I don't know about the first problem. I made Center Point a shelf button and also use Recent Commands in the hotbox to fix this problem as quickly as I can, but I agree this is annoying and would love to hear if there is another solution to change the default position of the center point of a new object.
The second problem can be overcome with Modify - Snap Align Objects - Point to Point. In component mode, you choose the point you want to "get" to, then the point you are moving, and then the tool. The whole surface then connects to the chosen point. I use this constantly.
Sometimes I wish there was a way to snap the pivot point when you are in the mode where you can freely move it around.
Hope this helps, and I would love to hear from anyone who has easier methods than the ones I've mentioned.