Equity for Punks BottleBox Club

Posted June 19, 2016 by waynedgrant
Categories: Craft Beer

Tags: , , ,

This year I took the opportunity to invest in BrewDog via Equity for Punks IV. I love what BrewDog are doing in the craft beer arena and am happy to support them. Besides which being a shareholder comes with a few perks such as discounts in BrewDog bars and on their online store.

A further benefit is the opportunity to join the EFP specific BottleBox club. The EPV BottleBox club is a subscription service which delivers a box of 12 BrewDog beers either monthly or bi-monthly.

I deliberated over joining for a couple of weeks primarily because I was not sure exactly what to expect from the club. I was most interested in getting a good selection of different BrewDog beers with some rarer and/or special beers to lay down for a later date.

Finally I just went for it and chose the annual up-front payment which got me one of the monthly boxes for free. So for a £385 investment I would get 12 boxes of beer at £32 each (including postage).

My BottleBox was delivered via ParcelForce. Personally, as someone who works, I am not a fan of ParcelForce as I find their weekday, working hours only delivery service to be too inflexible. However, I had a word with a BrewDog staffer and they told me that Doddle and CollectPlus pick-up delivery options are in the pipeline.

Via ParcelForce I opted for a delivery to my local post office and picked up my first box of beer from there. It was well packaged and arrived undamaged:

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Here’s what I found in the June BottleBox:

  • Monk Hammer – can
  • Jack Hammer – can
  • Dog D – bottle
  • Bourbon Baby – bottle x 2
  • Kingpin – bottle
  • AB:19 – bottle
  • Dead Pony Club – bottle
  • Jet Black Heart – bottle
  • Arcade Nation – bottle
  • Black Hammer – can x 2
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By my reckoning that is £44 worth of beer (I’ve used cheaper supermarket prices for those the beers that are normally available there). Not bad for £32. Plus I get the chance to try many Brew Dog brews I have not sampled before.

Of this selection I have previously tried Jack Hammer (albeit in bottle form), Dead Pony Club, Jet Black Heart and Arcade Nation (a personal favourite of mine).

In addition to those beers I received a bottle of the newly released lager Kingpin, some aged Dog D, a bottle of AB:19 and two bottles of Bourbon Baby (one I have very much enjoyed and the other I have laid down).

To round off the box there were a selection of three Hammer Heads cans. The Black Hammer about blew my mouth off with its 200+ IBUs (which was actually a welcome thing). The remaining Black Hammer and the Monk Hammer will be saved for a rainy day.

As well as the beers you get tasting notes…

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…which give details of all the beers in the box:

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That was my first BottleBox which I am very happy with. I’ll be appending to this post as I get each delivery detailing what is in it so that anyone thinking of subscribing has an idea of what they could get.

July 2016 BottleBox

  • Black Eyed King Imp – can
  • Kingpin – can
  • Paradox Islay – bottle
  • Candy Kaiser – bottle
  • #Mashtag 2016 – bottle x 2
  • Electric India – bottle x 2
  • Elvis Juice – bottle
  • Ace of Chinook – bottle
  • Hop Fiction – bottle
  • Jack Hammer – bottle
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August 2016 BottleBox

  • Electric India – can
  • Albino Squid Assassin – can
  • Ship Wreck – bottle
  • Hardcore IPA – bottle
  • Kingpin – bottle
  • Dead Pony Club – bomber
  • AB:20 – bottle
  • Hello My Name is Ingrid – bottle x 2
  • Barrel-Aged Albino Squid Assassin – bottle
  • Restorative Beverage for Invalids and Convalescents – can x 2
  • BrewDog Crest Bottle Opener
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September 2016 BottleBox

  • Elvis Juice – can
  • Kingpin – can (although it should be Hop Fiction according to the tasting notes)
  • 5am Saint – bottle
  • Ace of Citra – bottle x 2
  • Dog E – bottle
  • Paradox Islay – bottle
  • Jack Hammer – bottle
  • Vagabond Pale Ale – bottle
  • Electric India – bottle
  • Black Hammer – can
  • Black Eyed King Imp – can
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Personal Kanban Board Examples

Posted March 26, 2016 by waynedgrant
Categories: Agile

Tags:

I am a big proponent of using Personal Kanban for personal work management. It is an effective technique that allows people to visualise their tasks and limit their work in progress. I’ve used Personal Kanban for the last three years in both my professional and personal life. While I have used various online solutions to create my Personal Kanban boards I prefer to use a real physical board. The visibility and tactile interactions of a real board cannot be beat by even the my most convenient app, mobile or otherwise.

