An AI Happy New Islay Year 2024

Islay Fun

Happy New Year 2024! Time for resolutions (including blogging here more again) and those kind of things. For various reasons I’m deviating from my usual New Year’s Day schedule today. Went for my morning walk (which I extended to a total of just over 7.5 miles) fairly late and so listened to the New Year’s Concert from Vienna using headphones while I was walking. So now over a late brunch I’m playing with some AI image generator (one of the resolutions, learn more about AI…) trying to generate some Islay themed New Year’s pictures. The text is written by me still, not an AI. Click on the pictures to view them in a full size gallery:

Some interesting results in the AI generated pictures (using Microsoft’s Copilot / DALL·E 3 from OpenAI). I asked for an Islay New Year’s day with Islay whisky, beaches, white cottages, lighthouse, Golden Eagles, whisky distillery, lighthouse and Barnacle Geese (in a few combinations). None of it really looks like Islay. The Golden Eagles look mostly like Bald Eagles. The Barnacle Geese look mostly like Canada Geese. The distillery looks weird. The whisky is generic, but that’s OK. In other words, not that much improvement to my earlier attempt.

On that note I hope you had and are having a good New Year and will be having a great 2024. Time for a New Year’s Day dram soon, I think.

How Artificial Intelligence (AI) imagines whisky distilleries on Islay

Islay Fun

Recently I’ve read a few articles and watched a few videos about images and pictures created by Artificial Intelligence (AI). Some were really impressive and there are concerns about the AI software replacing human illustrators and designers. So I thought I’ll give it a try and put some of online AI image generators to the test and find out how much they know about Islay. The AI image generators ask you to enter a text description of the image you’re after and then go away and generate the image(s):

9 images of distilleries on Islay imagined by an AI
9 Islay distilleries according to craiyon

The description I usually used was “whisky distilleries on the island of Islay in Scotland”. I thought that should give the AI enough pointers to work with, the terms whisky, distilleries, island, Scotland and of course Islay.

As you might expect several of the generators came up with a variety of white washed buildings, often in a coastal setting. What surprised me a bit were the strangely shaped chimneys (?) some included. Was the AI merging the shape of a still with a chimney?

4 images of Islay distilleries as imagined by an AI
4 Islay distilleries according to deepai

However, not all generators went for the white washed buildings, some had different ideas. I found this one quite interesting, I wonder if the design was somehow “inspired” by the big windows at Caol Ila?

AI generated picture of strange distilleries in a coastal landscape
Interesting Islay distillery according to nightcafe

Yet the same AI image generator also came up with a more traditional white washed building. With a strange chimney or lighthouse (not sure what that’s supposed to be?) on the roof for good measure:

AI generated picture of a distillery with some weird lighthouse or chimney on its roof
Islay distillery with lighthouse/chimney (?) according to nightcafe

Another one came up with what reminded me of a farm distillery, although it also has some strange chimney/lighthouse/church like tower. At least the surrounding landscape is looking vaguely Islayish:

A farm distillery with a lighthouse shaped tower generated by AI
An Islay distillery according to photosonic

And then it started to turn a bit weird. I get the vaguely coastal landscape. I get the vaguely distillery like buildings. But what is that thing on the top of the sunset painted buildings with some weird word on the side?

Some weird concoction of pictures supposed to be an Islay distillery
Islay distilleries according to starryai

To close another picture from the same AI. In a way I somehow like it, although I only understand it partially. I kind of like the mixture of weathered buildings combined with what I think is a dram of whisky. But what on earth is that building on the left?

Some weird concoction of pictures supposed to be an Islay distillery
More Islay distilleries according to starryai

I hope you found these pictures interesting, fascinating, confusing, disturbing, inspiring, funny or some other term I forgot. Please let me know in the comments what you thought of the pictures, did you like them, which were your favourites, do you think AI images will be a success or any thoughts you have.

