back to article Passport and binary tree code, please: CompSci quizzes at US border just business as usual

Amid the Trump administration's tough talk on immigration and executive orders calling for border barriers and immigration bans, recent anecdotes describing a more confrontational entry process among travelers arriving in the US appear to confirm expectations set by the President's rhetoric. Software engineer Celestine Omin's …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yeah

    IF $color >= "#996633" THEN RETURN

    1. Swarthy Silver badge

      Re: Yeah

      I think you mean #BB5522; else the POTUS would not be allowed back in.

    2. YARR
      Boffin

      So are you advocating the fate of a country is decided solely by outsiders who must have unrestricted freedom to move there? Those living there who built, contributed and defended their country have no right to decide what their country is to become?

      Must we never question the immigrant or the coloniser? Why effort did they make to positively change their homeland before they decided they had to leave? How will they / do they intend to change the country they are moving to? Is there not a trade-off between the interests of the immigrant and the resident population? A trade takes place when both parties benefit, why not the same for immigration?

      Should the resident population of a country be free to decide their future, or must the immigration criteria for all countries be restricted to economic reasons only? Is the only legitimate ideal for a nation to be greater prosperity? What happens when everyone in a nation is content with their level of prosperity? If different people have different ideals, should they not divide into nations that reflect their different ideals?

      1. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

        "So are you advocating the fate of a country is decided solely by outsiders who must have unrestricted freedom to move there?"

        Yes. I guess I am.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Land of the free

    I prefer visiting free countries such as China, where you simply buy a 1 year visa for a nominal fee, and they never search your electronics, or fingerprint you like a criminal.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Land of the free

      China border agents at Beijing airport have the cute 5-button customer satisfaction gadget. You get to press a button indicating your satisfaction. If you're leading a family of five, you get to press a button five times.

      Our stern-faced official was eventually grinning slightly under his hat because I kept hammering the (happy) button an instant after the lights blinked.

      Five times: blink happy blink happy blink happy ...

      Him under his hat trying to look officially-stern while grinning.

      It was a touching moment of subtle comedy.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Land of the free

        In Soviet Russia - binary spanning tree balances you ....

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Land of the free

        You sure you weren't playing an extra in a Black Mirror episode?

    2. david 12 Bronze badge

      Re: Land of the free

      >and they never search your electronics, <

      Because they've already pwned it.

      And gmail and our VPN are blocked.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Land of the free

        And gmail and our VPN are blocked.

        Oops. I should have thought about it: I just paid through the nose for a vacation trip to a place sufficiently remote to make internet access iffy enough to give me an excuse not to be online for a while.

        And now you are telling me that all I had to do was to volunteer for a business trip to China which I passed over last week. Thanks, I'll know better next time.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Land of the free

      When I had to visit New Zealand, I had a choice to fly via America or China and chose to extend my trip by a day to avoid the US. When they asked me why, Muslim colleagues were amazed to learn I disliked going through American customs for the same reasons they did.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No issues visiting India

    Sent off a photo and a fee, with a covering letter from the company I was visiting and got a 12 month visa in a couple of days, and zero hassle from anyone either at the first airport I landed in, or at any of the internal flights in India.

    So much friendlier than the US & more cows, fewer guns.

    1. Youngone Silver badge

      Re: No issues visiting India

      I emailed the Singapore Consulate before I left to make sure I had all my ducks in a row. I got a phone call back about 20 minutes later from the friendliest woman in the world, who laughed and said "You're from a fellow Commonwealth country, you will be most welcome in Singapore".

      So it was. The friendliest customs people I have ever met.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: No issues visiting India

        "You're from a fellow Commonwealth country, you will be most welcome in Singapore".

        Ah, exactly what happens when visitors to Britain call the British Consulate to check details about their visa before arrival.

        Oh, they can't.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: No issues visiting India

          Ah, exactly what happens when visitors to Britain call the British Consulate to check details about their visa before arrival.

          The last time I had to call the High Commission (I am being in a Commonwealth country and all that, so it's technically not an embassy) offices about a business visa details, they made me go through a 1-900 line. That friendly place does not offer any services through either a 1-800 or a local number. And no, you can't just walk in either - you need an appointment. Which you can only make through the same 1-900 number.

          Whatever you say about Brits, they do offer Yanks a stiff competition over which can be most unfriendly and intimidating at the border. Which is a pity.

        2. Triggerfish

          Re: No issues visiting India

          Vietnam: Walk through customs, after being told by airlines that I had no visa and would be refused. Checked at airport with custom, are you from England? Yep. Big smile, welcome to Vietnam you have 15 days. Visa for 3 month renewed by sitting in a coffee shop and sending someone to do it for me.

