Our protagonist is repeating the last 30 years of his life, from the age of 5 years old, over and over again. Read the 'premise' section of this question for all the details.

As mentioned in the last bullet point our protagonist is going to struggle with the repetitiveness of reliving the same life over and over. As he get's older and gains the freedom of adulthood this isn't as bad, as he can make new decisions, live new experiences, and ideally is in a world with increasingly advanced technology to play with.

However his childhood and school years are problem. As a child he doesn't get to make decisions for himself and thus is stuck in the same home, going to the same school, with the same potential friends every time. Worse the schools themselves are quite repetitive, our protagonist is struggling to tolerate the boredom of being trapped time after time hearing the exact same lecture on how to do long division.

This is further exasperated by the fact that being trapped in a child's body (and brain) leads to his feeling and acting more childish. His struggle to endure the repetitiveness of school life is exasperated by the general impatience and lack of self control that comes with childhood.

The obvious solution to this problem is to test out of school entirely so he doesn't have to sit through these lessons. He did this the first time he went back in time, successfully skipping numerous grades. Unfortunately for him this lead to a significant amount of media attention about the child prodigy who was going to change the world, an experience he found he hated, both because he generally hated media attention and because he found it put a significant amount of pressure on him to 'live up to' the prodigy talents he demonstrated, something he couldn't do since he wasn't actually a genius. He has resolved he definitely does not want to repeat the experience by trying to skip grades in school during future lifetimes.

He has similarly decided that revealing he is a time traveler would likely also lead to too much media attention and pressure and so doesn't want to do that.

Given his restriction of not wanting to draw too much attention to himself, and limited autonomy as a young child, what options are available to our time traveler to try to avoid the redundancy of sitting through the same lectures, and having the exact same experiences, for the hundredth time? What can he do to encourage variety in his young life, and is there a way to avoid spending the majority of it in a classroom listening to lessons he doesn't need?

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    $\begingroup$ "is there a way to avoid spending the majority of it in a classroom listening to lessons he doesn't need?" There's already a way in the real world. It's quite common for precocious children to skip a few school years (common enough that I'm sure many users here have done so). Rarer, true child prodigies might even "skip" over most of their primary/secondary education and jump straight into higher learning. A particularly extreme example is Ruth Lawrence who entered oxford at just 12 years old but there are many other cases. After a few reboots I'm sure your time traveler will be able to do so. $\endgroup$
    – AngelPray
    Oct 30, 2020 at 21:48
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    $\begingroup$ Don't tell the world you're a time traveler... just tell your parents. Convince them to "home school" you and otherwise be your accomplices. (Might take a few tries to get the hang of this.) $\endgroup$
    – Matthew
    Oct 30, 2020 at 21:49
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    $\begingroup$ HOME. SCHOOLING. $\endgroup$
    – user79911
    Oct 31, 2020 at 5:37
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    $\begingroup$ The boring lectures are fairly easy to deal with, and I expect most intelligent but introverted kids learn to deal with them the way I did. You sit in the back of the classroom and read a book or think about stuff, while paying just enough attention to give answers when called upon. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Oct 31, 2020 at 17:15
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    $\begingroup$ I would say that groundhog 30 years is way "saner" than a single day, as it gives time for your elections to have deeper, more meaningful consequences, and the variation of outcomes is greater. $\endgroup$
    – SJuan76
    Oct 31, 2020 at 23:48

8 Answers 8


Some ideas for how to spend time. At school:

  • Uplift others. Provided you go to a decent sized school and eventually high school, there will be at least a handful of people who have the potential to become wildly influential and successful. While you coast through school, help them out, teach them, and guide their social development so that they can maximise their own potential (if they want to). This way you can help raise the people who might one day contribute towards building a brighter future.

  • Be a classroom-hero. With foreknowledge, you know everything about your classmates. You know Bill will kill someone in a DUI, you know Alice has an abusive mother, you know James is struggling with undiagnosed ADHD. Become their friends and help fix their problems, or better yet, help them learn how to fix their own problems.

