In an attempt to make it easier to respond to emails on the go, Google has introduced Smart Reply to Gmail for Android and iOS. I’m all about efficiency so I tried it for myself yesterday and I love it.
What Is It?
Essentially, when on your mobile device, Gmail reads your email and suggests three responses based on the text it detects. According to Google, Smart Reply uses machine learning to give you my tailored responses based on your writing style the more you use it.
How Do I Get It?
Smart Reply is already available on the latest version of the Gmail app on iOS and Android devices. Simply open the app, go to an email you haven’t responded to yet and it should be there. The response options appear in buttons above the standard Reply, Reply All and Forward icons making it incredibly easy to use. Once you select an option, the text automatically opens into a reply, which you can leave as is, or edit before hitting send. At the moment it is only available in English, but other languages will follow soon.
“The feature already drives 12 percent of replies in Inbox on mobile.” – Greg Bullock, Software Engineer at Gmail
It may seem like a small addition but it is by no means insignificant. In a world where time and attention are such valuable commodities, innovations like this are appreciated by its users.
Don’t take my word for it. Try it out yourself and let me know your thoughts on Twitter: @fantomdan
My entire adult life, I have made a habit of spring cleaning during the Christmas holidays between December and January. In South Africa, we’re well into summer by then, so it might seem strange at first, but here’s why it makes perfect sense:
1. The Luxury of Time
Although I spring clean around September when it’s actually spring, I consider that Spring Cleaning Lite (patent pending). Weekends are precious and I wouldn’t dream of initiating a spring clean during the week. However, during the holidays I have nothing but time on my hands. Although it’s important to rest during the festive period, for me, it’s equally important to use the time to get my life on track. This year, I spent two days cleaning and organising, and afterwards, I felt like I was one step closer to starting the year off right. But even if the year has started, it’s worth taking time to get on top of things before the chaos begins.
2. Clear Headspace
During the year, it’s often difficult to focus. There is so much going on that you end up juggling work, family, friends, finances, your household, etc. Without the distractions for 1 million other things you should be doing, you can focus your time and energy on getting things in order, which is going to make you happier and feel more in control.
3. Renewed Focus
The end of the past year and start of the new one brings about a clarity. Whether we admit it or not, we look at our lives at this time and most of us reassess our lifestyles. You think of things you want to change, things you want to leave in the past year, or things you want to work harder at. You can use that clarity in sorting through what should stay and what should go in the new year. You’ll also find that you come across things you completely forgot you had, like the arts and crafts supplies you were going to use but didn’t have the time for. Or the sweater you love but now fits a little too snuggly. Use this time to realign your goals and as a part of designing the life you want.
4. Energy Boost
If you do it right, the process can be invigorating. It’s exciting getting on top of things and once you’ve completed the task you will feel a sense of accomplishment that will empower you to take on the new year.
I speak from experience when I say the sacrifice of a day or two is well worth it. Don’t look at it as a waste of time you could be using to relax, but rather an investment in the year ahead. Starting the year on the right foot is crucial if you don’t want to burn out, and cleaning and organising can play a significant role in that. Spring cleaning doesn’t have to be a chore. Put on some music and get stuck in!
“The will to win is important, but the will to prepare is vital.” – Joe Paterno
Just for fun, here’s a video that always makes me laugh:
I was fortunate enough to be one of the first to try a new Johannesburg-based catering company called IntsasaFoods and I was totally impressed. From interactions with the team to the packaging and the taste of the meals, everything was top notch.
So often I find that food items on sale at most grocery stores and fast food restaurants is ridiculously overpriced for what you’re getting. But sometimes we’re so busy that it’s the most convenient option. IntsasaFoods aims to provide convenient and healthy ready-made meals that won’t cost you an arm and a leg.
The company was founded by three university friends who, like many others, often found themselves overwhelmed by their busy lives and would compromise on hearty, healthy eating for the sake of convenience. They identified this as a common problem for busy professionals and so IntsasaFoods was born.
How It Works
The process of getting these meals is simple. All you have to do is register at www.intsasafoods.co.za, browse the menu, order, pay and in 48 hours your meal(s) will be delivered to you. There is a flat rate of R75 per delivery should you choose that option, but you can also pick-up your order yourself at collection points if you’d prefer.
The cost of the meals are very competitive and provide more value for money than fast food restaurants and grocery stores
The meals can be frozen for three months
They’re a local start-up and we should support ventures like this in our country
I was thoroughly impressed and fully support this company, and I’m certain if you try them you will be too.
For more information, visit the website or drop them an email. Having a looks at their Facebook page is also a good idea to see what other people are saying. And remember to like their page when you’re there to show your support.
To see more of my experience, you can watch the video below:
South Africans love to experience new things and the launch of Starbucks was no exception. Since the Rosebank store opened it’s doors in April 2016, young and old have queued eagerly to be one of the first customers to visit the first South African branch. Since then, another store has popped up at the Mall of Africa, with another 15 to 20 outlets expected to open over the next 2 years. The excitement around Starbucks has been unavoidable as people share pictures of their visit on social media. But, is it really worth all the hype? I visited Starbucks this weekend to find out.