          I will say a British passport is quite handy, along with it being a G8 country, especially to poorer countries, they don't really expect you to be trying to smuggle yourself in as an illegal immigrant (in fact it's often come here spend money), and British terrorism has gone down since the Empire.

          Never had any trouble at any border in Asia, and that includes standing with a gentle sway, very bleary eyed at a Malaysian border after a rather heavy night drinking and valium (I was young and stupid), with a big sign saying 'Drug smugglers Will be killed' note killed not shot.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: No issues visiting India

        Agree, the only airport in the world where the customs and immigration people were the friendliest and most helpful.

        They were also damn efficient too. Singapore in my view is like England, except everything works (well) and the weather is nice.

      3. hattivat

        Re: No issues visiting India

        I think they might be the frendliest in general, not just to Commonwealth citizens - even with a second-rate EU passport (not eligible for visa waver in the Land of the Free), my experience of visiting Singapore went like this:

        When I arrive at the customs, it is well past 2AM local time, yet the officer is every bit as neat-looking, organized, and professional as I'd expect if I arrived at normal business hours. I give her my passport, she takes about ten seconds to check that it seems genuine and that my face matches the photo in the document, then stamps it, smiles at me, and says "welcome to Singapore". And that was it, the whole 'ordeal' took less than a minute. Best experience I've ever had crossing a border, not counting the non-existent borders in Europe, of course.

      4. highdiver_2000

        Re: No issues visiting India

        >"You're from a fellow Commonwealth country, you will be most welcome in Singapore"

        This is incorrect. Visitors from India requires a Visa. That is easy to get. The list of visa required countries are listed below.

        https://www.ica.gov.sg/page.aspx?pageid=96

    2. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: No issues visiting India

      Silly boy, Tech and Guns go hand in hand. Many of the techies I know and work with shoot.

      If the US was so bad... why so many trying to get in?

      And in India, you have a thing called bribes to get stuff done. In the US... not so much.

      1. DropBear Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: No issues visiting India

        "If the US was so bad"

        Hold on - what exactly do you mean by "if"...?

        1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
          Mushroom

          @DropBear ... Re: No issues visiting India

          As an American, I deal with H1Bs all day every day.

          And we talk about India because many go back for a month each year to visit family.

          One of my friends told me of a story when he needed to renew his passport. Lucky for him, he had a cousin in the right place, who told him who to call, and how much to 'gift' in order to make things happen.

          So having his cousin make the call and then make a gift, he got his passport in time so he could leave the country to attend school in the US.

          That doesn't really happen in the US, so which is better?

          Ever try writing a contract in India? Before I did, I never heard of requiring a tax stamp for the contract.

          Every country has its quirks.

          The UK included.

        2. Indolent Wretch

          Re: No issues visiting India

          >> Hold on - what exactly do you mean by "if"...?

          Hang on he's just looking that up on Stackoverflow

      2. joeldillon

        Re: No issues visiting India

        I think you'll find it's largely only American techies that shoot.

      3. Adelio

        Re: No issues visiting India

        Not everybody wants to live in the land of the "not" free (and the gun)

        I visited the Us two years ago for the first time (New york first then other places) and all the people we friendly.

        Getting was a bit harder, the airport seemed out of date.

        When you see the rate of Gun crime compared to the uk

        The number of gun murders per capita in the US in 2012 - the most recent year for comparable statistics - was nearly 30 times that in the UK, at 2.9 per 100,000 compared with just 0.1.

        I think that says it all

        1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

          Re: No issues visiting India

          First Mistake. Landing in NY or NJ.

          The airports are the worst and some blame it because they are controlled by the NY Port Authority that has no incentive to fix things.

          In terms of gun crimes, yes.

          But overall, crime isn't that bad. There are worse places to be.

          Its rare, but unlike the UK, you don't take your life in your own hands if you walk in to a bar wearing the wrong football jersey. (Guns or not)

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: No issues visiting India

            "Its rare, but unlike the UK, you don't take your life in your own hands if you walk in to a bar wearing the wrong football jersey."

            Nothing on Earth would persuade me to take any interest whatsoever in football. In fact I often say I can understand football violence. If I spent an afternoon watching 22 men old enough to know better kicking a bag of wind up and down a field I also might get violent.

            But for a few years we lived in High Wycombe and the railway line serves Wembley. We were travelling into Town one day and realised it was cup final day and both teams were from the Midlands and fans of both were on the train. I have to say that they were extremely well behaved to each other; I even saw them wishing each other luck. Oddly enough we travelled back on the same train as some of them after the match and I couldn't tell from their demeanour which had won.

