Best Public Servant Payday That Almost Was 2012 | Russell Pearce's attempt to gouge the state Legislature | out of $260,000 | People & Places | Phoenix

The world knows no crassness like disgraced ex-state Senator Russell Pearce, with his three pensions, his Fiesta Bowl freebies, and the sham candidacy of Olivia Cortes. His buddies in the state Legislature aren't much better, truth be told. This year, Pearce cronies state Senators Andy Biggs, Steve Smith, and others conspired to have the state of Arizona reimburse Pearce for the $260,000 he spent losing the historic recall election forced upon him. Ultimately, the plan backfired, with an incensed public phoning legislators to tell them what scum-suckers they were for even suggesting that Pearce garner dime one of the public cash after being booted from office by that self-same public. Biggs, Smith, and Pearce have no apologies and no shame for their attempt to gouge the taxpayers. Which shows you what they're all about. Like you didn't know already.

The mud was a-slinging in this year's mayoral election in Tempe, in one of the dirtiest — and closest — municipal elections in recent years. In one corner, there was Mark Mitchell, a Tempe councilman and son of former Congressman and Tempe Mayor Harry Mitchell. In the other corner, there was Michael Monti, whose father founded Monti's La Casa Vieja restaurant on Mill Avenue. Neither side was quite polite in the election, but Monti definitely delivered the slimier slime. It started with both sides attacking the other's business backgrounds, before Monti made a stink over Mitchell being arrested at a Mill Avenue bar — in 1993. As the election neared, someone just happened to accuse Mitchell of sexual misconduct — which was supposed to have occurred in 1983 — although Monti denied having anything to do with it. Despite the sliming, Mitchell hung on and since has been sworn in as the new mayor of Tempe.

In February, burglary suspect Jairo Contreras escaped from a jail run by the self-proclaimed "toughest sheriff" in America, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Contreras must have thought about this one for weeks — he hopped in a laundry cart and got wheeled out. Contreras was just about to be released from the jail on work furlough, but decided to be carted out instead. Arpaio informed the public about this two weeks after the fact, as the Sheriff's Office said it used "cell phone technology" to track down Contreras at his girlfriend's house in Sante Fe. As the U.S. Marshal's Office informed New Times after Contreras' arrest, the MCSO literally had nothing to do with tracking down Contreras, and "cell phone technology" turned out to be as real as unicorns. On the plus side, it was one of the first times that dirty laundry actually left the Sheriff's Office, even though an escaping inmate went along with it.

America's most corrupt sheriff is now 80 years old, has been in power for two decades, and is telling the same lame pink underwear jokes that he's been telling since Bill Clinton was president. What the hell is the matter with Sand Land, and particularly with this county? Two words: snow birds. Though it's highly likely many of them are breaking the law by voting in two states, Arizona's racist alter kockers still dominate county politics, and they love their fellow senior citizen, Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Which is why we're considering high-tailing it should Arpaio be re-elected to an unprecedented sixth term. After all, neither Joe nor the blue-haired meanies who've made him the King of Maricopa County can live forever. Once Joe or enough of his followers take a dirt nap, we'll consider returning. Assuming, of course, that these hateful geezers don't outlive us.

It was Shakespeare's tragic Hamlet who wondered whether it was nobler to suffer quietly or better to take up arms. But when it comes to being dignified on ASU's main campus, the brainiest of the student body — instead of gawking at the scantily clad bodies of coeds — take to the quiet confines of the Noble Science and Engineering Library. Located near the north end of the university's grounds, the three-floor library houses nearly half a million volumes grouped by topics including chemistry, geology, and physics, as well as a collection of more than 200,000 maps. In addition to the educational materials is a sequestered stillness where they can be absorbed and enjoyed. Shush away and brush up on your organic compounds in peace.

