... the absolute positioning solution ... is not really extensible to more than 2 len/data pairs.
I disagree, with a potential caveat dependent on the exact meaning of the word 'really'. I think I have shown below that an absolute positioning solution can easily (for some definition of 'easy') be generalized to any number of data items using any data length 'type'.
But not all things that are easy are wise, and I continue to agree with you and ig that a two-step approach is almost certainly best.
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