          2. bobajob12
            Happy

            Re: No issues visiting India

            Not so sure about that last statement. Try wearing a Cowboys jersey in Philly. Not good unless you are secretly training for an Olympic sprint!

      4. batfink

        Re: No issues visiting India

        Maybe some of us are "trying to get in" to visit our friends or, I dunno, have a holiday? And we should have to put up with the kind of crap that you wouldn't get even in the "unfree world"?

      5. hplasm Silver badge
        Holmes

        Re: No issues visiting India

        "If the US was so bad... why so many trying to get in?"

        Apparently to kill all of the natives.

    3. monty75

      Re: No issues visiting India

      My experience with India was even simpler. Apply and pay online, get email confirmation the next day, issued visa on arrival.

      1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

        Re: No issues visiting India

        Lucky for you....

        Last time I went to india was when they introduced face to face interviews for visas. Bradford had the local surgery for this and it was open for 4 hours only. Cue massive queues and travel agents booking in 50 at a time.

        In the end had to drive down to Nottingham at 5 In the morning to get a good spot (we weren't the first inline) and a ban of more than 4 visas at once enacted we finally got that sorted.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No issues visiting India

      "So much friendlier than the US & more cows, fewer guns"

      ...except, be very very careful what you eat and drink during your stay...

    5. Geoffrey W Silver badge

      Re: No issues visiting India

      RE: "[India] So much friendlier than the US "

      Gosh, yes. If you can't get at least two marriage offers while over there then there's something horribly wrong with you.

    6. thomn8r

      Re: No issues visiting India

      more cows

      If you can't eat 'em, what's the point?

  4. Valarian

    Why of course I'll write a binary-tree balance algorithm for you, right here on my laptop, right now in front of you.

    In 6502 assembly, for the VIC-20, running in VICE.

    I assume you are as competent to judge the quality and efficacy of my code as I am to write it, and thus validate my assertion that I am in fact a coder of some 40 years experience.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Yeah... My first reaction when I saw that was.

      OK, I am going to write this one in simula-2 just to take the piss. Now, tell me if it is correct or not.

      1. bazza Silver badge

        Surely the best language would be uncommented Whitespace? It would certainly take less time to write if down...

        1. Dan 55 Silver badge

          Surely the best language would be uncommented Whitespace? It would certainly take less time to write if down...

          I'd go with Obfuscated C or Brainfuck.

          I'd have to read up a bit on Brainfuck first though.

      2. kmac499

        Do it in Forth, just a one liner.

        Or maybe is just a way of getting expertise without issuing H1-B visas Imagine the briefing at CBP.

        "Ok today guys we need some code to read emails, so the question will be 'Some code to factor a big number'"

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "Do it in Forth, just a one liner."

          One line of PERL, FTW.

    2. aberglas

      How do they assess

      "Why of course I'll write a binary-tree balance algorithm for you, right here on my laptop, right now in front of you."

      You'd be kicked straight out of the country. The official will compare your scawlings with his listing of the "correct" answer and instantly realize that they do not match. Because you should have used IBM 360 assembler.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How do they assess

        No, if you do it correctly it will be deemed weaponisable and you will be kicked out for smuggling IP across borders...

        1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: How do they assess

          Write the code to DO-178 standards.

          Which means first spend several weeks documenting every last requirement, writing plans and defining testing.

      2. Tinslave_the_Barelegged

        Re: How do they assess

        > The official will compare your scawlings with his listing of the "correct" answer and instantly realize that they do not match

        Like the story Peter Ustinov told of his schooldays. The exam question was "Name a Russian composer." Ustinov says "I put down ' Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov'," <long pause> "The correct answer was 'Tchaikovsky."

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: How do they assess

          Like the story Peter Ustinov told of his schooldays. The exam question was "Name a Russian composer." Ustinov says "I put down ' Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov'," <long pause> "The correct answer was 'Tchaikovsky."

          Russian does not have definite or indefinite articles, so that the distinction between "a Russian composer" and "the Russian composer" has to be conveyed in some other way. Remembering this little fact helps to avoid many little misunderstandings with Russians who learned English as adults.

          In any event, the answer to the question about THE Russian composer is quite clear. To a confirmed monarchist, it is Alexei Fyodorovitch Lvov, who wrote the music to the last imperial national anthem, Bozhe Tsarya Hrani. For somobody of a more modern persuasion, it is Alexander Vassilievitch Alexandrov, who wrote the music for both the Soviet and the present-day Russian anthem.

          I really have no clue who A Russian composer should be - there are simply too many to choose from, even for my limited taste which is largely confined to the 19th century.

