On playing the low D Irish Whistle

I love playing the low D. But while there is a lot of info out there, I could find very little to help me get started. Now I still have far to go so I am far from an expert, but this is what I learned, and I hope it helps you as well.

  1. It’s not about the whistle, it’s about you (yes it’s all about you). Playing the low D whistle is vastly different from the high whistle. It’s like going from a violin to a double bass and wondering why you are struggling. It’s going to take time to tame the whistle and get the hang of it, so be patient. From what I have seen, the low whistles are all way more pricey and are all more difficult to play, you are unlikely to get a “dud”. When I got my low D I literally could not get a sound out of it that didn’t frighten my neighbours (aside from C# that is).
  2. Get used to pipers grip. I have massive hands (I can play an octave and a half on the piano with 1 hand), but I still have to use pipers grip. I know some whistles have closer fingering than others, and you can get the expensive chimney-style whistles, but if you don’t learn pipers grip, you’ll only ever be able to play that one whistle. And as a lefty-guitar player it’s so frustrating seeing all the guitars I cannot play. I don’t want that on the whistle. And I will admit that as a piper it wasn’t too hard to move the grip to the whistle, but it’s still a completely different feeling on the whistle.
  3. If you are straining your fingers, or your hands start to hurt, you’re doing it wrong. I get the best sound by far when my hands are relaxed. As soon as they tense up, the squeaks and squawks started. The fingers need to just lightly brush over the holes. They don’t need to be strangling the whistle.
  4. The low notes are much harder to play. For me, D and E are the tricky ones, they want to go into the high registers, or have a squeaky and tinny sound because they aren’t sure if they are high or low. For that you need breath control, and to learn what air is required for the different notes (it sounds easy but I have a lot of breath control/diaphragm work ahead of me). Ben Walker gave me some great exercises and tips on this.
  5. And finally as the Beatles said “it’s getting better all the time”. I record myself and I listen back. Day to day I don’t see any change, but over a couple of weeks, I see a big change. So be patient, learning a musical instrument isn’t a short-term project, its takes time. And the low whistle takes a lot longer to get a nice sound than the high whistle.

Anyway, I hope these tips help. It’s just some advice from a beginner, but maybe it will help you.

This clip (Happy new year), shows me using Piper’s Grip on a James Dominic low D.

PS: I have two low D whistles, there are from (I get no affiliate income):

  • James Dominic (excellently priced starter low D) and
  • Howard (pricier, but excellent workmanship and sound)

How to craft the perfect CV

I have conducted hundreds of interviews and seen thousands of CV’s, and its frustrating and wasteful looking at a poorly-written CV’s. Here are some tips to ensure your CV stands out and effectively communicates your qualifications and suitability for the role. While my focus is on IT, these principles apply to most jobs.

The 5-Minute Rule

Interview decisions are often made in just 2-5 minutes of reviewing your CV, so it’s essential to make an impact. Concentrate the most crucial information on the first two pages; anything beyond that may receive only a quick glance at best.

The Basics

  • Honesty: Always be truthful in your CV. Embellishing or falsifying information can damage your reputation. Note that credit and qualification checks are often part of the hiring process.
  • Consistent Updates: Regularly update your CV. You never know when you might need it.
  • Realistic Goals: Aim high but be realistic. If you lack experience in a specific area, be honest about it and demonstrate your willingness to learn (eg by doing industry courses).
  • Brevity: Keep your CV concise and to the point.
  • LinkedIn: Keep your LinkedIn profile up to date, including a professional photo, and have a link to it on your CV.


  • Customize your CV for the job you’re applying for. If applying for different roles, create variations tailored to each role.
  • List your previous jobs, starting with the most recent. Highlight a few key accomplishments that showcase your skills, focusing on your contributions. Be brief. You don’t need to mention every task you performed.
  • The first page should prominently display industry qualifications that make you stand out, such as “AWS Certified Architect/Developer,” “TOGAF,” “DAMA,” etc.
  • Clearly state your objective, and what you are looking for.
  • Keep the formatting simple and readable. Your CV should allow a quick decision about the worthiness of an interview.
  • Include essential contact details (email, phone, LinkedIn), but avoid overly personal information (such as your address, photo of your ID doc, ID number etc). Remember your CV can cross many desks and security is a concern.
  • Add a neat head and shoulders photo on the front page.
  • List relevant technical skills and tools you’re proficient in, emphasizing your abilities.
  • Share your interests and hobbies, showing a bit of your personality.
  • Proofread your CV for spelling and grammar, and consider having someone else review it.
  • Don’t mention the obvious. If you are applying as a software developer its a given that you know how to use Excel.