  • Be a super-hero. You know 9/11 will happen, you know when school shootings will happen, you know when terrorist attacks happen. Yes, it would be difficult to change things and remain anonymous as a kid, but you could probably convince your parents to take a trip to New York with you and pull the fire alarm in the WTC center before the planes hit. Spend time writing anonymous letters to butterfly away bad stuff that happens.

  • Have fun. While I can see how elementary school would be boring, I personally enjoyed middle and high school. If I had to go through them again, I'd fully invest myself in time-intensive extracurriculars like theatre or band, mixing it up until I'm a poly-instrumentalist, capable journalist, track star, robotics club captain, etc.

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    $\begingroup$ Great answer. School years are only tedious if you decide they are. $\endgroup$
    – Jontia
    Oct 31, 2020 at 16:19
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    $\begingroup$ Calling in a suspected terror attack ahead of time might not be as effective as one might think. Remember when Doug Hughes landed a gyro-copter in front of the Washington D.C. capitol building as a political stunt? He called ahead of time (so they wouldn't shoot him down). A Tampa newspaper reporter wrote several articles about the stunt before it happened. And he live-streamed the whole trip as it occurred. Yet when he landed, the Police / Secret Service were totally surprised, thinking him a terrorist. cnn.com/2015/04/15/politics/aircraft-lands-on-capitol-grounds/… $\endgroup$
    – user4574
    Nov 2, 2020 at 4:09

Money Makes the World go Around:

Memorize lottery dates and times (or record them on a piece of paper). Confide in one or two trusted adults about this. Give them lotto numbers, then run away with the divided proceeds and the promise to the adults of gaining all the money once the MC has returned again to the past. Then, learn foreign languages and travel the world as a rich young man with hired supervision. If any of these folks betray him, he starts over and doesn't trust them again.

Despite being young, he now doesn't need to live his same repetitive life. He can learn to create false identities, live in numerous countries, etc. Go to fancy schools or learn from private tutors if he wants to learn stuff. Attend the best universities in the world. After a while, he should be able to manipulate the stock market (despite the butterfly effect), make investments in protected anonymous accounts, and use the money to do anything he wants, including fund research funneled with data from his private stash of knowledge. Swiss and Cayman Islands accounts mean he can hold great wealth without people being aware. What researcher isn't going to believe a mysterious eccentric (million?)billionaire?

Further, I disagree with the premise that being filthy rich means people know HE is filthy rich. Or that they care. People have been hiding their wealth and power for a long time. Ask any mafia boss and he'll tell you he's poor a dirt (living in a big house with a fancy car).


In most jurisdictions, a child is legally required to undergo education, with the only way to avoid it being to skip grades, as you have already described. If the character is able to persuade his parents to allow homeschooling, that may lessen his/her problems.

As for how to pass the time:

  • Learn new skills. There's all of human experience (art, philosophy, history, science, etc.) to learn from if the character has access to a library and reading books at an adult level can be passed off as a harmless quirk or hidden.
  • Perfect old skills and use them to create things. One could write novels or create artwork with centuries of experience behind them. Best of all, no teacher will take much notice of a child writing or doodling during a lecture so long as their grades are good; they have enough to deal with already.
  • Prepare for the adult phase of their life. Accruing and managing money and exercise to keep themselves fit can eat up a fair bit of time.
  • Work out how to "manage" his/her parents. Very important.
  • Play around with taking alternate branches in history. Presumably the character always starts from the same initial conditions. They now get to try different decisions at different junctures in their life to see how it goes. For example, what happens if they dated B instead of A during their high school years?
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    $\begingroup$ I would note that being required to undergo education is not the same as being required to attend school. You can also be homeschooled and tested every so often -- as long as you well enough on the tests, nobody will care whether you're working hard, or barely. $\endgroup$ Oct 31, 2020 at 16:32

He can just drop out

https://www.businessinsider.com/highly-successful-high-school-dropouts-2016-6 - there are plenty of successful high school dropouts. These are some of the ones you'd be most likely to hear about, but their wild success implies that there are plenty of dropouts who are mildly successful instead.

