called miners, calculate valid alphanumeric codes — called hashes — to verify bitcoin transactions and add the next block to the blockchain. It does so by having other participants in the network verify that the required amount of computing power was used by the miner that is credited with calculating the valid hash. The more miners working to verify transactions (and the faster they can generate hashes), the higher a network’s hash rate.”
I asked, “You got an explanation using American English, preferably in a slow southern drawl?”
He dropped his phone into his pocket, smiled, and said, “That IS the simple version.” After a sip from his wine glass, he asked, “So, Trey, how do you waste time?”
“The horses with carts?”
“Yep, it’s breeding season. I own a mother. I’m looking for the right father to hook her up. It’s like an arranged marriage.”
“How do you arrange a horse marriage?”
“Not as well as I should. Selecting a sire is complicated, much more complicated than people assume. The selection process for a sire is like your crypto world. There are a small group of folks who profess to understand breeding, and then you have a bunch of us guessing, floundering.”
“A male to a female can’t be that complicated.”
“You would be surprised. Breeding a mare involves genetics, pedigrees, crosses, market forces, locations, sales, timing, advertising, costs, biology, return on investment; a lot of stuff to consider.”
We were interrupted by the clinking of glassware and a series of toasts to the bride and groom. As we started our main course, I told Peter, “I’m jealous.”
He cocked his head questioningly.
I explained, “You’re trying to learn to be a bitcoin miner. You mentioned you spend hours and hours learning, listening to podcasts, watching videos.”
“Oh yeah, everybody is a crypto expert. There is advice whenever you click on videos, statistics, etc. You can get hot tips and advice 24/7. I enjoy a podcast every Wednesday, Commander Crypto. Listeners send in a specific question, and the host gives specific answers. He does not appear to sell anything yet, but I’m sure he will. He’s very entertaining and has become my digital bitcoin guru.”
“We don’t have much of that in harness racing. Most of us don’t have easy access to wise people who understand pedigrees, inside advice, scientific studies, market forecasts or genetic studies. A big gap exists between a mook like me sitting in my apartment and the brains in a major breeding farm.”
I continued, “We can do hypothetical breeding where you put in a sire for your mare, and a colorful chart pops up. Unfortunately, I don’t know what the colors mean or how important the colors are. A podcast or something to walk me through decoding would be great.”
The server refilled my wine glass, and Peter said, “Well, maybe there should be more informative shows for racing people. There should be podcasts on wagering, buying horses, anything. Anyone who wants to learn needs teachers and directions.”
I gave him a high-five and said, “That would be very cool. Call into a podcast, give the host your mare, and let them suggest sires. Stir up the pot with alternate breeding ideas.”
He said, “There are probably tools out there you are just not finding.”
“Maybe. The few racehorse breeders I have crossed paths with seem very nice. They all know each other, but it’s not like a stranger can text them and pick their brains.”
Peter grabbed a crescent roll from the basket. “Things have changed. People don’t seem to have time to build long-term relationships these days and don’t have time for face-to-face interaction.” Then he nodded at the bride and groom playing mash the cakes in the face thing, “Young Lucas met his new bride on the internet. He probably did some research.”
I sighed. “True. Let’s hope the happy couple’s firstborn is a winner.”