Over this time I’ve snapped a few pictures of the various boards I have put together which I present here.

Below is one of my first Personal Kanban boards from three years ago. My wife and I were relocating from Scotland to the US and had a lot to do to make the move happen smoothly. We were figuring out how to manage the large amount of work we had to do when she asked “can’t we just use one of those board things you use at your work”. By “board thing” she meant “task board”.

I had a small 1.5 x 1 foot whiteboard in my home office at the time. On this I created the TODO, DOING and DONE swim lanes using electrical tape. This board was way smaller than those I typically used for task boards in work but by using small (5 x 3 cm) stickies we were able to fit all of our tasks on. Such tiny stickies are what I have used for my Personal Kanban boards ever since. They minimise my boards’ footprint and force me to be concise with my task naming, especially if I write using a sharpie.

The board worked out well. Its visual nature helped us to build a backlog, prioritise tasks easily and see where we were in the overall move process.

mini whiteboard - moving house

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I then started using a Personal Kanban board actively in the work place. At the time this picture was taken I was in a cube in the US with nowhere to put even a small whiteboard. Undeterred I crafted the equivalent to a board on my desktop using painters tape for the swim lanes. Note the addition of the BLOCKED column which I find invaluable.

desktop - taped lanes

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More recently, back in Scotland, I had reduced desk space so I created as minimalist a desktop Personal Kanban as I could. The swim lane labels are simply sellotaped to the desk with the tasks arrayed in line below.

deskop minimalist

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Similarly when on business trips one of the first things I do at my temporary desk is create a quick ad-hoc Personal Kanban board. All that’s required are mini stickies and a sharpie pen.

on the road

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Lately my employer has introduced a strict clear desk policy. It looked like my Personal Kanban board would have to go as leaving any written materials on my desk overnight, no matter how innocuous or terse, would break the rules .

Instead I created a more mobile board that I could lock away in a drawer. The basis was a small cardboard box my new webcam had arrived in. I flattened it out, used a sharpie to draw on swim lanes and attached stickies with swim lane labels using sellotape. Finally I used blu tack on the underside of the board to keep it in place on my desktop during the day.

This solution works well and is my current Personal Kanban board. The bonus is that it folds up easily along the original cardboard folds. This allows me to slot it into a small envelope and take it with me when I work at home or go on business trips.

portable

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The last example board is not a Personal Kanban board but is the smallest board I have ever created. A colleague and I were the only two developers working on a web app to an aggressive timescale. We wanted a task board to visualise the work but both had an aversion to using JIRA as an online board. Fortunately we sat next to each other separated only by a waist high partition. However, local policy forbade any whiteboards in our workspace as they were seen as being untidy. In addition, due to the partition there was nowhere to put a desktop task board where we could both see and interact with easily.

I then had the idea of making use of the narrow top surface of the partition itself. It worked rather well:

tiny task board

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Pebble Watch Screen Tearing Fix (with lots of pictures!)

Posted February 1, 2016 by waynedgrant
Categories: Pebble

Tags:

I’m a big fan of the original Pebble Watch. Day-to-day it allows me to keep my phone in my pocket while still getting my notifications and controlling my music and its long battery life at around a week negates the fact it doesn’t have fancy graphics. I’ve even coded an app or two for it.

The only annoying thing about the Pebble is the infamous screen tearing issue. I’m on my third Pebble in three years and every single one has succumbed to this intermittent issue within a year:

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Credit to Pebble – they’ve carried out two free replacements for me so far with no arguments. One of those was out of warranty. They didn’t even want the broken one back the second time around. So now I’ve got two Pebbles with the annoying screen tearing issue.

I was sure Pebble would do a fourth replacement if I asked nicely. However, this seemed very wasteful for what could be a simple issue to fix myself. Indeed I’d seen a few forum threads like this one describing how I could go about making a fix myself. Based on these I set about fixing both my Pebbles with only a few tools. Each Pebble took less than three minutes to fix. With a little care you can do the same.

This is my step-by-step guide to fixing the screen tear issue. I’ve included what I didn’t see in any of the guides I read – lots of pictures covering each step.