All he really has to do is learn how to program well. When he's around 10 years old, he needs to convince his parents to buy a computer (one way might be to get them to win a couple thousand dollars in a lottery). He can feign interest in learning how to program, and check out programming books from the library. He would, of course, ignore those books, but it gives his parents a reason to believe that he's legitimately learning how to program.

Over time, he can spend more and more time on the computer. Occasionally, he could produce things to wow his parents so they won't think he's just wasting his time and potential. He can let his grades suffer, to the point where he can just say he wants to drop out and go to work programming full time (15-16 years old may be a good time to do that). Google was founded in 1998 so he could try to go work for them for a while, or for one of the other now-big companies that was started around then. Get in early enough, get paid in some stock, and he could retire reasonably early. As a bonus, many programmers tend to be introverted, so it would make perfect sense if he does not want to receive public attention despite whatever success he achieves.

Note that being involved in the tech industry early on would also help with his other goal of discretely disseminating his future-knowledge.

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    $\begingroup$ Not really useful for the early years, but its a good plan for high school. $\endgroup$
    – Ángel
    Oct 30, 2020 at 22:09
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    $\begingroup$ If the character is in the US, the earliest they can drop out is 16 back then (most states have it at 18 now). They'd be better off finishing high school since the stigma is quite high; it closes some doors and other would try to take advantage of him/her. $\endgroup$ Oct 30, 2020 at 23:20
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    $\begingroup$ Also note that being good at software, enough to get into a company like Google, takes a special kind of mind and the OP has said the character is ordinary. (Google is out BTW; they were notorious for only accepting top grads from elite CS programs in their early days.) They would have so good at coding, as a dropout, that it would attract considerable interest and attention, just like the dropouts in the article. $\endgroup$ Oct 30, 2020 at 23:22
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    $\begingroup$ I dunno about that: you can get by without special kinds of mind by a combination of multiple lifetimes worth of experience and already knowing where future trends are going. $\endgroup$ Nov 1, 2020 at 16:10
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    $\begingroup$ I would also contend that if he is a contemporary 35 year old, going back to age 5 would be travel to 1990. HTTP/HTML/WWW are barely existent yet and definitely not public. He has the ability to jump on thousands of patents that make the web what it is today with foresight of which ideas will work and which will fail. $\endgroup$ Nov 2, 2020 at 2:55

There is a homeschooling method called unschooling that your traveler may be able to persuade the parents to go for.

It's basically a homeschooling system with no set curricula or timeframe. Learning is based on the childs desires/abilities/interests etc. There is not set time that a certain "deadline", such as learning to read, has to be met. When a child wishes to learn to read (normally becase they wanna know what's going on in the video game they happen to be playing or possible subtitles on film/series) the child makes the decision and puts in the effort to learn to read. If the child is interested in botany, they focus their attention on all things plants. If the child wants to avoid maths equtions but focus on cooking skills, go for it. If they happen to want to focus on carpentry, folklore medicine or even metal working, the parents do their best to support the kids interests.

From my understanding, parents might seed their living environment with educational material such as books/videos/games but the decision to learn new things is all on the kid. So if the traveller knows a certain situation is going to happen at year xxxz, they can spend their repeated childhoods trying to learn news skills each time in order to survive/make the best of said situation.

So as long as your little kindergartener** or possibly 3rd grader can somehow persuade the adults in their lifes to give this a go (and it's a legal option in the country in question), your traveller can spend a good 6-10 years learning new skills/interests in preparation for the future they know is going to happen...without being viewed as some sort of genius worthy of making the local news at 10.

** I checked, kindergartner and kindergartener are both accepted spellings.

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    $\begingroup$ Is this even legal in the US? I thought even if someone was homeschooled they had to take specific tests to prove parents are teaching them according to specifically defined curriculum. Sure my protagonist could past the test but how do you justify unschooling approach to parents, and get government sign off on it, in the presence of government mandated testing and curriculum? $\endgroup$
    – dsollen
    Oct 30, 2020 at 23:09
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    $\begingroup$ Not sure of the facts of this source but this moms group (first hit on google) seems to imply it is legal to some degree in all 50 states of the usa $\endgroup$ Oct 30, 2020 at 23:12
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    $\begingroup$ Ah, but when was this technique designed/popularized? Thirty years ago (a hippie vestige) or some time later? It won't help our MC if it doesn't get invented until he's 15. $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Nov 1, 2020 at 14:35

Your subject is not a 5 year old boy with the knowledge of a 35 year old. He is a 35 year old in the body of a 5 year old. We are our knowledge and experiences. If I have all your knowledge and experiences, I am you. Then on the next go-around, he will be a 65 year old man in the body of a 5 year old, and so on. There will be biological things with the body, hormones, but he has already gone through early socialisation and play, he will not need to do that again.