In my opinion, Starbucks is not worth the amount of time you wait in the queue. People have reported waiting in line for hours just to get their hands on a Starbucks beverage. There are plenty of local options that provide better value for money than what Starbucks offers where you won’t have to wait to get in. Also, although Starbucks is known for it’s coffee, the beverages aren’t anything to write home about. The selection of food isn’t great either so I would suggest stopping past Krispy Kreme or The Patisserie, which is just across the road, then heading over to Starbucks for something to drink. BUT, if you’re looking for a new experience and have the time while in the area, Starbucks is a must! The excitement of trying out something new is worth the wait and adds to the experience, making for a great memory to look back on. While some items (specifically souvenirs) are expensive, in relation to costs of drinks from Woolworths or Vida e Caffe, Starbucks’ prices are pretty competitive.
The overall experience
The price of some products is on par with many other South African baristas
Work by local artists and artisans were used in the design of the stores
Long waiting times
Some items are ridiculously overpriced
Food and beverages are not the best available
Although Starbucks may not make the best coffee in the world, it’s fun to experience something new, especially the launch of an international brand. The long queues are only temporary as the hype will slowly wear off. So if long queues aren’t for you, wait a couple of weeks or stop past during the week to avoid crowds. If you’re killing time before a movie starts, as was the case when I visited, Starbucks is a great option.
What are your thoughts on Starbucks South Africa?
Let me know what your thoughts are. Have you been to Starbucks yet, and what was your experience? If you haven’t been yet but are keen to try it out, you can find stores here.
While everyone else was swept up by the hype around Starbucks launching in South Africa, I had the privilege of attending the unofficial opening of the new kid on the block – ZARIS Espresso Bar.
Located in Parkhurst, ZARIS offers fair trade, organic African coffee, as well as exceptional service at an affordable rate. What sets ZARIS apart for me is theatmosphere. Many other restaurants and coffee shops on 4th Avenue have seating on the pavement, which can sometimes be a part of the Parkhurst experience, but can also be somewhat unpleasant. ZARIS is located away from the busyness and allows you to enjoy Parkhurst without feeling like you’re in the way. The premises also has plenty of plug points for patrons to use, making this the perfect place to hold lunch meetings or get work done away from the office.
There are a combination of sweet and savoury eats on offer. Whether you’re in the mood for the cake of the day or are just popping in for lunch, you’ll find something to satisfy your hunger. Not only is the food great, but ZARIS prides itself on top quality coffee and other warm beverages – perfect for those chilly Joburg days.
The decor is fresh and modern, combining organic textures with industrial elements. Something I thought was a nice touch is that the wall in the upstairs area has a fence mounted onto it where visitors can attach a Love Lock! The look and feel of the space is inviting and comfortable while still being edgy, which is no surprise as the shop’s owner and director, Schalk du Plessis, comes from a design background.
Not only was I one of the first to experience 4th Avenue’s latest addition, but Schalk was kind enough to answer a few questions for me.
1. What inspired you to start ZARIS?
The idea of ZARIS started when we were visiting South Africa (after living in Europe for two years), we were dying for a specific type of Iced Coffee we came to enjoy on a daily basis. But we couldn’t find it anywhere here. So we made a joke about opening an Espresso Bar. Then after a few months of fooling around with the idea (never imagining that it would actually happen) we got funding and decided that we will stay and give this a go.
2. Where does the name come from and what does it mean?
So originally when we were playing around with the idea, we wanted to do a fixed price shop. Basically meaning everything in the shop would be the same price.
At the time, we decided to register a name, so that if we do decide to go ahead with the idea we’re set with a name. So we started the idea of a fixed price at R15. So how does this translate to the name? Let me explain. I wanted to use the ZAR (South African Rand) and played around with the numbers a bit. We eventually got to ZAR15 and just turned the 15 into an IS. Thus ZARIS was born. Obviously after doing some proper research, we came to realise that R15 would just not be feasible. As you know everything is set at R20. But that is the story of our name.
3. What is the inspiration for the design of the shop?
The design of the store came firstly from the idea that we want to ‘liberate coffee’ as our slogan says. We want to give coffee a new life, making the best African, organic and FairTrade coffee available to everyone. Staying true to that idea, we wanted a fresh and different interior, matching the freshness of our concept. Looking at most other coffee shops, the general feel of ‘coffee’ is the same across the board. Also looking at most of the materials used, we tried to repurpose as much as we could as our motto is to reuse or recycle as much as possible, therefore contributing to the sustainability of the coffee and other industries.