My Islay (and something else) look back at 2021

Islay Events

So there we are, New Year’s Eve 2021. Another year coming to an end. Might as well take a look back at the year, what it meant to me, Islay related and a few other areas. The year brought both good and bad things and events:

In particular the first half of the year was of course still dominated by the Covid-19/Coronavirus pandemic, even though the ramp up of the vaccination efforts brought some hope. My second dose came too late for me to book anything for the first half of the year (I had decided I wasn’t going to travel until my second dose had taken full effect). Still, I managed to continue with daily posts on my Islay pictures photoblog by digging into my archives and plundering some other resources (mainly pictures taken on my phone). Also the belated online Islay Sessions 2020 took place early in 2021.

Then the first bad news struck when Ian Brooke unexpectedly passed away in June. I still miss him, my daily visits to the Islay Birds blog are not the same without him (that’s not to diminish the sterling job the team continuing it in his memory is doing, it’s just different). Also missed seeing and catching up with him at his bird hide when I finally managed to return to Islay in September, at least I had a good catch up with Margaret.

At least September brought my first return to Islay after 22 months without a visit. As you can read in that post it was magical. Being back on the beaches was just brilliant. Rediscovering some old haunts and exploring a few new places was just what I needed. And I had booked my next visit even before I left for my September visit, returning for a week in October. This time I stayed at Ballitarsin Lodge, which was another new experience. Some fantastic views from up there, also a few morning walks along the Glen Road instead of a beach. I got to meet some old friends with their latest addition to the household (and some homemade Spaghetti Bolognese on great evening), followed by some brilliant October night skies (I still need to process the pictures from that…).

Then the end of the year arrived with some bad news, but also a lot of opportunity for 2022: Earlier this afternoon I shut down my work laptop for the last time as a Verizon employee. Or in other words, from next week I’m looking for opportunities for the next stage of my career. If you know of any good jobs in the Financial Planning & Analysis (FP&A) area or similar, positions as a Finance Business Partner or similar please get in touch. Remote work or in the Greater Reading / West Berkshire and around area. You can learn about my skills and experience on my LinkedIn profile. Onwards and upwards, and after I’ve settled into my next career step it will be time for another visit to Islay.

3,333 posts on my Islay Pictures photoblog…

Islay Pictures

Back in December 2008 when I first launched the Islay Pictures photoblog the number of 3,333 wasn’t really on my mind. The journey was the goal, not hitting any numbers. I don’t really watch the number of posts on it, but on Friday evening when preparing the post for Saturday morning I noticed by chance that said post was going to be the 3,333rd post. After posting it on Saturday morning I took a screenshot for posterity:

Screenshot of the admin interface showing 3,333 posts on the Islay Pictures photoblog
3,333 posts on the photoblog

So how did I get to 3,333 posts?

As I said it all started in December 2008 when I first launched the photoblog, back then using the “Pixelpost” CMS. My original goal was to post a picture every day and see where it would take me. It worked really well, people seemed to like it and I enjoyed the daily posting. Unfortunately in November 2012 “disaster struck”: Because of some server changes the Pixelpost CMS (which wasn’t maintained any more by that time) stopped working. With a heavy heart I had to delete over 1,300 posts and start from scratch.

For the second incarnation I decided to go with the popular WordPress CMS, my reasoning being that I could be quite confident it would be supported for quite some time. The layout I’ve kept largely unchanged since going live in December 2012, main change I think was adding the header banner, a picture my sister Imke took of me taking pictures in Saligo Bay.

Screenshot of a post on the Islay Pictures Photoblog in Oct 2020
Islay Pictures Photoblog screenshot Oct 2020

I continued posting daily, initially even twice daily to “repost” the pictures from the original blog. There were a few breaks, mainly when I was travelling (to Islay) but also when I was too ill to post through an injury and when I had my heart operation. But overall I’ve kept it up. While most of the pictures are taken by me there are also guest pictures. The majority of them by my sister Imke from her Islay visits, also a few from my late mother and some from Keith Wood.

Not having been to Islay this year due to the Coronavirus pandemic I’m currently heavily relying on my archives from over 20 years of Islay visits. I’m hoping to be able to visit again at some point in 2021 to restock my supplies. As long as I can find something I think is worthwhile posting I’ll continue posting.