Lingonberry Pancakes

A number of years back I took the plunge and bought my first Fitbit. It was that big bulky bracelet version with the band that would wear out every few months, but I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. Partially out of a desire to lose weight, but maybe even more because of that "new toy" factor that I think all marketers bake into the presentation of the kinds of gadgets and stuff designed to work its way into your life and help make it more convenient.

I haven't taken the dive on Alexa or Google Home yet, but there is no doubt that those things look goddamn cool.

Yes --Tony Stark's Iron Man suit fights crime and saves the world, but I think the thing we all really take away from those movies is a burning desire to have our own snarky yet unquestionably obedient AI who will literally do and build anything you might need based on casual conversations you have with them while you're walking around your apartment.

Unfortunately, from what I can tell -- the reality is far more humbling and simplistic.

I have an XBox One in my place, and one of the features of that overpriced toy is that it will respond to voice commands. I can tell it to watch TV and it will dutifully switch on the local cable feed I have wired into it -- but literally anything else you want it to do for you is a comedy act that usually involves me and my son standing two feet in front of the thing, repeating over and over the name of whatever application or web search we want it to do while the little circle icon in the corner just spins idly by doing nothing.

Maybe the new home assistant software toys work better, who knows -- but the actual practicality of such technology doesn't seem all that useful. More than anything, it seems like the main selling point of those things is finding out how much fun it would be to have something in your house to talk with that actually talks back.

All of these gadgets and wearables are a part of what they call "The Internet of Things." This collection of smart devices that help gather and extrapolate data in ways you can use. At its utopian best -- it bridges the speed of the internet and analytic power of modern computing into a consumer use package that will make you a more informed consumer, a smarter shopper, a more streamlined traveler, exerciser, or whatever.

But I think we all know what the problem is here. You can have the smartest, most streamlined technology in the world -- but if your plan is to match that with a userbase made up of regular douchebags like you or me based on a training model of "Isn't this cool? Now try asking it what the weather is like!" -- then you're really only going to be able to advance so far.

The reason I bring this up is that I have this new app on my phone that I've been really getting into lately that's helped me do things that I honestly never thought I was savvy or smart enough to do. It's called Stash -- and it's essentially a simplified investment app that eases you into the idea of building a portfolio of exchange-traded funds.

I've been devoted for many years to as a way to manage my finances -- but even as I began putting money into a 401k through a benefit plan at my job several years back, I was still convinced that any kind of actual investing in the stock market was a suckers game that I was nowhere near smart enough to mess with.

Still, Mint kept suggesting it to me as a savings tool (almost as if it had been watching my financial progress for several years and was desperately trying to convince me that I needed serious help if I was going to be able to survive), and I eventually got curious enough to give it a try. Since the startup cost was only $5 -- I figured I'd at least see what it had to offer.

Now here we are a few months later and I check the app 5-10 times a day.

For those of you who have one, remember that first few days with a Fitbit where you would obsess over your numbers and tap at the thing on your wrist constantly to see how many steps you could get from typing? That whizbang first month where you'd realize you hadn't quite hit your daily goal yet so you'd pace around your house, swinging your arms wildly in the hopes of getting to 10,000 steps faster?

That's where I'm currently at with this thing.

I'm not trying to sell you on it (I know this is starting to sound extra click-baity), but the experience for me has been pretty fascinating. Just putting a little money in it now and then and picking different funds to invest it in -- and then just watching the pennies add up.

Really, even though it's an investing app -- it seems the best way to use it is like a high-interest savings account, where your best strategy is mostly leaving it alone and letting the returns come in  -- but the nerds who designed it made the app just interactive enough that it kicks your dopamine receptors every time you refresh it.

The numbers (and the risk) are nowhere as insane as bitcoin or any of that nonsense -- but it's the same sort of appeal.

So much so that there are even Facebook groups dedicated to it with people posting all hours of the day about how to get the most value from the thing. For the most part, it's been a really helpful resource to call upon, because among all the newbies like me are a handful people with real market experience who have poured big money into it who try to help the rest of us understand how all of this stuff is supposed to work.

But like any online community (especially on Facebook), we are easily swayed by shiny objects -- and right now this particular group is starting to divide itself up into arguing factions ready to verbally tear each other's throats out over one topic in particular.

The Weed ETF.

All anyone can ever talk about on the forums and the group posts anymore is "Where is the Corporate Cannabis fund?" and "When will the Cannabis Fund be available?" This morning there was even a meme complaining about it. The thing hasn't even officially arrived yet and we're already in backlash mode.

Basically with the rise of legalized medical marijuana and the various places where recreational use has been decriminalized, businesses have cropped up to answer the sizable demand. And with business success comes incorporation, and with incorporation comes investment -- so apparently any day now we'll be able to diversify our portfolios with all the skunky nug business they can handle.

Which, great -- sounds like a cool way to get in on a growth (see what I did there) industry as it slowly legalizes across the country.

But maaaan, do these two worlds not mix well in social media conversation.

Because while there are a few people who seem to be looking at these stocks from a purely business perspective (by all reports the actual fund is doing well), the vast majority of the other people who are incessantly posting in our online amateur investing forum about all the weed they are gonna buy are clearly looking at it in a completely different way.

I've said it a lot of times before -- the fact that marijuana is still illegal in large sections of this country is stupid. Every time Jeff Sessions gets behind a podium and talks about pot as if it's a criminal scourge that threatens the safety of the entire world I think even the most batshit of right-wingers can't help but throw him a sideeye. It's 2018 -- you'd like to think the world is a little more open-minded now.

That being said, I'm not really sure we're ready for legalized pot businesses to become the next McDonalds.

Which is probably why it seems so strange to think about it being invested in and traded on the stock market. Which is a weird thing to say -- these are businesses like any other, and it's not like I really get all worked up about any of the other evil corporations I've surely been investing in with this app.

Maybe when you get right down to it -- there's not really an issue at all, and it's just me who can't get comfortable. I mean, I actually stayed away from investing for years because I was afraid of what might happen to my money. It's a complicated world and I always kinda felt like it was as little too highbrow for me to get.

I guess the difference is in the conversations that are being had around it. In the way that people choose to talk about being excited about investing with a stock fund based around corporate cannabis companies that just sticks out in contrast to how they talk about investing in clean energy or telecoms.

Seriously, how many puns can people make about adding weed to their Stash?

[Now Playing:  Paul Simon "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" ]


polkatronixx said…
Interesting. But I have to ask - how much have you made so far using this app? Sorry - I know it's a bit crass to ask, but it might just help me decide whether or not to try it!
Hex said…
I've only been in it a few months now, but so far I'm seeing a 5% return. Way better than my regular savings account offers.

I'm still learning, but it's been a really interesting experience so far. Especially since it lets you get in the door cheap while you get used to the way everything works.
polkatronixx said…
Thanks :)