Let me jot this down ...

If you missed it, a milestone in marketing was reached last week - but by a company that has been an utter failure in some of its other innovations. We speak of the disposable Bic ballpoint pen, of which a customer bought the 100 billionth. That's an average of 57 per second since the first was sold in 1950. Not too shabby for what began as an attempt to make parts for fountain pens (which today tend to be sold to collectors, chief executives, and other sophisticates). Bic says it averages about $1.75 billion a year in sales (including those from its razors and lighters). Oh, the products that bombed: perfume and disposable underwear.

Fresno, Calif., ranks No. 1 -- in overpriced housing

San Francisco, Boston, and New York have some of the most out-of-sight real estate values in the US. When it comes to what ordinary people can afford, however, the distinction of being the most overpriced market goes to ... Fresno, Calif. That, at least, is the conclusion of a study by economist Celia Chen for, a West Chester, Pa., provider of research to investors, business, and government. Her study, which examined the relationship between price and income, found that only 20 percent of families living in inland Fresno County, at the heart of the fertile San Joaquin Valley, can afford a median-price home, which has risen from $230,000 to $287,500 over the past year. The top 10 overpriced housing markets, according to the Chen study:

1. Fresno, Calif.
2. West Palm Beach/Boca Raton/Boynton Beach, Fla.
3. Bethesda/Frederick/ Gaithersburg, Md.
4. Washington, D.C./ Arlington-Alexandria, Va.
5. Bakersfield, Calif.
6. San Diego/Carlsbad/ San Marcos, Calif.
7. Fort Lauderdale/Pompano Beach/Deerfield Beach, Fla.
8. Visalia/Porterville, Calif.
9. Santa Barbara/Santa Maria/Goleta, Calif.
10. Sacramento/Arden- Arcade/Roseville, Calif.

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