1) There’s some stuff you’ll need as pictured. Left to tight we have a small flat head screwdriver (I use an electrical screwdriver), a small Torx screwdriver (I used a size T4), an edged plastic tool, some masking/painters tape and some scissors.

The only stuff I had to buy was the Torx screwdriver and the plastic tool. I ordered a really cheap mobile phone repair kit from Amazon (only £3) to get these.

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2) You’ll also need a broken Pebble. Flip it over and you’ll find four small screws, one in each corner. I believe the original KickStarter Pebbles have no screws and are therefore probably glued together so I’m afraid you are on your own if you’re one of the early adopters.

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3) Use the Torx screwdriver to remove all four screws.

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4) Put them somewhere safe as they are tiny and look really easy to lose.

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5) Next is the tricky bit. Take the plastic tool and prise the back cover off. Be very careful here as you don’t want the back cover to come completely off yet (and if it does your Pebble will be completely broken as a result. You’ll see why in the next step). Just break the seal all the way round and lift the back case no more than a few millimetres.

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6) Slowly prise the back cover away from the top and take a look inside your Pebble. Looking at it from the top you’ll find a small, round vibrator on the lower left-hand corner. This is glued to the inside of the back cover and attached by two tiny wires to the main body of the watch. It looks really easy to snap these wires if you pull the back cover away from the watch too far.

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7) Instead use the small flat head screw driver to prise the vibrator off the back case.

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8) Now completely remove the back case. The vibrator will remain connected to the Pebble by its wires when you do this.

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9) Push the vibrator back down into the case. Then take a length of masking tape and fold it over on itself four of five times. Cut the folded tape to be the same width and height as the bottom compartment of the Pebble not including the tall gold section on the left side.

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10) Place the masking tape into position as pictured.

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11) Finally reattach the back case and replace the four tiny screws using the Torx screwdriver.

You should now have a jagged screen free Pebble. It probably isn’t water proof anymore but at least you can read the display.

 

Met Office Weather Maps PHP API

Posted October 17, 2015 by waynedgrant
Categories: Code Projects, Meteorology, Open Source, Weather Station

Tags: , , ,

For those who want to add detailed weather maps of the UK to their websites an excellent option is to use the Met Office’s DataPoint web service API. Among many other features the API makes available several different types of observation and forecast time series weather maps as detailed images.

However, DataPoint still leaves users with a lot of work to do if they want to utilise the maps on their websites. For example the DataPoint API only provides the map images as simple layers with no underlying map of the UK. This gives users the flexibility of adding their own UK maps but creates one of many common problems that all DataPoint users have to solve individually.

To address this and other website integration issues I’ve made the met-office-weather-maps PHP API available on GitHub under the MIT License. It’s primary use case is to make it easier to incorporate the latest Met Office weather maps into a web site while not requiring users to directly engage with the Datapoint API.

It’s functionality includes:

  1. Wrapping the complexity of underlying JSON web service calls by exposing one simple PHP class for each available map type.
  2. Adding tailored UK map layers to fetched images that obey the required Mercator projection boundary box.
  3. Adding UK timestamps to map images where they are not already present.
  4. Operating caching to allow maps to be requested on a regular schedule. This ensures that the latest maps are fetched without making excessive calls to DataPoint which may breach their fair use agreement.

The met-office-weather-maps API supports all of the DataPoint map types:

  • Infrared satellite
  • Lightning strikes
  • Precipitation forecast
  • Pressure forecast
  • Rainfall radar
  • Surface pressure charts
  • Temperature forecast
  • Total cloud cover forecast
  • Total cloud cover and precipitation forecast
  • Visible satellite

See the met-office-weather-maps Git Hub project page for details of its requirements, installation and API documentation.

I originally wrote met-office-weather-maps for incorporation into my own weather website where I regularly fetch a selection of weather maps. I previously used Weather Underground’s map API but I find DataPoint to be far superior in terms of map selection and the high frequency of map update.

See below for some real examples that demonstrate met-office-weather-map’s capabilities.

