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A tasp is an electronic device which stimulates the pleasure centers of the human brain, artificially inducing emotional and sexual satisfaction. This is done by running current through electrodes implanted in the brain or in the spine.

Until recently, the tasp was mere science fiction -- but now a surgeon in North Carolina trying to use electrodes to reduce pain accidentally stumbled across the part of the spinal cord which, when stimulated, provokes orgasm in women. A model that works on men cannot be too far behind. The surgeon said that the device must have programmed instructions to prevent it from being used too frequently -- something that the real inventors of the tasp have already thought of.

The tasp was originally conceived of by Larry Niven for his novels of Known Space; tasps were central plot devices in several of his Ringworld books. It has also been used by Spider Robinson as a plot device in his books Deathkiller and Lifehouse.

TASP stands for Telluride Association Summer Program. If you are an intellectual high-school junior, it is heaven on earth.

First of all, the Telluride Association was founded by L. L. Nunn, a filthy rich white man. Therefore, Telluride is also filthy rich. Out of the goodness of its heart, it puts a bunch of smart and smart-ass teenagers together for six weeks in the summer before their senior year.

How do I apply?

You must be sent an application. This happens in one of two ways: Either you score really, really high on the PSAT/NMSQT, or a friendly teacher, counselor, or TASP alumnus recommends you.

After you receive an application, you must submit a transcript, a letter of recommendation, and you must also write three essays. About 600 people apply each year.

If the admissions board likes your essays, you will get an interview, where you basically talk to some TASP alumni. And if they like your interview enough, you'll go to TASP.

So what the hell is TASP?

There are usually three seminars. When I went in 2002, there were two at Cornell University and one at Ann Arbor. Each seminar consists of sixteen people who take an upper-college level course, taught by college professors. The two Cornell seminars this year were "The Literature of Chivalry" and "Racism, Power, and Privilege". (At my Cornell TASP, both seminars lived in the same house and did everything together except going to class.)

You will be expected to work; there's reading to do and papers to write, but there are no grades and you receive no college credit. Instead, you get a gold star for your resume and great paper-writing experience. Oh, but did I mention, this is entirely free? Yup. Room, board, tuition, books and all. Bless you, L. L. Nunn. Bless your little heart.

While the seminars are interesting, the best thing about TASP is the people. Every single TASPer is wonderfully cool and you will make lifelong friends. You also do more--much more--than just studying. In fact, you will spend the majority of your time just talking to the people around you (TASP: Talking About Sex and Politics) about every possible and impossible topic.

Is this like camp?

No no no! This is TASP, and there is nothing like it. You will be "supervised" by two factota, i.e. "Those Who Do Everything". Factota are usually college juniors or seniors, one for each seminar. They will help you revise your papers, you can talk to them if you have problems, and they will also walk through the house at 4 a.m. and remind you that you should probably go to bed. They are not "counselors" and most TASPers are mature enough not to need a lot of supervision.

So if you should ever receive a TASP brochure in the mail after your PSAT, and you think you would be even remotely interested in it, for god's sake apply. If you get in, it will change your life.

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