Exam Prep: Factoring by Grouping

If 3xm + 2ym − 2yn − 3xn = 0 and m ≠ n , then what is the value of y in terms of x?

To answer this question, we will need to use an approach that is called “Factoring by Grouping.” We can use this approach when we have 4 terms and there is a pattern between 2 of the terms.

Step 1: Re-arrange terms

To begin, we will rewrite the equation as:

3xm – 3xn + 2ym – 2yn = 0

Step 2: Factor

Then, we will factor:

3x (m-n) + 2y (m-n) = 0

Step 3: Simplify

Because we have (m-n) in both places, we can simplify to:

(3x + 2y) (m -n) = 0

Step 4: Solve

Since the equation is equal to zero, we can conclude that either 3x + 2y = 0 or m-n = 0. However, for m-n=0 then it must be true that m=n and the question prompt says that is not true.

Therefore, if 3x + 2y = 0 we can subtract -3x from both sides and divide both sides by 2. This is the correct answer, -3x/2.


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Using “En” in French

The pronoun “en” can be tricky for English speakers, but this post provides a few small tips on how to use this pronoun correctly.

First, “en” can replace nouns accompanied by an indefinite article. Examples include:

  • Tu manges des crêpes? Oui, j’en mange souvent.
  • Tu veux une banane? Merci, j’en prends une.

Second, “en” can also replace nouns that come after the preposition “de.” Examples include:

  • Il y a de la soupe? J’en veux beaucoup.
  • Tu veux un kilo de farine? Oui, j’en prends la moitié.

Third, “en” is used for places that are preceded by “de,” such as:

  • Tu es parti de Bordeaux ce matin? Oui, j’en suis parti à 10h.

Finally, “en” is used when “de” follows the verb as in:

  • Je rêve de devenir cantatrice. J’en rêve.

Leave a comment

Filed under French

French in Action: Lesson 16

Adult learners looking for resources to learn French may be interested in video series called “French in Action.” Although the series was created in 1987, the content is still useful. Thanks to the generosity of Annenberg Media, learners in Canada and the United States can access the videos free of charge online here: https://www.learner.org/resources/series83.html

Due to licensing agreements, online viewing of the videos for this resource is restricted to network connections in the United States and Canada.

In Lesson 16, the goal is to enable students to talk about: work; days and months of the year; buying and spending; years and centuries.

Professions / Les métiers

Un tailleur Tailor
Un couturier/Une couturière Fashion designer
Un peintre Painter
Un boulanger/ Une boulangère Baker
Un charpentier Carpenter
Un boucher/Une bouchère Butcher
Un charbonnier Coalman
Un pharmacien/Une pharmacienne Pharmacist
Un informaticien/Une informaticienne IT specialist
Un infirmier/Une infirmière Nurse
Un marin Sailor
Un pompier Fireman
Un mineur Miner
Un compositeur Composer
Un acteur/Une actrice Actor
Un berger/Une bergère Shepherd
Un aviateur/Une aviatrice Aviator
Un chevrier Goat herder
Un pilote Pilot
Un conducteur/Une conductrice Conducter
Un chauffeur Driver, chauffeur
Un forestier Forester, forest ranger
Un fermier/Une fermière Farmer
Un technicien/Une technicienne Technician


In case it is helpful to practice these words, a study set is available on quizlet here: https://quizlet.com/_3xzea2

New Vocabulary / Le nouveau vocabulaire

Une petite échelle A small ladder
Une grande échelle A big ladder
En haut de la grande échelle At the top of the ladder
Plonger To dive/plunge
Tomber To fall
Se pencher To lean
Attraper To catch
Glisser To slip

Mireille profite du soleil.

La petite fille profite du vent pour jouer avec son bateau.

To enjoy, make the most of

Mireille enjoys the sun.


Une visite inattendue.


An unexpected visit.

En panne

Un bateau en panne (il ne marche pas).

Une voiture en panne (elle ne marche pas).

To be broken
A envie de

Robert a faim. Il a envie de manger. Il a envie d’un hamburger.

Robert a soif. Il a envie de boire quelque chose. Il a envie d’un Coca-Cola !

To want, feel like


In case it is helpful to practice these words, a study set is available on quizlet here: https://quizlet.com/_3xzeqe

Verb Conjugations / Les conjugaisons verbales

In this lesson, the instructor emphasizes the difference between verbs in the past and in the present. For example:

  Passé Présent
Elle Était Est
  Voulait Veut
  avait a


The instructor also reviews the conjugation of the verb écrire (“to write”).


