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10 Weird and Wacky Flowcharts

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A flowchart is a diagram that illustrates the steps of a process, such as the process a machine would use to make decisions and proceed with the necessary steps to complete a task. We also make flowcharts to illustrate the decision-making and procedural process of the simplest events in pop culture worlds or in human life, mainly for fun. And just like real life, they can go off into completely bizarre territory, while remaining familiar enough for us all to relate. Here are some of the most recently-discovered flowcharts that might help you out, or at least make you laugh.

1. Should You Call In Sick Today?

The decision to call your boss and tell him or her that you aren’t coming in today depends on many factors, such as how likely you are to lose your job over it, how much you’ll suffer financially for the day, and how much you care. Oh yeah, and whether you're sick. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to work with a contagious bug, endangering everyone else, because staying home would endanger my ability to pay the rent. Here’s a flowchart from Mandatory that will give you better advice than I could. Go to the website to see where it leads.

2. How Should You Treat Your Medical Emergency (If You're on a TV Show)?

Medical emergencies on television dramas are very different from real life. In real life, you will want to seek medical help, which may save your life. On TV, that only works when the series is set in a hospital, and you are a regular character. On this flowchart you can see in full at College Humor, there are no arrows that lead to that step at all! The best advice I can give you is, don't get shot. And make sure your character has a full name.

3. Time Travel in Movies Flowchart

This fascinating flowchart by Mr. Dalliard contains many time travel movies sorted by plot twists and temporal philosophy, color coded by genre, and has spoilers that you probably won't understand if you haven't seen the movie anyway. Remakes and originals are labeled by year. You can enlarge the chart by clicking on it at the site.

4. The Book Lover’s Dilemma

Book lovers may worry about this decision, but it’s really very simple. After all, you’re a book lover! We all have our priorities. This chart is from Rena MacGuire.

5. What to Read

If you really want someone to tell you which book to read, you might consult the Summer Reading Flowchart, which works pretty well in winter, too. This is only the beginning of a pretty involved chart at Teach.

6. Should I go to the movies?

Once upon a time, life’s decisions were easier to make. This chart is from a 1963 book about machine automation, and it was used to explain binary decision-making. Just a few binary decisions, and a teenager either went to a movie or didn’t. See, back then, there was one theater in town, with one movie screen, and the only alternative was possibly a drive-in theater that didn’t open until dark. It didn’t matter what was showing, because it was rated G and you didn’t have any other choice anyway. Things are different now.

7. What to Watch on Netflix

Today, you have multiplexes, on-demand TV, RedBox, a bookcase full of discs, and of course, Netflix. Once you’ve made the decision to watch a movie, the choices are endless. You can select a movie, a mini-series, or a television series. There are tons of genres, and if you are up for watching something you’ve never seen before, you can run your choices through internet reviews to see if it might be worth your time. Or you can consult the What to Watch on Netflix flowchart, which is pretty long and involved itself. Enlarge it here

8. How Dogs Make Decisions

Dogs don’t have as many choices to make as we do -they don’t have Netflix accounts, for one thing. But in a dog world, the decisions they make are important. The flowchart above from Doghouse Diaries is based on years of behavioral observation that any dog lover can understand. If only all our decisions were this simple.

9. Should You Confront Your Spouse?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen relationship advice about how to fight with your significant other. The older I get, the more I realize that fighting will solve nothing. If you have to fight about something, you’ve already lost. And most conflicts you encounter in a relationship, especially a committed, long-term relationship, are not that important. Alisa and Ari Bowman constructed a flowchart to help you see your conflict more clearly.

10. The Conspiracy Theory Flowchart "THEY" Don't Want You To See

The Conspiracy Theory Flowchart is recommended for those who are “new to the exciting world of conspiracy theories and just can't decide which paranoid delusion best suits you.” If you are the paranoid type, it will send you in a hundred directions to research new things to worry about. For everyone else, it only points out how weird these theories are. All I’ve shown you here is a small portion; the full flowchart is at The Reason Stick. It was built by Crispian Jago, who also gave us the Periodic Table of Irrational Nonsense, featured earlier on mental_floss

The takeaway from this group of flowcharts is that even simple charts can contain difficult decisions, and simple decisions can lead to very large flowcharts, if there are a large number of decisions that make up an activity. I bet you already knew that. See our previous lists of flowcharts for more of this kind of silliness.

9 Flowcharts to Help You Navigate the Christmas Season

Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year, and all the other winter holidays are times of tradition, when we continue to celebrate in the manner of years past. But some modern situations call for decisions that tradition doesn’t cover. That’s why we have flowcharts! Here are some that pertain to the unique conundrums that arise this time of year.

1. WHO TO VISIT FOR THE HOLIDAYS

Will you be spending Christmas with your parents or your in-laws? This is a decision you should make with your significant other, but it doesn't have to turn into a tug-of-war. Just produce this flowchart from She Knows to bolster your reasons for visiting the family with the least drama.

2. WHO TO BUY CHRISTMAS GIFTS FOR

The holidays would certainly be less stressful if we were to do away with the tradition of buying gifts for adults (other than maybe homemade food or a nice box of candy). But social obligations live on. Still, you don’t have to buy everyone a gift, especially when you're on a limited budget. Read the rest of this flowchart from College Humor, which will help you make your decision.   

