Thanks for all the responses! It's been behaving better but not perfectly. This morning I tried removing the oil filler cap with the engine idling, and the RPMs did change slightly, then it seemed to readjust itself quickly. When I put my hand over the hole it would change again, then readjust. It was no more of a change than when you turn on the AC or something, a momentary RPM change then back to normal.
That simple hose-with-water test looks pretty straightforward, although I know there is some vacuum there so I'm not sure I'd gain much from that test. But as always, I've learned a lot from reading the threads by Bluebee. Mostly I've learned that my problem is pretty minor compared to some. But maybe when I've got 6 minor leaks I'll have a real problem.... at this point though I'm not motivated enough to get a smoke test.
On the Starting Fluid/Ether / Propane method - I don't think the problem is significant enough that I would gain anything from that either, to be honest. Also, unless I'm missing something, I would need to have the car hooked up to a real-time scan tool to look for changes in run condition as a result of the "fuel" being drawn in?
I think next oil change I'll take off the plastic covers and do some tugging and poking and looking with bright lights to see if I see any particularly bad looking hoses. My upper crankcase vent hose looks and feels excellent. There's a little buildup in it but that goes away with a good highway run, or leaving it in 3rd on my way to work (10 minutes @50mph). The vacuum lines off the F connector are a little stiff, but appear to be fine. The intake boots are new. I'm thinking perhaps the ICV just isn't working properly, based on how much crap was in there and the fact that I couldn't get it all out in the very limited time I had set aside to clean it. Now that I've done it, I could probably get that thing out in 10 minutes or less, so maybe I'll give it another bath in brake cleaner and get some good scrubbing done on the rotating bit.
edit: @fastBob on the ether: I used to use it in potato cannons and, yeah. Get the mixture a little off, and nothing, but get it right and BANG! We found Static Guard to be much more reliable, although not as powerful.
Last edited by 1972ford; 12-05-2012 at 07:50 AM.