Tu écris

Elle/ Il/On écrit

Nous écrivons

Vous écrivez

Ils écrivent


Like the verb écrire, there are a number of verbs where the “t” is not pronounced in the singular 3rd persone. These verbs are:


Elle sort (sortir, to exit)

Elle part (partir, to leave/go out)

Elle sert (servir, to serve)

Elle vit (vivre, to live)

Elle sourit (sourir, to smile)

Elle dit (dire, to say)

Elle choisit (choisir, to choose)

Elle suit (suivre, to follow)

Elle conduit (conduire, to drive)

Elle fait (faire, to make/do)

Elle connaît (connaître, to know someone)

Elle est (être, to be)


Additional examples are :

Il pleut

Il peut

Il veut


Il faut

Il doit

Il croit

Il voit


Similarly, some verbs are conjugated with a « d » in the 3rd person that is not pronounced. These verbs include:

Elle attend

Elle entend

Elle apprend

Elle comprend


There are also verbs that end with a silent « e » in the singular 3rd person.


Elle arrive

Elle écoute

Elle parle

Elle commence

Elle continue

Elle essaie

Elle s’ennuie


There are also verbs that end with a silent « a » in the singular 3rd person.

Elle va

Elle a


For plural 3rd person conjugations, the “ent” is not pronounced.

Ils arrivent

Ils continuent

Ils essaient

Ils choisissent

Ils apprennent

Ils viennent

Ils tiennent



Leçon 16 compréhension écrite (illustrative answers in next post)

  1. Qu’est-ce qui indique que c’est le printemps, au jardin du Luxembourg?
  2. Où est le jeune homme brun et sympathique?
  3. Qu’est-ce que la petite fille tient?
  4. Pourquoi est-ce que Marie-Laure veut s’en aller?
  5. Est-ce que c’était vrai que Mme Belleau cherchait Mireille, tout à l’heure?
  6. Pourquoi Mireille est-elle étonnée quand Robert demande si elle connaît le Pays Basque?
  7. Pourquoi Mireille connaît-elle un peu le Pays Basque?
  8. Où est-ce que Mireille allait en vacances, quand elle était petite?
  9. Pourquoi Mireille aimait-elle la Bretagne?
  10. Qu’est-ce qu’elle faisait, en Bretagne, quand il faisait beau?
  11. Qu’est-ce qu’elle faisait quand il pleuvait?
  12. Pourquoi est-ce que la soeur de Mireille n’aimait pas la Bretagne?
  13. Pourquoi Robert a-t-il envie d’aller au Pays Basque?
  14. Quel était le métier du grand-père de Robert?
  15. Que faisait les parent de Mme Courtois?
  16. Où était leur magasin, à Bayonne?
  17. Est-ce que les grandparents de Robert vivent toujours?

18 Pourquoi Mireille ne peutelle pas aller chez les Coutais le lendemain?

  1. Pourquoi Robert veut-il aller à Chartres?
  2. Est-ce que Mireille y va pour voir la cathédrale?
  3. Si Robert ne va pas chez les Courtois demain, quand estce qu’il peut y aller?
  4. Pourquoi Marie-Laure pleure-t-elle?
  5. Pourquoi son bateau est-il en panne?
  6. Quand Robert et Mireille arrivent au bassin, où est le bateau de Marie-Laure? Est-ce qu’il est toujours au milieu du bassin?
  7. Comment le bateau est-il revenu près du bord, d’après Marie-Laure?

Leave a comment

Filed under French

Certificate in Business Russian Communication

Advanced business language courses for professionals who need to use Russian in their workplace are often hard to find. However, I recently completely an intensive two-month course that other Russian-speaking professionals may find interesting. It is offered by Business Russian IC and covers a range of important topics, including negotiations, logistics, and management communication.

For more information, you are welcome to visit: http://www.business-russian.com/on-line-courses/intensive-on-line-russian-course/

BR IC Certificate_Tara Lynch-Ornstein

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized


Mantenga la calma. Usted tiene derechos. https://www.aclu.org/know-your-rights/que-hacer-si-esta-involucrado-en-una-redada-de-casa?redirect=know-your-rights/sus-derechos-basicos-durante-redadas

Para obtener más información, consulte: https://www.aclu.org/know-your-rights/que-debe-hacer-si-la-policia-agent… (Español)

Para más información, contacte a su oficina local de la ACLU: www.aclu.org/about/affiliates

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Как успешно пройти собеседование

Чтобы быть успешно пройти собеседование, вы должны хорошо знать себя и должность/организацию, в которую вы хотите устроиться. Вы должны быть готовы предоставлять лаконичные, но вместе с тем полные ответы на вопросы. Ниже приводится перечень вопросов, которые часто задаются во время собеседований при приеме на работу в Северной Америке и других регионах.

I. Вопросы о квалификации и интересах кандидата

Почему Вы выбрали эту карьеру?

Почему Вы ушли с последнего места работы?

Почему Вас интересует эта должность?

В чем заключаются Ваши основные сильные и слабые стороны?

Как Вы определяете для себя или оцениваете успех?

Расскажите мне о себе. Или: Как бы Вы себя описали?