If you’re starting out

For recent grads or final-year university students:

  • Provide a brief introduction about yourself, highlighting your favourite courses and personal projects.
  • Share your extracurricular activities and any volunteer work or part-time work experience.

Here is a rough outline

Contact Details

  • Name, photo, phone, email & LinkedIn (add a website if available). Include links to anything relevant online (eg github profile/projects, personal blog, online portfolio etc)

Career Objectives/Overview

  • Who you are.
  • What you’re looking for.
  • Your core skills.

Relevant Qualifications

  • Degrees and industry certifications.

Project Highlights/Work Experience

  • Notable career highlights.
  • Core skills.
  • Work-related awards and achievements.

Employment History

  • Organization, title, dates.
  • Be honest about employment gaps.

Hobbies, Volunteer Work, Personal Projects

  • Include personal interests and hobbies.

Additional skills

  • List skills that may not be directly relevant, but are still interesting (Eg additional languages spoken)

Additional Awards and Achievements

  • Community-related awards/achievements (eg president of my chess club).


  • Any recommendations you have received in the past (thanks, linked in recommendations etc)

Anything Else

  • School highlights and awards.
  • Contactable references. You do not need to include the names, but mention that they are available on request. And check with the references beforehand.

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13 P’s of creating a speech – lessons from Ken Annandale

Ken Annandale gives us a very effective speech outline – the 13 P’s of creating a speech. I think that it is pretty self-explanatory – enjoy!

  1. Preparation
    1. Point description (ask yourself)
    2. Purpose Objective (Why am I doing this presentation?)
    3. People -Audience (Who is going to listen to me?)
  2. Introduction
    1. Promise Attention grabber (How do I get their attention?)
    2. Present Position (Historical situation What was the situation like before?)
    3. Perfect Position (Ideal situation What could it be like in future?)
    4. Proposal Recommendation (What is being offered as a solution?)
  3. Body
    1. Pertinent Points (features / facts – How does / will the solution work?)
    2. Persuasive Points (benefits / emotive – What?s in it for them / us / you / me?)
    3. Points to Ponder (Aspects that may concern them)
    4. Problems (Allow them to ask questions)
  4. Close
    1. Precis (wrap up – repeat everything you said in brief)
    2. Plan for Action (Ask them to react to your suggestion)

For more information on Ken, his website is

On getting tasks done

Some tips on completing tasks.
  • Avoid add a task to today’s todo list, rather add it to the future. Adding it to today’s list adds additional pressure to completing what you have already committed to do.
  • Does a task need to be completed perfectly, or just good enough? Remember the 80/20 rule. Often good enough is good enough.
  • Remember – you will always have things on your todo list.
  • Delegate the fun stuff – then it will get done.
  • Have one todo list only.
  • Take a break – you cannot be productive all the time.
  • Types of tasks
    • Should do
    • Must do
    • Don’t need to do
  • Remember David Allan’s wise words:
    • Do
    • Deletage
    • Defer
    • Delete (you will be surprised how often a defer turns into a delete)
  • Finally, review your task list at the beginning of the day, and at the end of the day (just for a few minutes).

Presentation tips for PowerPoint

This is an extract of a training session that I present “Putting the POWER back into PowerPoint”.

Nowadays, many of us use PowerPoint for our presentations. While there are many courses and books on the technical side of how to create slides, there is very little material available on how to create effective slides and presentations. This course helps to address that issue.

Only use slides if appropriate. Nowadays, we often automatically haul out PowerPoint when asked to do a presentation. You need to ask yourself if the particular presentation really needs it, or if slides are not really necessary

Create slides around the presentation, not the presentation around the slides. Remember that the slides are there to enhance and not replace your presentation.

Use few and simple fonts and colours. The fewer you use, the easier it is to read.

Use contrasting colours. As above – it’s easier to read. Also test your slides under a variety of conditions to find what combinations work. My favourite is a navy blue background, with yellow headings and white text.

Use the 7×7 rule. No more that seven words per line; and seven lines per page. Rather put your main points onto the slides than a transcription of your speech. It is easier for the audience to remember a few points than an essay, and it allows for larger fonts to be used, hence making the slides more readable (especially from a distance).

Check spelling and grammar. This is just plain professionalism – it goes without saying.

Don’t read the slides verbatim. We can all read. Rather give us a few seconds to read a slide before speaking about the points on the slide. If you are presenting the slides point by point, then show the point while you discuss it. But please don’t insult me by reading the points aloud.