    3. Mark 85 Silver badge

      @Valarian

      And therein lies the stupidity of this. Certainly there's more than one programming language... does the customs people know this? Do they know the languages? If they're checking it, do they understand there's more than one way to do damn near do anything?

      Short of compiling, running the code, and debugging it, this is a pretty pointless exercise.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @Valarian

        And therein lies the stupidity of this. Certainly there's more than one programming language... does the customs people know this? Do they know the languages? If they're checking it, do they understand there's more than one way to do damn near do anything?

        Whether your code will compile and run correctly is beside the point. If the border agent is half-way competent, she'll be looking at the way you react to an unexpected situation, not at the details of your code. Even without checking and understanding the details, the difference between a few hours coaching and the lifetime of experience is pretty obvious in this situation.

        Israeli have been doing this for ages; to be fair, many of their border agent would also have advanced science and engineering degrees - so that they are quite capable of understanding many of the details, too. I once was asked by an Israeli border agent to give her a half-an-hour lecture on a fairly arcane subject in chemical physics. I was bloody surprized when she asked several rather intelligent questions most of my students would have never thought about. Later it turned out that she actually had a masters in a closely related subject...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @Valarian

          Truth.

          I've been randomly passport checked when entering the 'gate lounge' a couple of times now (I guess I look a little sus). If you watch the border agent / customs official carefully, you'll notice they look more at you than they do your travel documents and passport. Same goes for sniffer dogs, either in an airport or anywhere else: they're mostly there to provoke a reaction.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            @AC ... Re: @Valarian

            How you look is very important.

            If you're in a nice suit, neatly groomed, polite and well polished you will have less hassles.

            (It also helps that you're entering the country to work at a well known local company)

            Body Language is important.

            How you respond to their questions is also just as important.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @Valarian

            Sniffer dogs look more at you than your travel documents and passport? Are you implying they can't read or something?

        2. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

          @AC Re: @Valarian

          Sorry you misunderstood my point.

          First, you never volunteer to open up and turn on your laptop. So offering to program something in a simulator is really a bad idea. (The reason for the bitch slap) One can write some very complex code longhand where even if they guy knows the syntax, he'll be scratching his head wondering how and why it works.

          Oh I agree with your point. That this is a way to question someone to see what they will do.

          And while some are getting miffed by this... its been going on for a long time.

        3. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

          Re: @Valarian

          Whether your code will compile and run correctly is beside the point.

          Exactly; even "tree = BalanceBinaryTree(tree)" shows some knowledge of programming concepts. They are looking for the reaction of someone who claims to be something but knows nothing of the subject they claim to be skilled in.

      2. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: @Valarian

        " Certainly there's more than one programming language... does the customs people know this?"

        I inferred from the article that they had asked the language , and then googled a little quiz on it.

      3. rh587 Bronze badge

        Re: @Valarian

        And therein lies the stupidity of this. Certainly there's more than one programming language... does the customs people know this? Do they know the languages? If they're checking it, do they understand there's more than one way to do damn near do anything?

        They don't need to understand it. They don't care about what you write. They're gauging your reaction at the request itself.

        1. hplasm Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: @Valarian

          "They're gauging your reaction at the request itself."

          I would like to see their reaction when I try to bill them...

      4. cosmogoblin

        Re: @Valarian

        Compile.

        Execute.

        Panic as the trojan hands control of airport security to terrorist group du jour.

    4. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
      Boffin

      @Valarian

      Uhm, I am technically competent to judge your code and I would have bitch slapped you for being that dense. And I seriously doubt you actually have written any serious code on the 6502 in the past 30+ years.

      And yeah. I grok 6502, 6800, 8080A along with other languages.

      Seriously, I would have been more impressed if you wrote some Object Oriented code using only C.

      (And yes, you can do that. )

    5. dajames Silver badge

      I assume you are as competent to judge the quality and efficacy of my code as I am to write it, and thus validate my assertion that I am in fact a coder of some 40 years experience.

      The question isn't about code. They're not interested in the solution you give -- being, as you suspect, incompetent to assess it -- they're interested in the way that you answer, and whether the question itself worries of flummoxes you. They may not know how to judge your coding competence, but they know about people.

      ... and you can be sure that they will be able to call in an expert who IS competent to asses your work, if it comes to that, and you can wait in a nice uncomfortable office for a day or so while they get hold of the right person.

    6. kain preacher Silver badge

      I was thinking about using COBOL or writing for the intel 4004 chip. OF course not being able to evaluate it they might label a terrorist compiler.

  5. DNTP

    This would make more sense...