Now I don't know about you, but I could not withstand going through kindergarten and all of school again at my age. So what you will want to do is to show your parents that you are talented and want to homeschool yourself, as long as you can convince them that you are surpassing goals and are actually doing productive things, you can probably get them off your back and they might let you study what you want and do some things you want. But for at least the first 10 years you will basically be in jail, with your parents being jailers and you could only go to places and events your parents permit. At least they must be convinced you are a prodigy, but you don't need to participate in competitions or expose yourself otherwise to gain attention. Since this is pre-internet I would suggest becoming pen-pals with people you find of interest, maybe you wanna be pen palls with scientists developing technology you are interested in and want to speed up, they don't need to know who you are. Create multiple identities through which you communicate with people. Then with the help of a trusted adult you make a bit of money. Then use that money to create a stronger fake identity which you could actually use to start trading stocks and making money.

Your parents will probably be concerned about your social skills and so will be forcing you to interact with others your own age, this will be like you now interacting with children. You will not make friends with them, but you must fake it to avoid attention. As you get a bit older hormones will make you horny, you should accept right away that you wont be having any relationships, kissing or sex until you are at least 18. Because you will be attracted to older women, and the women your own age will be children to you. You also wont be making any friends your own age simply because they are children, you do not have common interests.

Once internet comes around, convince your parents to get it instantly. That makes communication easier for you as you can never reveal yourself in person or you will draw attention. Then keep up the bit about communicating with interesting people over mail and now internet, keep making new identities for every person (you don't want two of them to randomly meet and start talking about this one guy who they had been mailing with who had revolutionary ideas about both of their completely unrelated fields). Once you grow up a bit you will either convince your parents to let you do whatever you want, or you will emancipate. Then you can start using some of that money and travel, and experience things, live whatever life you want. But you will need to live under false identities, fake names, fake origins,... Once you are old enough that women you actually find attractive will be willing to be with you, you might have some brief relationships, but they wont last, because you wont let yourself get too close because you know it will end soon. And besides, even if you appear to be 18 and they are 40, you are still older then them, the first time around not by that much, but a couple loops in, everybody will seem like children to you.

So to summarise, your real problem wont be boredom. For the first decade or so, it will be your parents constraining you and not allowing you to make your own decisions. And during the whole time, it will be loneliness. After three iterations you will already start being the oldest person in the world, you will have experienced more than anyone else. You will find that you will need to limit your interactions with even the smartest people to only their specific field as on every other topic, they are children compared to you. You will spend your time alone, some iterations you might choose to try out fame, sometimes you might want to be a crimelord, its not like there are any permanent consequences. All humans are but children compared to you, through your years you have become a master manipulator, you can read people at a glimpse, you can make money anywhere you want, the world is your plaything to do with as you please. If you don't have excellent mental health and self control at the start you will start doing things that you now find unimaginable simply because you the consequences are negligible. You might start with killing some people before they commit bad deeds, then you will find that stealing from some rich people doesn't really matter as you are the only one who will still exist in 10 years, so what does it matter. And you can stretch this far, after long enough human laws will no longer seem relevant to you, the only question will be, do I want to do this, because you will be a god (think Groundhog day scene where he calls himself a god).

  • Find out if there are other people like him. That in itself may be a little tricky, it would require something fro him to get world-famous, but not in the revealing "prodigy" sense - so it would be something like getting on television in some event - which should be rather easy with years and then saying something which reveals that he its from the future to people who have been there. (e.g. saying in 1999 that the presidents tweets - may sound like a cute 5 year old misspelling and innocent enough not be detected in general, even later).