Example 1: Surface Pressure Forecast Map

The Surface Pressure Forecast image available from DataPoint is a transparent layer depicting isobars and fronts:

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The same image after processing by met-office-weather-maps. Note the addition of a timestamp and a colour base image of the UK:

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Example 2: Visible Satellite Map

The Visible Satellite image available from DataPoint is an opaque layer depicting cloud cover:

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The same image after processing by met-office-weather-maps. Note the addition of a yellow outline overlay image of the UK which does not obscure the existing image layer’s timestamp and key:

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Example 3: Temperature Forecast Map

The Temperature Forecast image available from DataPoint is a partially transparent layer depicting colour-coded screen temperature:

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The same image after processing by met-office-weather-maps. Note the addition of a timestamp, a colour base image and a black outline overlay image of the UK:

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Example 4: Cloud Cover and Precipitation Forecast Map

The Cloud Cover and Precipitation Forecast image available from DataPoint is a transparent layer depicting cloud cover and colour-coded precipitation rates:

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The same image after processing by met-office-weather-maps. Note the addition of a timestamp, a colour base image and a black outline overlay image of the UK:

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Road Trip of the Living Dead

Posted May 24, 2015 by waynedgrant
Categories: Expat

Tags: , , ,

I make no secret of my obsession with zombie movies. This does not mean I like just any movie with zombies in it. There’s no place for “Zombies vs Werewolf Strippers” or whatever else in my movie collection. I mean the good zombie movies with subtext, engaging characters and plot. If I had to narrow it down to my top two zombie movies of all time it would by George A, Romero’s  Dawn of the Dead (1978) and Night of the Living Dead (1968) in that order (in my opinion “Dawn” is one of the rare examples of the superior movie sequel).

Both movies were filmed in and around Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania which is around 400 miles from where I’m currently living in New Jersey. I’ve done a number of road trips across the North Eastern US and with time running out on my stay in the USA I embarked on my final vacation here: A Road Trip of the Living Dead.

While the drive to Pittsburgh was a long one for me all of the locations for both movies are within 40 miles of each other. With a car you can easily hit them in a few hours. The google map below shows all the locations and points of interest I took in over a single day.

“Dawn” Locations

For my trip my initial stops were in Monroeville to visit a few “Dawn” locations. These correspond to the red pins on the map.

First up was the so-called “Mall of the Dead”, Monroeville Mall. This is where most of “Dawn” was set.

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On the exterior much of the mall is still recognisable especially at the rear.

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As it has been almost 40 years since “Dawn” was filmed nothing of the original look remains in the interior. However, you can still locate areas where some of the movie’s action took place such as the corridor leading to the heroes’ hideout.

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Up until the week before I visited in May 2015 the small arched bridge featured in the movie still remained. This had just been torn down at the time of my visit which was a disappointment. At the time of writing a campaign was underway to save the dismantled bridge and preserve it in a museum.

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Other locations in the mall are more difficult to locate such as the balcony where the notable “No More Room in Hell” dialogue takes place. See the link to “Adam the Woo’s” video at the end of this post for a great guide to how to find this and other locations in the mall.

Next up was the location of the “Zombie Hunt” scenes which is only a couple of miles from the mall on Logans Ferry Road. Unlike the mall this road is mostly unchanged from the movie only missing the army trucks, mob of armed rednecks and National Guardsmen drinking Iron City beer.

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A short walk further along Logans Ferry Road is Monroeville Airport where the helicopter refuelling scene and a few zombie kills were filmed. I didn’t attempt to enter the airport as I had no wish to get in trouble with Homeland Security.

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Living Dead Museum

Next stop was Evans City which is 40 miles to the North of Monroeville. “Night” and another Romero movie The Crazies (1973) were filmed here.

My first visit in Evans City was to The Living Dead Museum which is the green pin on the map.

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The museum is small but packs a load of cool stuff into the space including original props from many of Romero’s movies, memorabilia, a “Maul of Fame” and many recreations of zombies from the films. At $3 it is a bargain. Note that the museum is not open every weekday so check their opening hours on their website if you are planning a visit.

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“Night” Locations

Next up were various “Night” locations in and around Evans City which are the blue pins on the map.

I thought Monroeville Mall would be the highlight of my trip. I was wrong as Evans City Cemetery knocks it into a cocked hat.

It looks almost exactly as it did in the opening scenes of “Night” right down to the sign at the entrance.

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The particular headstone Barbara cowered behind and the grave stone on which Johnny had his head smashed in remain in place.