Use animated effects only if appropriate. They can really look cute, but can be distracting to the main point.

Audio and video clips add complexity to the presentation. Use them only if appropriate.

Rather use graphs than numbers. They are easier to read and simpler to understand. Remember that numbers tell, but pictures sell.

Rehearse with and without the slides. This gives you the power to still deliver a presentation should you have a major catastrophe with the slides (eg: the projector stops working half-way through a presentation).

Arrive at the venue early. This gives you plenty of time to setup and ensure that everything is working. It also allows for you to resolve any issues well-before time. If it’s a really important presentation, try to get there the day before as well so that you can check out the venue and ensure that all equipment is working.

Bring the following to your presentations:

  • Printout of slides- in case the projector fails.
  • Electronic copy in a few formats – so you can connect to another laptop should the need be required.
  • Long extension leads & multi plugs – so you can plug in wherever the plug points are.
  • Masking tape – tape down any long cables that you (or others) may trip over
  • Laptop and power supply – even if you know they are supplying equipment, rather have it there as a backup.

Finally two pointers for running the actual presentation:

Don’t run the laptop off batteries (no matter how fresh). I have seen many laptops shutdown or go into standby mode because the laptop was running on batteries, and either they went flat, or the presenter forgot to put the laptop into a “don’t go into standby” mode.

Speak to the audience, not to the screen. Many presenters read the slides (see point above) while facing the screen. This prevents you from making eye contact with the audience, and prevents them from hearing you. It’s also rude.

Do you backup?

I just read an email about an author from Port Elizabeth who has lost over 200 pages from a book that she is busy writing after her laptop was stolen. These are over 200 pages of the only draft!

While I feel sorry for her, I hear this kind of story almost every week. How simple is it to really backup your files? I am sure that right now, she is thinking that perhaps she should back up on a more regular basis.

A hard drive drive costs less than R1000, and a memory stick less than R99, so there is no excuse for loosing your data. Hey, I even sometimes make a dirty backup backup by simply emailing changed documents to my gmail account. It is free, effective and reliable! And of course entry level Google Drive and Dropbox accounts are free.

So, please learn from this and backup your files!

Schrodenger’s Restaurant

Isn’t it interesting that as soon as you find a quiet, out of the way restaurant, everybody starts going there? You know what I mean, the sort of place that is reasonably priced, serves really fine food, and has a fine ambience. Then everybody hears about this place, and before you know it you have to book weeks in advance. And then when you finally manage to visit the restaurant, its full, noisy and impersonal. Everything that you liked about it has gone. Why are all of these people visiting YOUR spot?

What is interesting is that the very act of you visiting the restaurant changes the ambience in a very subtle way. Similarly, the act of all of you visiting the restaurant changed it in a larger way. Many people doing this creates a critical mass, and that is when the small, subtle changes become far more pronounced.

Hence, the best way to not change the restaurant is to not visit it at all, which is pretty self-defeating. What’s also interesting is that everybody else is feeling exactly the same about THEIR spot.

What can you do about it? Not much really. You can continue to visit your favorite spots, and hope that the critical mass takes its time to accumulate, or that (hopefully) it does not accumulate at all, and the restaurant continues to satisfy the trickle of people passing through.

4 tips on PowerPoint

Use PowerPoint to enhance your presentations, not as a substitute for poor presentations.

  • Create your content first, and then create the visuals. Creating slides is far more fun that creating good content; don’t fall into the trap of creating great slides that support a weak message.
  • Budget your time. Allocate a set amount of time to create the slides, and budget that across all the slides you need. Otherwise your first 2 or 3 slides could be fantastic with no time to do a good job on the rest of the slides.
  • You don’t always need slides. Only use slides if they significantly enhance your presentation.
  • Focus on the message, not on the medium. Good slides will not hide a poorly crafted message.

3 acronyms to make email messages a little more effective

Hey are three acronyms you can use to make your email communication a little more effective.


If you put NNTR in the end of the subject line (No need to reply, or no response needed), it tells the recipient that you are not expecting a response. e.g.:

Minutes of last night’s meeting attached NNTR

Personally I prefer to assume that unless you explicitly tell the reader that a response is needed, a response is not expected.


If you can fit the entire message into the subject line, put EOM at the end (End of Message) and they won’t have to even open the message. e.g.:

Meeting confirmed for today at 6pm EOM


If an email contains no actionable items add FYI to the subject line to tell the reader. e.g.:

Here is a copy of the project schedule (FYI)

These work just as well in text messages. Do they work for you? How effective do you find them?