Thanks for everyone's input, but in my case, as usual: Pilot error. And the sad thing is, like most of my automotive maladies, it was Self Inflicted™.
There's two actuators. One is new from earlier this year. The previous owner sprang for $900 in parts, + labor to have it done. The other had 102K miles on it and was original. When I replaced the worn gears on my old actuator, I decided to open the new one to see how it looked..."just for fun".
well, see this diagram?
I took it apart tonite, looked at those tabs and said...
, I wonder... sure enough, I must not have put the steel tabs in yellow, back into the electrical plug holes in yellow. so the nice brand-new actuator was basically non-functional.
This time, I put it back together and MADE SURE the little tabs went in first, and it passed the Component Activation test using DIS. I could actuate it, go out, look at it, see it was open, and wait 20 seconds and it closes automatically.
Both are fine now.
It's still an hour or so, of labor to put the ESS manifold and intake back on, before I can test-drive it again. So...first boosted review is later this week.
I think I understand better the misconception about "activation" or "initialization". The technique I used to simply verify the actuators could move was called "Component Activation" in DIS. It's no different than running a cooling fan for a bit to make sure it's plugged in. It does nothing to initialize or condition the actuator. it just opens it and lets you hop out of the car, and physically check it to see if it works. If I had a helper with me, they could simply press on the gas pedal and do the same thing.
So, I agree, there's no "initialization" or learning it needs to do. The one I repaired, never coded on me and required nothing on my part.