3. SHOULD YOU GET A GIFT FOR SOMEONE YOU ARE SEEING?

That may be a simple question, but the answer might be quite complicated. A flowchart from The Date Report can help you to consider how far along the relationship is and whether a Christmas gift would be proper at this time or not.  

4. GIFT SUGGESTIONS FOR YOURSELF

When a close family member asks you what you want for Christmas, it’s OK to be honest. Just keep in mind that you're more likely to get your wish fulfilled if you keep it within the giver’s budget. This flowchart from 1500 Days to Freedom illustrates that well. (A second flowchart in the same post explains the recurring nightmare of intergenerational conflict in his/her family—something we're all likely familiar with.)  

5. SHOPPING FOR GIFTS

Major retailers often release flowcharts to help you decide what to give people for Christmas, which all end in gifts they sell. This one, targeted to men, is from the Milwaukee Brewers. The entire chart is huge. The flowchart is complicated, but no matter who you're shopping for, the perfect gift is a Holiday 4-Pack. I would have at least suggested splurging on a whole 6-pack.

6. SIMPLE HOLIDAY SMARTPHONE ETIQUETTE

Most of the time, your phone is attached to your hand—but when you're with the family for holiday togetherness, you're sure to get a few snarky comments from relatives if you're using it all the time. Still, there are some situations that make phone use appropriate, so Shane Snow created a flowchart to help you navigate each possible scenario.  

7. CHRISTMAS LIGHTS

You should have your Christmas lights up by now. Why don’t you? Are they not working? Are you putting off the annual testing regimen? Terry Ritter put up an entire website to help you troubleshoot Christmas lights 10 years ago. His flowcharts will take you through the process of testing your lights before you hang them. Or you can simplify things by simply plugging them in and throwing away the strings that don’t work.

8. WHICH CHRISTMAS MOVIE TO WATCH

There are an awful lot of classic Christmas movies—some you may have even forgotten about. There’s one to fit your interests for every situation and every mood. You can determine which movie fits yours with this handy chart from College Humor. See the rest of the chart to select your movie.

9. WHAT TO DO ON CHRISTMAS EVE

Let's wrap up Christmas with a flowchart that’s been around forever, but is still enjoyable. After all, who wants to miss a step that may lead to seeing a jolly old elf, so you can laugh when you see him in spite of yourself? If you have trouble reading it, see a larger version here.

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9 Flowcharts for Maximum Non-Productivity

Flowcharts long ago escaped the world of engineering and have run rampant across all topics. The best ones are either useful or funny, and sometimes they can be both. Here’s a roundup of flowcharts that may help you out or at least entertain you for a while. But the first, and most important question is:

1. Do You Like Flowcharts?

Randall Munroe at xkcd presents us with a flowchart to determine what kind of chart or graph you prefer. And he then attempts to give you what you want, in one way or another. But as you and I know, there’s no pleasing some people. The arrow at the bottom points to the “random” button at the website. Which ought to please anyone.

2. Should You Buy an Apple Watch?

No, this isn’t an ad from Apple, because if it were, all decision paths would flow toward “yes,” except the one about having no money. This is from Funny or Die, where you can see the full chart.

3. Is It Paleo?

The Paleo Diet Flowchart will help you recognize foods you can eat on the Paleo Diet. I’ve probably learned more about that diet from this flowchart than from any other source, since I’m not all that interested in diets outside of what my kids eat. It was drawn by Cole Bradburn, based on an earlier flowchart by Nicole Voelzke that you can see at the same link.

4. Should You Put Coffee In Your Face Right Now?

Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal made a flowchart for the website I Love Coffee. It makes the simple decision of whether to have a cup of coffee into a convoluted quiz involving tigers, bran muffins, and revolution. See the rest of it here. Me? Unless it’s bedtime, I just skip to “Yes.” Tea is for bedtime.

5. How to Talk About the Economy

Zach Weiner at Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal created a flowchart about how to address the subject of the economy, if you are a politician, in which case it matters, or a media personality, in which case it only matters how you spin it.  

6. How to Not Be a Bullying Mob

Internet shaming is a hot topic these days. In the quest for justice over those who do are exposed on the internet as doing something offensive or mean, the backlash can be exponentially worse. By joining in on the pile-on, you may find yourself being part of the bullying experience yourself. A flowchart by Andrea Phillips can help you to stop and think before you comment or take some other action against a person you don’t know. This illustration is only a portion of the full chart, which you can enlarge at the link.

7. Should You Do the Dishes?

If you were to ask me, that’s an easy question to answer. I’m a mom. The answer is “Yes!” But this flowchart is from College Humor, so it is not aimed at me, but at young adults who moved away from their families in order to avoid doing dishes. Or attend college, but that’s splitting hairs. If there’s any chance in hell you can avoid the dishes for a while longer, you will. The rest of this tall flowchart is at the highlighted link.  

8. Hey Jude

Sarah Emerson used a flowchart not to make a decision, but to explore the structure of the song “Hey Jude.” It works elegantly well, especially with the infinite loop at the end, and is also available as an art print

9. Putting It Off Until Later

The Procrastination Flowchart is at least seven years old, and the original is impossible to find, as various cited sources no longer exist. Yet we still procrastinate. What you see here is just the starting point, which is in the middle of the chart, because there are so many paths to procrastination that they wander all around the chart. By the time you finish with the entire chart, the deadline you are avoiding will be passed.

Make the rest of the decisions in your life with the help of other flowcharts we've posted. And see more graph humor of all kinds. 

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