So I go get a mic from up stairs and the sound card gleefully out put the mic sound to the speakers, but none of my programs, including the hang-on-record sound recorder, couldn't see the output. I was back to the computer not playing nice with sound at all.
So I get the bright idea that the Karaoke Revolution mic for the playstation 2 is usb. There is a slim chance it might work. (yah right, my head said, who KNOWS what device it is, let alone linux reconsiding it and finding a working driver.) As it turns out, it is a logitec head set that says Konami all over it. Linux reconixed it, spewed a few errors on loading the drivers, but once we tracked down which /dev/dsp it was, and set the program to use it, the head set worked.
Ok, so it was more complicated than "just works" but still I'm using a headset that I bought for the playstation2 on a laptop that doesn't have proper sound drivers to start with and it's working just fine. That's pretty cool.