Как бы описали Вас Ваши коллеги? Как бы описал Вас Ваш руководитель?

В чем заключается Ваше самое значительное профессиональное достижение?

Как Вы функционируете в стрессовых ситуациях? Или: Как Вы справляетесь со стрессом? Или: Насколько хорошо Вы работаете под давлением?

Расскажите мне о проблеме или конфликте, с которыми Вы столкнулись на работе, и как Вы их разрешили?

Расскажите мне что-нибудь неожиданное о себе.

Кем Вы видите себя через пять лет?

II. Вопросы об организации (задаваемые кандидату)

Что, по Вашему мнению, мы могли бы делать по-другому?

Что, по Вашему мнению, будет Вашим самым большим вкладом в успех нашей организации, если Вы будете приняты на работу?

Почему Вы хотите работать в этой компании/организации?

Что, по Вашему мнению, необходимо для того, чтобы быть успешным в этой компании/организации?


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

New Online Certificate Program to Learn Business Spanish

If you are a busy working professional who is unable to attend on-site language classes, you might be interested in a new online certificate program offered by the University of Wisconsin. In 6 months, you can greatly improve your Spanish language skills and gain the cultural knowledge you need to conduct business successfully in Spain and Latin America.

I recently completed the online course and am using everything I have learned in my daily professional activities. For more information, you are welcome to visit http://continuingstudies.wisc.edu/certificates/business-spanish

Tara Ornstein Business Spanish Certificate

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Para tener éxito en una entrevista…

Para tener éxito en una entrevista, debe conocerse a sí mismo y conocer el puesto/la organización. Debe estar preparado para responder preguntas de manera sucinta, pero minuciosa. La siguiente lista contiene preguntas comunes que generalmente se realizan durante entrevistas en América del Norte y otras regiones.

Preguntas sobre las cualificaciones y los intereses del candidato

¿Por qué eligió esta carrera?

¿Por qué dejó su último trabajo?

¿Por qué le interesa este puesto?

¿Cuáles son sus mayores puntos fuertes y débiles?

¿Cómo determina o evalúa el éxito?

Cuénteme sobre usted. O: ¿Cómo se describiría?

¿Cómo lo describirían sus compañeros de trabajo? ¿Cómo lo describiría su supervisor?

¿Cuál es su mayor logro profesional?

¿Cómo se desempeña en situaciones estresantes? O: ¿Cómo maneja el estrés? O: ¿Cómo trabaja bajo presión?

Cuénteme sobre algún desafío o conflicto que enfrentó en el trabajo y cómo lo manejó.

Cuénteme algo sobre usted que sea sorprendente.

¿Dónde se ve en cinco años?

Preguntas sobre la organización (realizadas al candidato)

¿Qué cree que podríamos hacer de forma diferente?

¿Cuál cree que sería su mayor aporte si lo contratásemos?

¿Por qué quiere trabajar para esta compañía/organización?

¿Qué cree que se necesita para tener éxito en esta compañía/organización?


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Guilty or Innocent? New Documentary Presents Vladimir Putin’s Consolidation of Power

On January 13th, Frontline released a provocative documentary film about Vladimir Putin. The film raised many questions, several of them were very uncomfortable. What do you think? http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/putins-way/

Leave a comment

Filed under Europe, Russia

Negotiating Peace in Venezuela

International Mediation in Venezuela. Jennifer McCoy and Francisco Diez. Washington, D.C.: United States Institute of Peace, 2011. 275 pp.

By Tara Ornstein

Venezuela has once again fallen out the global media’s spotlight, but given the country’s abundant natural resources, there was a time when the international community was heavily invested in maintaining peace there. In International Mediation in Venezuela, Jennifer McCoy and Francisco Diez describe the efforts of the Carter Center, the Organization of American States (OAS), and the United Nations (UN) to mediate the conflict between then-President Hugo Chavez and a loose alliance of different political groups opposed to Chavez.

As President Jimmy Carter writes in the foreword, the purpose of this book is “to contribute to the historical record so that others may assess [the Carter Center’s] work and draw lessons that may be useful for future conflict prevention efforts” (p. 36). The Carter Center and its partners began their work in Venezuela after the April 2002 coup that ousted President Chavez from power for two days before the Venezuelan military reinstated him. With the country on the edge of civil war, President Chavez and opposition leaders invited the Carter Center, the OAS, and the UN to facilitate a resolution to the political conflict before it erupted into civil war. Although they projected initially that their work would last approximately two months, they spent two years working in Venezuela with President Carter personally traveling to the country six times and OAS Secretary General César Gaviria actually living in Venezuela for seven months.

