Are you homeless and reading this website at your local library? Have a home but zero discretionary dollars? Love free stuff? Just plain cheap? If any of those attributions describe you (Mom, you fit into the first category), then have I got the site for you: TwinCitiesFreeMarket.org.

I don’t recall how I first stumbled across this site, but I’ve looked over the free offerings and have picked out a few choice products for your consideration:

WORKING TOILET

Available: Working toilet – white, nothing special but works just fine.

Beats that hole you’ve been digging in the backyard, don’t it? Think I’m gonna like this TC Free Market.

BROKEN VACUUM CLEANER

Available: Broken Eureka Vacuum cleaner – not sure what happened. Just stopped working one day.

Let me get this straight: you’re offering this *free of charge*? Get out of here.

EGG CARTONS

Available: Would anyone be interested in empty egg cartons for arts & crafts projects???

What a relief. I have been looking far and wide for empty egg cartons. If not for this listing, I would have been SOL.

RECIPE TASTE NEWSPAPERS

Available: I have 150+ assorted TASTE sections from the Star Tribune beginning from about 1994 up to 2001.

This is why the internet was invented.

GOOD START FORMULA

Available: I have five cans of Nestle Good Start Natural Cultures with iron formula. The expiration date is June 19th on the bottom of four cans and December 22nd on the bottom of the fifth can. Hopefully someone can use them since I use Target Brand.

Just so you all know, this listing was posted on June 17. Act now or die of food poisoning.

WHITE WICKER BABY HAMPER

Available: Small, white wicker hamper with lid.

We’re storing babies in hampers now?

MISC

Available: I have a wood ladder, swings, misc stuff for a swing set. 2 person swings( for kids )

Shoot, you almost had me. However, I’m looking for a two-person swing for *adults*. Sorry. No sale.

BABY BOTTLES

Available: 3 8oz bottles 2 4oz bottles 2 rapid flow nipple 3 stage 2 nipple 2 stage 1 nipple 3 pacifiers all in good conditon,clean

Nipple nipple nipple nipple nipple nipple.

STEREO

Available: CD player/tape player/radio. Has a 5-disc capacity. Sometimes we have trouble with CD player.

So, the tape player still works fine? Please clarify!

WORD PROCESSOR

Available: Brother Word Processor & electric typewriter with 14″ display monitor. Works and comes with Manual and extra 3.5″ microdisks. Features spell checker, tutorial disk, file format, forms layout, block/copy/delete, insert etc.

I can’t be sure, but I believe this listing was posted in 1992.

CONSOLE TV

Available: This classic 1985 Console Television set is as pretty to look at it is to watch!

So, it’s ugly?

BATTERY FOR CORDLESS PHONE

Available: Nuon NU64 NiCd 3.6V 800mAh. We bought it at Batteries Plus about six months ago to replace the battery in our cordless phone. The phone has since developed other problems. We had to get rid of it.

What are the odds someone reading this site has a use for this exact product? One in ten million? Less?

3″ DISKS

Available: I have several 3″ disks for the taking. Please do not ask me what is on them.

I actually kind of want to see what is on them. Morbid curiosity: a shrewd selling point.

CURB ALERT CLEANING OUT GARAGE

Available: LOTS OF THINGS ON THE CURB 1760 130TH AVE NE BLAINE

Couldn’t you post this every week, in every neighborhood, during garbage night?

WROUGHT-IRON HEADBOARD/FOOTBOARD

Available: I have a headboard and matching footboard that is iron-work with a patina finish.

I have no frame of reference, but I’m envisioning this weighs approximately five thousand pounds.

BLACK HOUSE NUMBERS

Available: I have four, black house numbers. Numbers available are: 1, 6, 5 and 6.

OK, the odds of someone needing these have to be like twenty million to one.

PLYWOOD

Available: Two sheets 1/4″ plywood, each 2’x8′ (this was a whole panel, ripped). Slightly bowed–we just used this for a walking platform before sod went in.

Thank you for the offer, but I get my plywood from nearby construction sites like every other normal American.

TREE BRANCHES FOR KINDLING

Available: About one truck load of medium to large branches for kindling for firepit…already dried out.

Are these people getting paid commission for people picking up their shit? Is this like a contest? Why else would you post *tree branches*?

PING PONG TABLE

Available: PING PONG TABLE. FAIR CONDITION. PADDLES INCLUDED.

I just listed this so I could share that the contact’s email username is “flirtycurty”.

WOODEN CD HOLDERS – 6

Available: come a get one or all!

I don’t even know what this is.

BIRTH CONTROL GEL

Available: 1 box Ortho Options Conceptrol vaginal contraceptive gel–spermicide. Bought at Wal-Mart, box opened, but none ever used–10 prefilled applicators.

I am not making this up. You can seriously go to this person’s house and they will hand you their open bottle of vaginal gel. But not unless I get there first!

*****

There are actually appears to be a ton of promising free products at the site. Take a look.

“BLACK HOUSE NUMBERS

Available: I have four, black house numbers. Numbers available are: 1, 6, 5 and 6.

OK, the odds of someone needing these have to be like twenty million to one.”

Actually better than you’d guess. Assuming a 4-number house address, your odds are 833/1. I really think you might be underestimating the usefulness of this website. I know for a fact that our broken vacuum cleaners in the closet are getting quite lonely. Three’s a charm dude.

Don’t the odds get worse when you consider there probably aren’t even 833 people who will see the ad? .12% of people have that house address (according to you, and not factoring in apartments/condos), and I’d say even less than .1% of the metro area population is reading the site. Please compute your final figure and submit it by EOD, Doctor.

Norm and B-first one to show their work on the calculations wins. My Texas Instruments is at the repair shop and I don’t want to do factorials longhand. BTW-I could use the six and I am looking for new house numbers.