If no, it depends how much he is able to keep himself busy (experiments, manipulating people, testing out evil), but I guess it could be hard

If yes however, they can play games against each other. That could range from good to evil, or actually difficult to judge.


For this question there are probably two key things to keep in mind, 1) the internet, and 2) more options will appear on successive repeats.

Also note that a lot of this is based on the assumptions made by OP in their other (linked) question

At the end of his first repeat he can carry back something around the size of a thumbdrive, by his third lifetime he could carry a laptop, the size of things he can store will continue to grow linearly with lifetimes (possibly slowing down after he reaches a sufficiently large carrying capacity)

Without this assumption it would be a lot harder to take information back with them. Though the idea of behaving as a gifted child and interacting with other gifted children (see below) would still work without the significant stress of playing a child prodigy.


The hardest repeat will probably be the first one, since the protagonist has made no preparations for this and so has to go off spotty recollections of things that happened at that time. Since he is a software programmer he will be able to prove to his parents that he is from the future by March 31, 1999, the day the matrix came out. All he has to do is explain the plot of the matrix (which he can probably remember) before it is filmed. Alternatively he could convince his parents to watch monty python's Holy grail or life of Brian and quote half the movie from memory (Monty python tends to be well known in science and programming circles, and its not unreasonable to assume that he could do that even as an average person). Since his parents haven't shown him these movies its going to make them think (though their first suspicion may be that he saw it at school or at a friend's place).

There is also the internet, this would give him access to other things to learn, as well as the dot com bubble (which occurred between 1995-1999) which he'd likely be aware of, and might be able to recall a particular business that had a short term spike in share prices and be able to build a nest egg from that for future investments (This would be quite believable if it had a funny name or offered a ridiculous service that would never work in hindsight.) One example of where he could look is the arXiv, a preprint server for scientific papers, which (at least now) is accessible by anyone to read research papers on before they are published in a journal and I believe was connected to the world wide web in 1993. It was originally for high energy physics (which he'd need to teach himself the material) but later on included math and computer science papers.

From what you've said in the first loop he plays the child prodigy and that may go to his head. As far as he will experience he is a prodigy, he is much smarter than everyone around him and he is a similar age or possibly a couple of years older than his parents. This could have a significant influence on him and make him appreciate learning more in future loops than would be expected by his original life. He may also try to tackle big problems such as climate change because of his now inflated ego, joining activist groups and possibly trying to integrate himself with the scientific community. Somewhere between the ages of 15 and 20 is probably when the truth that he isn't a genius and he fades into obscurity (with maybe only a wikipedia article as his legacy, not too unusual for child prodigies). An average 40 year old may be comparable to a genius 10 year old (though a psychologist trained in high intelligence children might see a confusing difference in behaviour), but an average 50 year old will be struggling to keep up with a genius 20 year old.

In his later life he'd be able to decide to take a USB back with him, given he's probably invested in google, amazon, walmart, youtube, facebook, bitcoin, ect he is independently wealthy and doesn't have to work. He can also afford to get someone to design a USB that is durable enough to work after decades and can interface with multiple standards (so he can use USB from 1996, and something else prior to that). Now he'll be able to send a Terrabyte of information back in time (though some of it may be blocked off until later dates due to hardware limitations). While he is now again only of average skill, he does have more training and experience in more developed/efficient programming techniques then most of his colleges, such as agile software development or test driven design.


The next few lives is where things get interesting. While he doesn't want to be a child prodigy he can pretend to be gifted and get to meet/befriend actual high intelligence children. These "childhood" friends would be much more interesting since they would be able to introduce new ideas/concepts much easier then the average students (and gifted children often get along better with adults then similar aged peers). Since they are actually gifted they may manage to guess that he is from the future (particularly if they like science fiction). But now the fact he is only of average intelligence will no longer limit him since he will be able to get help from his good friends. He will probably still spend time with kids of average intelligence since they are actually closer to him and he won't be bombarded by insightful links between ideas that require him to think hard to follow, though there will probably be a barrier between the average friends and his gifted ones.