    If the agents doing the screening knew what they were talking about, instead of just reading scripts off Google. Of course then they would probably be too smart to be front-rank screeners in the first place. And then they'd be able to detect and identify software engineers efficiently and courteously, which would defeat the real intent of the program, which is to harass and intimidate brown people.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: This would make more sense...

      instead of just reading scripts off Google

      You wish. I suspect they have contracted some moron (whatever the USA closest equivalent of Crapita is) to write them for the purpose.

  6. elDog Silver badge

    Is it possible that the poor agents are just trying to get believable reactions?

    By "poor agents" I am also saying that the people that are contracted for these positions (yes, they are contractors, not US employees) are very poorly paid for the type of work they do and the scorn which they have to put up with. Otherwise known as masochists or desperate for the buck.

    But, to get back to my subject before I forget what it was: a lot of questioning that happens in these situations is just to evaluate the "customer"'s reaction. If they start swearing in daesh then it might be necessary to have the code compile the first time. If they laugh and say "I could do it in forth (or APL) but you wouldn't be able to analyze it.

    1. Malcolm Weir Silver badge

      Re: Is it possible that the poor agents are just trying to get believable reactions?

      @elDog: CBP Inspectors are Federal employees. Not contractors. Actually, they are "sworn" law enforcement personnel, just like FBI agents. They get to retire into the Federal Employee Retirement System, and they are (like the cops) a "6(c)" organization, in that you can retire after 25 years of service (or 20 years if you're 50 or over).

      Don't know where you get this weird idea that the US has outsourced it's customs staff.

      (The same is true of *most* TSA people; a few airports have subcontracted, but the "real" TSA are feds).

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: Is it possible that the poor agents are just trying to get believable reactions?

        Thankyou for bringing some facts to the table.

        .. now bring some code :)

  7. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    You want me to write code? I'll need a purchase order and my hourly rate is...

    OK, you're a professional engineer.

    1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
      Facepalm

      @Doctor Syntax ...

      I've had the pleasure of dealing with the UK on similar issues. They never talked tech. But more on contracts and international law. (Try explaining that an SOW is a contract that is an addendum to a larger MSA contract, so you have 1 MSA and then SOWs that apply to specific tasks and work periods.)

      As to getting asked a programming question... I'd have to laugh, and explain to them that I design the systems / solutions and hand them to their local developers. That the reason I'm coming in to the UK is because there is no local expertise.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @Doctor Syntax ...

        I design the systems / solutions and hand them to their local developers.

        well i could do that if i had "local developers" to do the actual real work

        1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
          Boffin

          @AC ... Re: @Doctor Syntax ...

          If you do consulting long enough and have the right skills, you will see your bill rate rise to the level where you are a multiple of the cost of a developer. At that point, its cheaper for the client to say no coding for you, hand it off to the guy with 5+ years of Java and you need to sit in this meeting with the CIO and two other SVPs and explain how and why this will work and your calculations on time to value and potential ROI. It seems that they rather enjoy having a person who knows both the business side of software development as well as being able to get one's hands dirty so that they know the underlying tech.

          Then the other part of your day is spent with their senior architects and explain the hows and why you designed something and why you did it one way while they all think their way is better. Also why you chose to use tool A over tool B even though tool B is cooler and looks better on a resume.

          In truth, I could lead a team of 5 senior people that cost 3X more than their developers, but will get the job done faster and a higher quality. Overall costing half of what they will spend on developers. Yet some bean counter sees 3X the rate and nixes it because it costs too much per hour.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In a civilized system...

    In a civilized system, visa applicants would be vetted in their home country before getting anywhere near the plane. You apply for a visa, it takes six weeks and the embassy is gonna be calling people up to check on you. and you will have to come in for an interview and a test. If you get the visa, then you can show up at the US border and assuming your papers are in order you are in. As opposed to granting the visa and then doing screening on the fly when the dude/lady is in front of you. No one is happy with that outcome.

    If the country was really civilized, their embassies would partner with local organizations and offer cultural and job exchanges. You're an ace programmer in Nigeria? Take part in our hackathon, sponsored by the US Embassy in Lagos, and if you win, we'll expedite your visa and arrange six weeks of work at Google.

    This is what the US government used to do. Sad!

    1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: In a civilized system...

      You forget visas are issued by Foggy Bottom which is known for being so abysmal that ordinary incompetence is an improvement. The Customs agents are a different agency which is only incompetent.

    2. Truckle The Uncivil

      Re: In a civilized system...

      Granting a visa and then denying it on arrival is simply crooked. Not illegal as they make the laws. But definitely crooked. Can you imagine the screams and yells of "sue, sue!" if Americans copped this anywhere.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: In a civilized system...

