Jon Udell has a nice riff on my washed out screen problem, talking about how much of what we can do on computers depends on our tacit knowledge--the things we know that we don't really know we know. Debugging is a task where tacit knowledge plays a huge role.
The tacit knowledge thing is exactly the right spin on this. Jon also hit the nail on the head when he talks about the problem of vocabulary. I wasn't thinking or using the word "contrast" until *after* I'd discovered what was wrong. I wasn't even thinking "washed out" until I wrote the blog post. The entire time I was doing this, I believed it was some problem with RGB settings somewhere. The display preferences pane was an obvious place to look (which I did early on), but offered no pointers to other display issues like the fact that the contrast was out of whack.
This is also why Google was little help. Unless you can think up the right words to describe your problem, search won't do you much good--online or off. I've been a stickler for proper nomenclature in business settings for this and other reasons. I push my kids to use the "right" names for things because nomenclature is so important. In hindsight, I should have spent a few minutes trying to accurately describe the problem and showing it to others who could help me figure out what to call it. I might have saved some time with the right words.