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I wrapped my trip to Evans City by visiting the Bridge where the posse scenes from “Night” were filmed and the location of the Farmhouse where most of the movie was set. Both are located close together a few miles north of Evans City on Ash Stop Road. The bridge looks quite different as its missing the trusses’ it sports in the film. The farmhouse is long gone having been demolished straight after filming. You can see a newer house sitting on the same foundations from Ash Stop Road.

My final act of the day was to pay homage to the “Zombie Hunt” scene by sampling a few bottles of Iron City beer. A perfect end to a perfect day.

Me with an Iron City

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If you want to do a similar road trip then the following YouTube videos by Adam The Woo make for a good overall guide.

The first video takes in most of the locations from “Dawn”. I get the impression that they didn’t have permission for some of their filming which means they visited a few places I wasn’t prepared to trespass in (like the grounds of Monroeville Airport and the back stairwell of Monroeville Mall). The second video recreates all of the action of the “Night” cemetery scene right down to the individual headstones.

“F Weather” Pebble Watch Face

Posted March 21, 2015 by waynedgrant
Categories: Code Projects, Meteorology, Open Source, Pebble

Tags: , , ,

Hot on the heels of my Cirrus Pebble WatchApp I’ve just completed another creation for the Pebble: “F Weather”. F Weather is my homage to one of my favourite web sites: THE FUCKING WEATHER. THE FUCKING WEATHER tells the weather like it is and so does F Weather except it does so for your current location:

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There are a few differences between F Weather and my Cirrus WatchApp. First of all this is a watch face rather than a watch app so it’s not interactive (but then again it doesn’t need to be interactive to relate the current temperature through the medium of swearing). Secondly F Weather is written in C and PebbleKit JS. This makes it much faster than the PebbleJS based Cirrus WatchApp. I haven’t written any C for 13 years or so and thoroughly enjoyed getting back into it.

Current conditions are looked up from Yahoo’s RESTful query services which involves two calls.

The first call takes the current longitude/latitude position available to the Pebble and looks up the corresponding WOEID and city name:

https://query.yahooapis.com/v1/public/yql?q=select city, woeid from geo.placefinder where text=”40.87,-74.16″ and gflags=”R”&format=json

The second call uses the WOEID to look up the current temperature:

https://query.yahooapis.com/v1/public/yql?q=select item.condition.temp from weather.forecast where woeid=12760611 and u=”c”&format=json

This process is repeated every 15 minutes.

My code is open source and hosted on github. It can be found here: pebblec-watchface-fweather. The install PBW can be found under Releases.

Cirrus Pebble WatchApp for Weather Display Live

Posted January 17, 2015 by waynedgrant
Categories: Code Projects, Meteorology, Open Source, Pebble, Weather Station

Tags: , , , , ,

I don’t mind admitting that I am a bit obsessed about the weather. I am especially fastidious in keeping up with the current conditions where I live. This has manifested itself in several of my recent coding projects that display data from my weather station including my own web site, a web service, a PiFaceCAD based console and an android app widget.

I bought a Pebble smart watch last year on a whim and have found it useful for its notifications of texts, emails and phone calls (I keep my phone on silent so the Pebble’s vibration based notifications are especially handy). Given I have access to my weather station’s data on all of my other devices doing the same with the Pebble was a logical choice for a new project.

Previous weather projects I have written have directly fetched and processed Weather Display Live’s clientraw.txt file. For my Pebble watch application I wanted to make more use of my own web service. This would simplify the coding process as the service, unlike clientraw.txt, exposes weather data in a well-defined structure and many different measurement units. In addition PebbleJS toolkit has built-in support for making http calls to JSON-based web services.

I coded the application in Javascript using the CloudPebble website. For a browser based IDE CloudPebble is very feature rich with syntax highlighting, github integration and logging. It also has the ability to deploy directly to a pebble watch provided you have a paired smart phone for the watch on the same wireless network as the computer running CloudPebble.

The only other code that was required was a web page to expose configuration settings for the application. This currently has to be hosted on the web. In my application’s case this page allows the configuration of the web service URL and a choice of metric or imperial weather measurement units.

The finished application makes use of the Pebble’s menu UI. It populates a top-level menu of current weather data including temperature, surface pressure, humidity, rainfall and wind. Selecting any of these top-level menu items displays a sub-menu of more in-depth information for the particular measurement including daily high and low values.

As usual my code is open source and hosted on github. It can be found here: pebblejs-watchapp-cirrus.

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