      Do you mean like the UK?

      Civilized where there's a treaty between the US and the UK that doesn't require visas for contracts shorter than 6 months? And when you play by the rules, you still get pulled aside, questioned, forced to sit in the penalty box and then told the next time you come in... you will most likely be sent home that day?

      That civilized system?

      At the same time... in the cases where you try to get a visa, the host company has to show that they couldn't find someone with the same skills within the UK, then the EU? (until Brexit)

      Seriously... mock the US all you want. But remember that the grass isn't always greener.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

  9. vir

    Obligatory XKCD

    https://xkcd.com/1185/

    Because we all could use a laugh right about now.

  10. ecofeco Silver badge

    It's these kind of freedoms they hate us for!

    Free dumbs indeed!

  11. Herby Silver badge

    Pretty simple, actually...

    $man qsort

    Pretty simple if you ask me. If you want more, pass through the hand coin of the realm.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Once upon a time...

    ...a Border/Customs agent started in with the tricky questions. Some sort of bizarre cross-checking of long forgotten details.

    My weary reply was something like, "I've just got off a 16-hour flight, and I been up for well over 30 hours. I'm not in the mood for tricky mind games. What specifically do you need to know that isn't already on your computer screen?"

    It worked like a treat. That was the end of that. No problem.

    1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

      Re: Once upon a time...

      Bingo.

      Its a trick question to see if they can get a rise out of your or to trip you up.

      They do it a lot, and not just in the US.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Once upon a time...

        What is your name?

        What is your quest?

        What is the airspeed velocity of a fully laden swallow?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          African or European swallow?

          But yeah, I was visiting a conference in Canada that had a long acronym as a name and the act of trying to remember the letter and the order they went together seemed to convince the customs guy I was legit. If I'd been able to rattle off aigicrv it might have been more suspicious.

        2. Magani
          Happy

          Re: Once upon a time...

          What is the airspeed velocity of a fully laden swallow?

          HA! I'm not stupid enough to fall for that one! I know your tricky English-type humour. The answer to your question is based on continents, is it not? I will ask you if this is a Pacific or Atlantic Swallow!!

        3. Octavo

          Re: Once upon a time...

          European or African?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Once upon a time...

            Sorry wrong answer. You should have said 'Andean'.

            Entry refused.

            Posting AC as I'm off to the so called land of the free today.

            1. DropBear Silver badge

              Re: Once upon a time...

              ...shouldn't it be an UNladen one though...?

    2. Tom Paine Silver badge

      Re: Once upon a time...

      Do please try it and let us know how that approach works at US airports these days.

  13. Rashkae

    In return, if DHS personnel ever travel overseas, they should be made to take a quiz as well!

    Perhaps...

    1. "List down 5 human rights"

    2. "Write what the sign on the Statue of Liberty says"

    3. "List all amendments to the USA Constitution"

    4. "List all member countries of the current term on the UNHCR"

    1. Kevin Johnston

      Do they get a second identity like happens on TV in the Witness Protection stuff so no-one knows their dark secret?

    2. DropBear Silver badge

      Yeah, no thanks. I plead the fifth...

    3. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge

      > 2. "Write what the sign on the Statue of Liberty says"

      Ooh, I think I know this one:

      Give me your hungry, your tired, your poor I'll piss on 'em

      That's what the Statue of Bigotry says

      Your poor huddled masses

      Let's club 'em to death

      And get it over with and just dump 'em on the boulevard

  14. Bernard M. Orwell Silver badge

    "2. "Write what the sign on the Statue of Liberty says""

    I'm surprised they haven't covered that up in embarrassment yet.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      "2. "Write what the sign on the Statue of Liberty says""

      fabriqué en france ?

  15. Milton Silver badge

    Amateur night at CBP

    Apologies if someone's already mentioned this, but I noticed years ago that some US immigration employees appeared to be trying to ape the Israeli approach to partially-directed interrogation of suspect passengers. I used to visit the States a lot, especially when consulting for a large UK transatlantic airline, and even before 9/11, despite my regular visits and well-documented reasons for travelling, my unusual (Central European) surname obviously attracted attention—presumably because US immigration folks don't seem able to pronounce any names much beyond "Jones", Brown" or in a pinch, "McDonald".

    The Israelis had developed, decades earlier, a common-sense but clever system whereby trained officers would ask a series of non-hostile, overtly casual questions of potential El Al travellers, simply following up each answer with a friendly-seeming curiosity. "Oh, computers, huh? Oracle, hm? The Bracknell office, I guess? Do you get into Reading much—my aunt lives there? ..." The point being that potential ne'e'er-do-wells will have some cover story prepared, but usually very little depth: so pretty soon they start sounding uncertain, hesitant, shifty or simply giving daft answers. The beauty of the system is it doesn't require vast domain knowledge (which would make it unstaffable and unworkable), it simply needs folks who can think on their feet, adopt a disarming demeanour and are acutely observant for the signs of evasion and invention—something to which they can quickly drive a dishonest suspect.

