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10 Weird and Wacky Flowcharts

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Silver Oak Casino

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.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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technology
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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© Nintendo
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fun
Nintendo Will Release an $80 Mini SNES in September
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© Nintendo

Retro gamers rejoice: Nintendo just announced that it will be launching a revamped version of its beloved Super Nintendo Classic console, which will allow kids and grown-ups alike to play classic 16-bit games in high-definition.

The new SNES Classic Edition, a miniature version of the original console, comes with an HDMI cable to make it compatible with modern televisions. It also comes pre-loaded with a roster of 21 games, including Super Mario Kart, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Donkey Kong Country, and Star Fox 2, an unreleased sequel to the 1993 original.

“While many people from around the world consider the Super NES to be one of the greatest video game systems ever made, many of our younger fans never had a chance to play it,” Doug Bowser, Nintendo's senior vice president of sales and marketing, said in a statement. “With the Super NES Classic Edition, new fans will be introduced to some of the best Nintendo games of all time, while longtime fans can relive some of their favorite retro classics with family and friends.”

The SNES Classic Edition will go on sale on September 29 and retail for $79.99. Nintendo reportedly only plans to manufacture the console “until the end of calendar year 2017,” which means that the competition to get your hands on one will likely be stiff, as anyone who tried to purchase an NES Classic last year will well remember.

In November 2016, Nintendo released a miniature version of its original NES system, which sold out pretty much instantly. After selling 2.3 million units, Nintendo discontinued the NES Classic in April. In a statement to Polygon, the company has pledged to “produce significantly more units of Super NES Classic Edition than we did of NES Classic Edition.”

Nintendo has not yet released information about where gamers will be able to buy the new console, but you may want to start planning to get in line soon.

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