It’s the dog days of August, when the weather is as sticky as peoples’ tempers are short. Those who haven’t yet taken their summer vacations count the days until Labor Day and sweat it out. But there are more reasons to be optimistic this August than in most years. For one thing, the weather this year hasn’t been as severe. The temperature hasn’t risen above 90 nearly as much, which means fewer cases of heatstroke and fewer fistfights on the street. And it looks like George W. Bush is vulnerable in next year’s election. Given a choice between re-electing Bush or voting for a snack-sized bag of Seyfert’s Bar-B-Q potato chips, a majority of people prefer the chips, citing its superior eloquence. There’s an actual chance that democracy will work next November and the person who receives the most votes will win, assuming the Supreme Court is in a generous mood this time. That’s a reason to be glad. Mitch “Big Deficit” Daniels, the Republican candidate for governor, isn’t receiving a great reception on his statewide victory tour to celebrate his running up the biggest deficits in U.S. history. That’s cheerful news. After a year of American troops in Iraq, there’s only 30 years left of occupation before all the troops can come home. A hottie cashier at Trader Joe’s recognized me the other day and said she was a fan. That’s nearly unprecedented in scope. But despite this good news, these last few weeks of August and the first few weeks of September are as difficult to get through as any in the year. To be sure, it’s been a rough summer at the Hammer home. Compared to people who suffer real hardship every day, it’s minor stuff. But it’s irritating all the same. I’ve been overtaken by gnats. Hundreds of the little buggers have been swarming around my apartment like Hell’s Angels at a Daytona Motel 6 during Bike Week. Nothing I’ve done has slowed them down. I started off with an old can of Raid Flying Insect spray left behind when my ex moved out. The gnats not only didn’t die, they seemed to get off on the stuff. They appeared to seek out the spray, like it was some new kind of designer drug. All it did was fill my apartment with toxic fumes and act as an aphrodisiac to the gnats. Clearly another approach was needed. I checked the Internet and found out some bad news. I was screwed. A very helpful site told me that I was destined to have them forever. The site said, “Indoors, flies may be seen hovering around overripe fruit and vegetables, baked goods containing yeast, garbage cans and beverages such as fruit juices, cider, soft drinks, beer, wine and vinegar. Sometimes a rotten banana, potato, tomato, onion, melon, squash, pineapple or apple, dirty garbage receptacle, unclean sour mop or dishcloth, empty tomato catsup bottle, or drain water in refrigerators or iceboxes can yield a heavy population of these flies.” They just described the entire contents of my apartment. Take away those things and you’re left with an old TV and four bare walls. The site advised me that females lay up to 2,000 eggs each and that concentrating on the breeding sites was important. So I went to Wal-Mart and bought about $20 worth of insecticide and flypaper. The new spray seemed to work. It killed the gnats I could see, but since they were having an orgy somewhere in my apartment, more kept appearing. They laughed at the flypaper, landing on it and taking off again unstuck. After some more reading, I checked out my garbage disposal. Jackpot! They seemed to love the friendly environment of goo contained inside. Pouring hot water down the drain didn’t help, so I went back to Wal-Mart and bought a package of drain cleaner. That, combined with a heavy trigger finger on the spray, finally began to control the gnat population. The gnats began to realize they had an intractable enemy in me and began fleeing my apartment. I felt triumphant, until another household disaster struck. My trusty Bunn coffeepot, on which I’d invested $80 a few years ago, died on me. I could take almost anything but that. The Bunn was my pride and joy, the most-used appliance in my galaxy of gadgets. I’d spent many hours standing over it, watching a pot of French Roast brewing. It gave me warmth in winter and comfort in summer. Nothing could compare with its loyalty. People have come and gone in my life but the Bunn remained faithful. While I’ve purchased a cheap replacement, which looks like an interloper, I’m still searching for the Bunn’s true successor. I’ve pored through Consumer Report and the Net and have yet to find anything worthy. Yeah, the dog days are here. But the good news is, they’re almost over. All it takes is a little bit of patience, and a whole lot of Raid, to get through them.