    US immigration became something of a running joke among colleagues for the clumsy "conversations" initiated by nitwits who'd obviously seen a cartoon version of the El Al PowerPoint and thought they'd become instant experts. You'd get a sequence of increasingly desperate, clueless questions from some uniformed stomach and end up mischievously saying "Yeah, I specialise in the Gates Rebarbative Development Technique" and watch the expression of completely fraudulent understanding spread like a puddle of dog pee on the poor schmuck's face. It became boring after a while, but as it turns out, looking bored is the best way to get through fast anyway.

    The only hiccup was periodically having to convince some exceptionally earnest slob that no, despite having a Crotobaltislavonian father, naturalised British, I did NOT speak the language. It's a horrible language. The country is nice, but too small to matter. I never bothered. I was born in the UK. Really, no, not a damned word. May I go now?*¹

    So I suspect that CBP are as cack-handedly clumsy and poorly trained as ever they were, still broadcasting American Officialdom in the obese glory we've all become so fond of: ignorant, self-important, loud, incapable of disguising resentful hostility towards foreigners, especially ones who speak better English than they do (ok, most foreigners), and—once you've escaped their little Keystone-Kops-channelling-Kafka fantasy world, always good for a laugh.

    *¹ — I never volunteered the fact that I do know Russian; and spoken, not written, Arabic: somehow it wouldn't have been in the spirit of things, would it?

    1. bobajob12

      Re: Amateur night at CBP

      When it's done well, it's quite impressive. When it's done badly, it's excruciating. I was questioned "well" on my into Canada from the US a couple of years ago, and it took me five miles into the great north before I realized that the border agent had me played with lots of friendly leading questions that did not give anything anyway. "Touche sir!", I said to myself.

      I've also had it in the bad way. The TSA used to do this in airport lines, you'd be waiting and some geezer would sidle up to you and start a conversation, except that it sounded like is was scripted by a robot. Then you just groan inside.

      The TSA one is particularly awkward as I work in a field where competitors will do *anything* to get intel on our organization. So I am naturally a little suspicious of friendly people. (That friendly barfly in the pub next to the airbase in Arizona is probably not just a local who likes to talk about planes.)

  16. ForthIsNotDead

    Ha!

    I'd write it in Forth, using only the stack to pass parameters between functions. No local variables, no global variables.

    Validate that, bitch.

    1. tiggity Silver badge

      Re: Ha!

      I would do it as horribly unreadable as possible whilst being a "high level" language (I'm guessing no assembler allowed), old school C, pretend its an obfuscated C competition, especially when its the type of problem that almost automagically leads pointers to pointers to pointers etc.(not turtles, pointers all the way down), obviously no helpful descriptive names (he might be expecting to see things like insert, delete, node, leaf etc from his crib sheet, 1 char names if possible, not the first letter of anything he may be looking for ).

    2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Ha!

      I'd write it in Forth...

      APL.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is sad...

    ...because the general view I'm reading here (and elsewhere) is to not visit the US until things have had the chance to settle down. It's hard to honesty know whether Trump is as bad as everyone says, if he's just irritated the usual incumbents who were expecting everything to go their own way eternally, or if it's a combination of the two. But whatever the reason, the US is in turmoil.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: This is sad...

      he general view I'm reading here (and elsewhere) is to not visit the US until things have had the chance to settle down

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This is sad...

      ... the general view I'm reading here (and elsewhere) is to not visit the US until things have had the chance to settle down. It's hard to honesty know whether Trump is as bad as everyone says...

      I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but it is not Trump per se. The present administration is merely another symptom of the malady which has been getting uglier and more widespread for a while now. I am old enough to remember when you would not even think of bringing an ID for a day trip which took you across the US-Canada border in the Rocky Mountains area (large-city crossings were a bit more formal even then, I guess) - whatever you had on you, plus a friendly smile would suffice going either way.

      Unfortunately, following 9-11, the Americans have managed to whip up a paranoid frenzy, which made them inflict things onto themselves and onto others I would have never thought possible. Somehow this mass hysteria has become self-sustained, collectively converting the greatest and friendliest nation on earth into a scared bully, ready to viciosly lash at anybody it sees approaching.

