Flight School: Last-minute flurry, two months early

I just spent six action-packed days in New York, trying to sort things out for the next three months.

I felt a little like a dog marking territory, or perhaps a Web user cross-posting everywhere, spreading my meager presence in New York and trying to catch up with as many people as possible... I met with several teams of entrepreneurs, with agent Andrew Wylie about a book proposal and with a bunch of friends. I just soaked in the chatter at Meetup, at whose offices I work. On Tuesday I went to a breakfast with some Important People (Susan Bird, Laurie Racine, Tina Brown, Robert Tolmach, Jane Friedman, Chan Suh, Tom Watson, Tim Armstrong, Laurie Coots and others) at the New York Stock Exchange.

At the same time, I was frantically hustling around buying knee socks - not those short ones that have become so popular - and winter gloves and medicines, signing up for automatic payment of everything I could, collecting long underwear that I can finally wear out and leave behind in Russia, making a backup of my photos to leave behind, and so on.

Precisely in order to decamp for three months, I had to pay serious attention to housekeeping for the first time in years. On the Friday after New year's I managed to coordinate home visits of three service people - cable guy, refrigerator delivery (though the real point was the removal of the old refrigerator) and a real-estate appraiser (I'm trying to refinance my two apartments).

Amazingly, they all showed up. And during the extra time, I even read my gas meter...which I last did so long ago that Con Ed at first refused to believe the results.

This was the last time I'll be in New York until after the launch, so there was a lot to take care of. Of course, I probably won't actually be up in space; I'm only a backup. But whatever the chance is, I won't know any more until the end. Unless *I* break a leg, there will be a chance I might go right up until five hours before the launch ...and I need to plan for the possibility now, while I still have access to all the conveniences and resources of my life in New York.

Most important, on Saturday I almost lost a contact lens at my swimming pool, and I realized that I should get around to ordering that spare set of contact lenses I have been meaning to get for a while.

Imagine coming back from space only to say: "Yeah, it was really great, floating around and all. But unfortunately I lost one of my contact lenses. It will probably end up stuck to one of the air-intake units; everything else does. But I never did manage to get a really satisfying view of the Earth with only one eye."

In fact, once I was there at Union Square Optical, I decided to go with the bifocals. Once you've closed your helmet, you can't put on or remove your glasses. And even with the helmet off, the communications headset gets in their way. (Haven't they heard of earbuds?)

Home is what you leave behind

So, here I am in Star City again, relaxing a little now that I have left New York and Houston behind. I am writing with my new bifocal contact lenses. Things are still a little fuzzy, but I haven't used my reading glasses since I got the lenses yesterday in New York. "You'll get used to them!" said the doctor.

I'm sure I will. I have also gotten used to my two-room apartment here on the third floor. In fact, the experience of living in Star City, where I don't have an office to go to during the day, is giving me a new appreciation of "home" as a concept. Every morning I head out to the pool and to classes, but there's no place that's mine until I come back home at night. Somehow, this has translated into an appreciation of home in New York as well. I'm not sure yet what this means, but I know I will find out when I get back for good (without even having gone into space).