Many times a day in this country (and many more times worldwide), someone feels the sting of two needles pierce his or her skin, followed by a hair-raising, five-second jolt of electricity. Taser weapons are in use by more than 16,000 police departments in more than 100 countries, and they've changed the business of policing at a fundamental level. Cops reduce injuries to themselves by choosing to "tase" someone rather than getting into a fight, and sometimes a suspect who might have ended up shot rides the lightning for a few seconds instead.

The electrifying trend took off from Scottsdale almost 20 years ago, after two local brothers, Rick and Tom Smith, bought the rights to an early form of the weapon. Starting from their garage in 1993, the Smiths made the product marketable — in part by abandoning a propulsion method for the darts that used gunpowder, going instead to an air-powered model. By the 2000s, Taser International had turned into a powerhouse with high profits and soaring stock prices. The company's seen ups and downs in finances and public opinion — critics blame Tasers for the deaths of hundreds of crime suspects — but its revenue was up this spring following sales of its new "X2" stun gun. One of the Valley's most notable exports, in other words, is pain.

There are more than 700,000 insect specimens, representing at least 25 orders, 390 families, 4,000 genera, 10,000 species, and 1,240 subspecies on the Arizona State University campus. And if your skin's not already crawling, curators Dr. Nico Franz and Dr. Sangmi Lee and their students gladly will give you a tour.

The collection began under Drs. Frank Hasbrouck, Gordon Castle, and Mont Cazier, whose students now carry on these men's dedication to the hundreds of thousands of carefully pinned specimens — mostly from the Diplura and Lepidoptera orders and found in the Southwest and Mexico. Each insect is then categorized by family, genus, and, of course, species, and is available to view through private appointment. And if you're an expert and can lend a few facts to the curators, they're likely to let you stick around for another show.

The truth is out there. And those in pursuit of answers need search no further than the annual International UFO Congress. No longer are its sci-fi topics of convo confined to Fox, Mulder, and your crackpot uncle who totally saw the Phoenix Lights. These days, skeptics and scientists gather to learn about ancient civilizations, archeology, UFOlogy, and paranormal phenomena from guest speakers and an accompanying film festival. The next festival is scheduled from February 27 to March 3, 2013.

Test out your theories, and there's a fair chance you'll find some science reality in your favorite science fiction. Toss in some hypnotheraphy, extraterrestrial communication theories, and potential evidence of life on other planets, and you're in for a week of brain-bending weird science.

Although Ms. Frizzle and her school bus of inquisitive students would fit right in roaming through the Arizona Science Center on a field trip, grownups should note that the museum features much more than basic kid-size bites of knowledge. And every First Friday, they can leave the little ones with the sitter, as the museum's doors open for Adult's Night Out, a kid-free evening of science and socializing. Prep your brain for some scientific stimulation by way of a lecture on an engrossing topic (past ones include the future of space exploration and art's role in collective, societal knowledge), an IMAX film screening, and self-guided tours of the museum.

Up until earlier this year, zombies were nothing more than a popular — if overused — thematic device in movies like 28 Days Later and such television shows as The Walking Dead. Then all these freakazoid drug addicts began turning into insane, flesh-biting cannibals after sniffing bath salts, which caused us to wonder if somehow the undead could actually stagger out of the fictional realm and into the real world. Needless to say, we plan to be ready with a shotgun in hand in case a herd of hungry brain-munchers comes crashing through our front door.

In order to prep ourselves for this day of the dead, we've been attending meetings of the Phoenix chapter of the Zombie Research Society. At each and every confab, the members of this local spin-off of the tongue-and-cheek national organization aim to raise awareness of a potential zombie apocalypse. At past meetings, attendees have learned the most effective ways to fell the undead, including the use of both firearms and household objects. Organizers also have provided info on what Valley locations can be used for hideouts and some of the pseudo-science behind zombies. In addition to all the humorous material, legit desert-survival skills (like water purification) have been offered, so at least you won't go thirsty while on the run from some ravenous reanimated creature.

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