      We could only hope America can get a leader which will help it to snap out if this self-destructive path of fear and hatred. Obama was supposed to be the one - but he clearly was not smart enough and strong enough. Now we will have to wait another four years.

  18. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    BOFH version

    I'm a cryptographer.

    Can you prove it?

    Click on this website - it's a piece of my work.

    <CLICKETY>

    It's now encrypting all the files on your PC. Sorry, but I didn't make a note of the key.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    I'll get you code...

    10 print "you smell funny!'

    20 goto 10

    There, did I now prove my worth as a C64 fan? :D

  20. Tom Paine Silver badge

    The simple reason this is happening is that CBP officers, the majority of whom are ex-LEA or ex-military, are... shall we say... enthusiastic patriots. To put it another way, a lot of them will have a very Trumpish worldview, and genuinely believe the airports are stuffed full of terrifying terrorists who might kill a few dozen people which would be terrible. Teh CBP want to keep teh country safe for the NRA to kill HALF A MILLION PEOPLE IN A DECADE by resisting sane gun controls.

    They've been told that the shackles are off. It's no suprise that the Constable Savage types are getting really zealous and keen to really do their duty.

    Bit of background reading:

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/27/opinion/are-us-immigration-centers-the-next-abu-ghraib.html?_r=0 ,

    http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/attytood/Just-following-orders-Trumps-goon-squad-goes-wild.html

    Plenty more on your favourite search engine.

  21. Tom Paine Silver badge

    Srsly, hands up everyone who thinks this is likely to end well?

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/25/us/ice-immigrant-deportations-trump.html

  22. John Sager

    They did something similar to me in the 90s

    I was working on digital TV standards at the time, told the Immigration guy I was going to a meeting on the subject. He then asked "what screen aspect ratio do you think will win out in the long run" or words to that effect. So I went "Oh, definitely 16 by 9". He then said he was interested in the subject as he had just been to CES. May have been true I suppose. The guys at the meeting were a bit boggled when I related this tale.

  23. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
    FAIL

    H-1B?

    One wishes our (US) government was so diligent in their efforts to insure the law about H-1Bs not being hired if there was an American available to do the work.

    Oh, my bad, all those laid off IT folks were lacking the knowledge to do the job (and, completely by coincidence, were over 40 and well-compensated). Guess we'll have to import some more cheap labor from India...and have the incompetent IT guys train them, on their way out the door.

  24. Swarthy Silver badge
    Trollface

    Argentinian art gallery owner Juan Garcia Mosqueda

    Well no wonder! His last name reads like the unholy union of mosque and Al Queida. We need to not just send him back, but follow up woith a drone-strike, just based on his name alone!

    (Here's the /sarc tag for those that need it)

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Argentinian art gallery owner Juan Garcia Mosqueda

      The last lot refused a visa for Adi Shamir - because returning to the middle east after living in america is a sign of radicalisation.

      He is the "s" in RSA. He was to be speaking at an NSA conference. He is Israeli

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Argentinian art gallery owner Juan Garcia Mosqueda

        A foreigner interested in developing encryption. Obviously a terrorist.

  25. patrickstar

    I write lots of code where it would theoretically be relevant but almost never use binary trees - not to the point where I could sit down and write out an implementation from memory, at least. The reason being that they perform very poorly on modern CPUs - by definition the code branch predicts in the worst way possible (50% each for taken/not taken).

    Nowadays I'd consider them more some element of a CS course than something actually used in a lot of situations in real life (for on-disk storage they are relevant but that's a lot less common than in-memory where almost anything else is better, including a linear search for N < surprisingly large number).

    1. John PM Chappell

      Completely agree, patrickstar

      I'd want to break out a textbook or at least an algorithm reference tome, since I have not tried to implement one in forever; in part for the reasons you gave and also because I just don't any professional IT anymore.

  26. Melanie Winiger

    Standard of staff

    Personally, I found the professionals in Immigration and Security to be in TLV.

    EWR/JFK/LAX/MIA - no, they might have a weapon, but they didn't necessarily have brains.

  27. Pat Harkin

    Here's the algorithm.

    "I can't understand this - what language is it?"

    APL

    "I can't understand a word of it.

    "Of course you can't, it's APL..."

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    #emo

    if it really matters and you want access to the US for business reasons get a proper B1/B2 visa...

    you cant just tick a few boxes on an ESTA... "honest guv, i'm not a drug dealer or a terrorist. Not doing nowt me" and expect to just walk into the US. Expect them to tell you to do one at some point.

    "oh I am a top scientist yet I am so amateur I thought I'd wing it on the visa people use for Disney Land"

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    CV for visa appliacation!

    I've been asked for my CV when I applied for a US visa!

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