I agree with you about the cursor. I rarely use it, and it is possible to hide it (but I believe it still affects the scene?).
By default to move the Origin Point to a specific component (like you might in Maya), you would first need to move the Cursor to that point (in Edit mode),
then in Object mode set the Origin to Cursor (the Shift + S pie menu helps speed a little).
However, if you download Heavypoly’s config from here, he has a custom operator that will move the Origin while in Edit mode. [I use this all of the time.]
Another method would be to select your component, and enable Active Element from the Pivot Point menu.
If you’re not wanting to use Heavypoly’s complete config, that’s okay. I don’t myself, so I follow his installation instructions except for installing the User Prefs, Startup, and Hotkey files. Though this means I have to go into the keymap editor and manually setup the new operators (as shown above with Smart Snap Origin/Cursor.
Lastly, visibility of tools, and settings has gotten much much better, but still could use some work. So please share here if you feel so inclined.
I hope this helps!