The Carter Center’s Director of the Americas Program Jennifer McCoy and Expert Mediator Francisco Diez wrote this book using personal notes, meeting minutes, and official correspondence with the conflicting parties among other primary source material. The book includes descriptions of their successes such as preventing the outbreak of violence during the June 2002 oil strike (p. 222) and their failures, which include linking progress to weekly meetings that never took place (p. 89), simultaneously serving as mediators and election monitors which created a conflict of interest (p. 139), and overstaying their welcome by not leaving when their mandate ended in June 2004 (p. 228). The most interesting points of the book, however, are the passages related to the oil trade, the principle of noninterference in Latin America, and the authors’ portrayal of the opposition.

The Oil Trade

McCoy and Diez rightly point out that “there are structural constraints on how much influence international actors can have on a resource-rich state” (p. 222). This book describes exactly how Venezuela’s oil actually helped keep the country’s adversary—Chavez—in power for some time. In one example, McCoy and Diez explain how the United States was planning a military offensive in Iraq in February 2003 and wanted the oil strike in Venezuela to end even if that meant Chavez would stay in power because reduced oil production caused by simultaneous crises in Iraq and Venezuela would have been disastrous for the global economy (p. 83). Colombia faced similar challenges—before the global financial crisis erupted in 2008, bilateral trade between Colombia and Venezuela amounted to US$4 billion annually, with about two-thirds of that in Colombian exports to Venezuela. As McCoy and Diez summarize “. . . the mutual trade dependence between the United States and Venezuela, and between Venezuela and Colombia, restrained the United States and Colombia from initiating permanent breaks with Venezuela” (p. 217).

Aside from the United States and Colombia, dependence on Venezuelan oil limited the possibilities available to the wider international community. “Venezuela’s significant petroleum revenues and the related commercial interests of foreign governments both reduced the leverage of those international actors who might otherwise have made internationals loans and aid conditional upon domestic political reform, and influenced the actions of foreign governments benefiting from commercial relationships with Venezuela and discounted Venezuelan oil” (p.226).

Latin American Aversion to Interference

The countries that had influence in Venezuela, namely Brazil and Argentina, had no appetite for intervening. “As a reaction to the history of foreign intervention in the region, Latin American countries have traditionally required a high level of respect to the sovereign rights of nations and to the principle of noninterference” (p. 36). Moreover, then-Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Argentinian president Cristina Elisabet Fernández de Kirchner both had a close personal relationship with Chavez. After his passing in 2013, Kirchner referred to Chavez as “the best friend Argentina had when everybody else abandoned us.”

In addition to their own history with foreign intervention, Latin American countries were fearful of “setting precedents for international monitoring and sanctions on internal domestic affairs . . . lest they be next to receive unwanted international attention” (p. 227).

Disorganized Opposition

McCoy and Diez write openly that the Carter Center staff began their work in Venezuela with more trust from President Chavez and his government than the opposition. Although the authors emphasize their objectivity, the opposition’s distrust of Carter Center staff appears to have affected McCoy and Diez, who heavily criticize the decisions taken by the opposition. In their view, “disarray and bickering among opposition forces left voters with no clear alternative to the Chavez presidency” (p. 184). Chavez, in contrast, is described as being pragmatic and working strategically to achieve his goals.

McCoy and Diez also describe how the opposition “enthusiastically” called a general strike in December 2002, which the state oil company joined (p. 74–75) thinking that this would force the Chavez government to “come running to the table to negotiate” (p. 76). On the first day of the strike, the OAS tried unsuccessfully to broker an agreement at the Melia Hotel in Caracas. Even though McCoy and Diez describe how the government had an equally delusional view of the strike, the authors seem to fault the opposition members for their shortsightedness:

“By February 2003, after two months of struggle with no quarters given, the government managed to normalize the company’s vital operations, and Chavez had his own men at the helm. He had won the battle. The strike lasted sixty-two days, cost the country billions in losses, and completed altered the political landscape for years to come. It could all have been avoided had negotiations succeeded that night in the Melia Hotel” (p. 75).

In reality, however, the opposition was a diverse group of members of Venezuelan political parties who needed to discuss and vote on every decision they made. Unlike his opponents, Chavez was not accountable to anyone. His position was the government’s position, end of story. The opposition may have been an unruly group who needed considerable amounts of time to reach a consensus; however, they were far closer to democracy than President Chavez.


Writing in 2010, McCoy and Diez assert presciently that “the extreme concentration of power in the president’s hands with no clear successor or institutional legacy meant that the country was not only subject to his own changing ideas but also vulnerable to any accident or illness befalling him” (p. 218). In recent months, the consequences McCoy and Diez warned about were visible when violence erupted in early 2014.

Venezuela has a sophisticated electorate who are committed to their country’s future. But this book serves as an example of the positive influence the international community, particularly Venezuela’s friend and neighbors in Latin America, can have on mitigating political violence there. What remains unclear is whether the lessons McCoy and Diez present so clearly in their book were learned or ignored.

Leave a comment

Filed under Americas