For this problem we need to use a hypergeometric formula. There are ~3.2 million in the metropolitan area – say that’s 500,000 homes all with 4 digit addresses. House number 0000 is a possible house number, so there are 10,000 possible unique addresses, and I will assume they are evenly distributed – each address has exactly 50 homes. That means we have 600 (12*50) people (assume 1 person/home) in the entire metro area that could use those numbers.

N = 3,200,000 (total population)

k = 600 (total possible successes within the population)

n = ??? (number of website visitors)

x = 1 (number of successes we want – assume only 1 buyer)

probability = k! * (N-k)! * n! * (N-n)! / ( x! * (k-x)! * (n-x)! * (N-k-n+x)! * N! )

1 person – 0.0188%

2 people – 0.0374%

5 people – 0.0937%

10 people – 0.187%

100 people – 1.84%

500 people – 8.54%

1000 people – 15.6%

If the amount of people go much higher you need to use a cumulative hypergeometric probability function.

I was totally going to employ the hypergeometric formula as well, but since you already used it, I’ll simplify things a bit.

As your math shows, there are ~600 people in the 3.2mm population that could potentially have a use for this combination of numbers. Simple division equates those odds to .02%.

Even if we extremely generously say that 5,000 people will see this ad, that makes for a .16% chance.

Can you figure out the potential odds for someone (a) reading this ad – .16% – that (b) has a use for the numbers – .02% – and word that statistical finding in its appropriate “X to 1” phrasing? We are all sitting on the edge of our seats in rapt anticipation of the final number.

(PS. I don’t care if my hypothesis has flaws, can you please just do the math for me anyway? I’ll reward you by picking up that broken vacuum cleaner we’ve had our eyes on.)

I am slowly being convinced that neither one of you has killed all your brain cells with your excessive drinking. When is the next binge session planned?

Cool Rut – I’ve been crunching the numbers using the Picardâ€“LindelÃ¶f theorem, and it looks like there is a 100% chance we will drown millions of brain cells this Saturday on Turtle Lake.

Well, the 5000 is more difficult I’d have to give that some additional thought, but lets say 1000 people go to your website. That would be ~6.4 to 1 odds. Surprisingly low, huh? 20 million to 1 – you were way off.

That can’t be right. A note to the last few people geeky enough to still be reading this: Dr. Norm and I will discuss offline and present the answer as soon as we can agree on one. This may end in a roommate slapfight, similar to the ‘B Smokes a Cigarette in the Apartment’ Saga of 2001.

Readers, your pal Norm and I can’t come to a consensus on the math.

Norm’s figures show that out of the 1,000 readers (of the 3.2mm eligible), 1 in every 6.4 will have those house address numbers. (This sounds illogically high — if you put 30 people in a room, do you think it’s possible that 5 have the same house address? — but let’s just give Norm the benefit of the doubt and go with it.) Which means 156.25 people out of the thousand are eligible. Factor in the original number of 3.2mm, and Norm claims the final odds are 20,480 to 1.

My numbers (.0001875 chance at the house numbers / .0016 odds at someone finding the ad) show the odds at being .1875 people per every thousand, and using multiplication to reach a full 1 person, the final odds are 1 in 16,320,000.

I’m fairly sure my figure is correct, but Norm feels the same, so unless any other math majors want to get involved, we’ll put this illuminating little exercise to bed.

No that is not what I am saying at all. I never said 1 in 6.4 people – that would be stupid. I’m saying if 1000 people go to the website there would be ~15.6% chance (1 in 6.4) that the seller would find someone to match that number.

You are doing the odds from the side of someone going to the website and actually finding a match (in that case the odds for the first person would be 600 in 3,200,000). That means the odds are 1 in 5333. If the first person didn’t match the number, the second person would have odds of 600 in 3,199,999, the third (assuming no match) would have 600 in 3,199,998, etc. The odds of the 1,000th person (assuming the previous 999 failed) would be 600 in 3,199,001 or about 1 in 5332.

Your math skills need some serious work — how can the odds be greater than the amount of people in the Metro? Just ridiculous.

The 1 in 5333 is the first factor I used: .0001875. Which means that if every person in the Metro went to the website, you’d have 600 matches. However, that only tells half the story.

Because, as we agree, you DON’T have every person in the Metro going there, you only have 1,000. So you need to equate the odds for two incredibly unlikely things to happen.

1,000 readers out of 3.2mm – .0003125

600 addresses out of 3.2mm – .0001875

Chance that a person will fall into BOTH categories — 1 in 16,320,000.

Of course the odds can be greater than the population; that just helps show how unlikely this occurrence would be.

That’s where you are wrong. Those would be the odds if you said 1,000 people of the 3.2M had yellow shirts on, and then asked the question what are the odds that a person with a yellow shirt would also be able to match that address. Please say you get it.

That is exactly the number I’m trying to come up with. What did you think my original query was? Of the only 1,000 readers in the 3.2mm metro area, how many of them would have the exact street address? .01875% of them, as you said. Which equates to 1 in 16mm.

What’s the difference between readers and yellow-shirt wearers? 1,000 of the people had yellow shirts on, 1,000 people found that website and read the ad. Same number, same odds. The 1 in 16,320,000 is the same no matter if I was talking about yellow shirts, people reading the site, being redheads, having a third nipple. Same damn odds, no matter the factor.

There is a difference, because you are assuming you will have a 100% probability that 1000 people will come to the website (hence, “if 1000 people see the website … “). In the case of yellow shirts, there is only a 1000 in 3,200,000 chance that you will choose a person with a yellow shirt.

I am done discussing over computers, I’ll explain it on Saturday.