“– I would like to get rid of the pin in the article title and preview – any way to turn it off?”
Just go to template settings -> tab Blog -> Show icon -> set to NO
“– I would like to not show the text of an article in the thumbnail, underneath the title, how do I hide this?”
Any screenshot for more detail?
“– is there an easy way to create a three column page as a home with thumbnails including linked picture and title of the articles I have?”
You can give a try with Roksprocket extension http://www.rockettheme.com/joomla/extensions/roksprocket