He will also have access to programming languages and libraries that don't exist for a couple more decades. These programming libraries are very useful as they don't require that a user understands how to program everything from the ground up and can be made quite efficient. This means the protagonist could take google's tensorflow and use it to start a different search engine company that out-competes google due to using their future (superior) technology. However there will be some limitations since the hardware back in the 90s wouldn't be able to run these algorithms very efficiently and so he'd have to wait until technology gets better.

He could also start chatting with researchers anonymously via email, claim he is an independently wealthy researcher who works on things in his free time but not linked to a university (and buys access to journals which he has access to from his hammerspace USB). This may be motivated by his (failed) attempt to solve climate change as a child prodigy. If you've seen the limitless series think about the communication between Brian and the guy who extends a mouse's lifespan.

Since intelligence is no longer an issue by the third time through the USB can probably be designed so that he has access to everything immediately as well as some instructions he could use to boot strap better tech from what he would reasonably have available given his age and the time, as well as better ideas of how to balance boring school lessons with necessary social interaction.

Later on once his hammer space has expanded he'd be able to send back something like a raspberry pi or a NUC (next unit computing by intel, you can buy one now with 16GB ram, i7 core/4GHz and 1TB of storage). This would allow him to make use of the software he's been carrying back with him, but would probably need to be re-engineered for robustness and to interface with monitors/keyboards/mice of the 1990s. How long this takes may depend on how quickly his hammerspace grows


Eventually one of his gifted "childhood" friends could invent a strong AI, this means he could finally take someone back with him and keep himself entertained with this character. Later depending on how you want to take the story things like intelligence augmentation or neural implants could be developed. This means that when starting at 5 years old again, instructions may be included on his original USB (and possibly guidance by his AI friend) on how to boost his intelligence or implant a neural connection given only his tech level/intelligence (since he will suddenly become dumber when reverting to 5 if he manages to augment his intelligence). Once he has a neural implant he can chat to the AI or write software/read research papers during the long division lessons. If brain uploading is also developed then he could bring people back with him and essentially be a hivemind spending time talking with himself during the classes for things he has long since mastered.

If he decides to focus on this it might be possible to develop after several cycles (and either he or one of his gifted friends could come up with the idea). This is especially true once the strong AI can help by bringing an understanding of many advanced manufacturing techniques, biological processes, and software approaches back with the protagonist.

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    $\begingroup$ Is the time traveler even able to bring a USB device back with him? It sounds like the only thing that is time travelling is his mind. $\endgroup$
    – nick012000
    Nov 1, 2020 at 5:48
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    $\begingroup$ There was a great sequence in Happy Death Day 2 U (an otherwise unremarkable movie) where the protagonist was the only one that could carry information between days. So she had to memorize large quantities of information to regurgitate to scientists to bootstrap each iteration. So possible that the protagonist could do this over multiple iterations by short circuiting breakthroughs. Thirty years of research is a lot to hold in a mind though. $\endgroup$ Nov 2, 2020 at 2:57
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    $\begingroup$ @nick012000 from the question linked by OP that places some parameters for the story: "At the end of his first repeat he can carry back something around the size of a thumbdrive, by his third lifetime he could carry a laptop, the size of things he can store will continue to grow linearly with lifetimes (possibly slowing down after he reaches a sufficiently large carrying capacity)" $\endgroup$ Nov 2, 2020 at 9:07
  • $\begingroup$ @NAMcMahon I suspect the reason you get so many down votes is that people haven't read the other question, and without that context this likely seems mostly unrelated information. Honestly I'd suggest you delete this answer and re-post it on my first question, as most of the content feels primarily relevant to that one. Your probably get better response from other's rankings that way. I appreciate your answering. $\endgroup$
    – dsollen
    Nov 2, 2020 at 14:48
  • $\begingroup$ yeah, that was my suspicion, and why I edited the answer to make that point clear. I'll leave it here since stack exchange is suppose to be community generated resource (also upvotes generate more reputation then downvotes make you lose so a couple of downvotes is cancelled by one upvote and reputation doesn't suffer). There are a few extra points that I didn't include here that are more relevant to your original question which I'll add a separate answer to (and related to these ideas). $\endgroup$ Nov 2, 2020 at 23:27

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