4. What do you hope to bring to Parkhurst with your espresso bar?
It all boils down to amazing coffee, and amazing experience as well as affordable prices. Coffee has become such an important part of our lives, that there is no excuse for bad coffee. Looking at Parkhurst, there are quite a few different markets. Mainly residents and employees of the retail spaces in the area. To the residents, we want to offer great coffee, a friendly place welcoming people walking their dogs or just on a morning stroll through the neighbourhood. Looking at the employees, they can’t always afford a Parkhurst lunch. We want to offer them the chance to enjoy a lovely lunch and coffee every day, not just once a week. Over weekends we see a lot of people coming to Parkhurst to experience the friendly, walking neighbourhood. The people of Johannesburg love going to fresh places and exploring their options. We hope to offer something that most people would find enjoyable.
5. What are the next steps for this venture?
The future. Oh, the bright future. ZARIS is only a baby still, we have so many plans and ideas. Firstly, working behind the bar ourselves is an integral part of the development of ZARIS. We want to connect with the people and give them a personalised service. And then we get to expanding the concept to small kiosk spaces in key areas of Johannesburg. We want to put up a new store every year for the next five years, we might also introduce a ZARIS Premium as well as ZARIS Health. Both of these concepts would be add-ons to what we currently have, but will run more or less the same concept.
So the next time you’re desperately in need of a coffee while in the area, check out ZARIS and tell them Dan says hi. 😉
Still not convinced? Watch the video here:
To find out more about ZARIS, get in touch or visit their social media pages:
We’ve all been there – a casual night out with friends turns into a night of absolute debauchery. It’s all good and well in the moment, but the next morning we feel as if we’re on death’s doorstep. Headache. Nausea. Fatigue. As horrible as a hangover feels, we never seem to learn. Everyone has their own best remedies for how to cure a hangover so I’ve asked around, read up on the topic and put together surefire ways to help you conquer any hangover.
1. Avoid Coffee – Coffee and some teas contain caffeine which dehydrates you. That’s the opposite of what you want to be doing! Caffeinated drinks will narrow your blood vessels and boost your blood pressure, which won’t help your headache.
2. Drink Water – Alcohol dehydrates your body, being the main cause of your discomfort. Drink as much water as you can to rehydrate and flush out your system.
3. Drink Sports Drinks – Sports drinks contain electrolytes which will re-hydrate you quicker.
4. Greasy Foods – Although there is no scientific reason behind why greasy food should help alleviate the pain of a hangover, many people swear by it. Greasy/oily foods are not a good idea if you’re feeling nauseous. But, getting food in your system is a good idea to give your body the nutrients that it is missing.
5. Visit the Gym – If you can manage a light workout, then you should visit the gym. Exercise will work your muscles to alleviate aches and get your metabolism going. Or if you can’t manage that then you should consider sweating out the toxins in the sauna.
6. “Hair of the Dog” – Some will encourage you to drink more to cure your hangover, but this is only a short-term fix. Drinking more alcohol will just delay your recovery, and you’ll probably just end up suffering from an even worse hangover.
7. Vitamins – You’ve essentially poisoned your body so loading up on vitamins will help get your body back to normal. Bananas and potatoes, in particular, are high in potassium that will have you feeling better in no time.
8. Dry Food – Eating dry food such as toast or crackers or drinking ginger tea/ginger ale will help settle your stomach.
9. Sweet Drinks – Drinking tea with honey or sugary drinks will help balance your blood sugar levels.
10. Sleep – If you can sleep in the next day – do it. Your body is probably sleep deprived because of your big night out. Sleep as much as you can to catch up on the shuteye you’ve missed out on and to allow your body to heal itself.
Of course, prevention is the best cure, but let’s face it, drinking can be fun. Just make sure that you drink responsibly.
Whether we admit it or not, we all start a new year with high expectations and with that comes a whole lot of change. We’ve all been there – we start the new year with high hopes of what the coming months are going to be and how we’re going to be different this year. Better. As the weeks go by, though, we realise that this isn’t as easy as we thought it would be and we lose our motivation. This seems to happen every year!
But there’s so much information out there, how do you know what’s useful and what isn’t? To save you the trouble, I’ve scoured the internet to find the five most effective ways to ensure that you stick to your New Year’s Resolutions.
1) Be realistic – Don’t set unattainable goals for yourself. If you do, the chance of you actually achieving them is highly unlikely, which will just result in disappointment. So be realistic when setting your goals.
2) Write them down – Having your goals written down creates a sense of accountability. Keeping your goals somewhere visible will act as a reminder of what you’re working towards.
3) Limit your resolutions – Don’t bite off more than you can chew. If you try accomplish too much at once, you’re just setting yourself up for failure. Be selective with your New Year’ Resolutions and work on the ones that mean the most to you.
4) Stay positive – Don’t underestimate the power of positive thinking. If you believe you can, then you will!
5) Forgive yourself – Let’s be real, we aren’t perfect and we’re probably going to stumble along the way. That’s okay. Don’t let it discourage you. Acknowledge your slip up and use it as a lesson for moving forward.
I hope you found this useful, but either way, I’d love to hear your thoughts. I’ve also created a humorous YouTube video highlighting common New Year’s resolution expectations versus reality. You should definitely give it a watch.
Good luck for the year ahead. Remember that if you are determined enough, then you will succeed.