Since I use it exclusively and no one else has commented...
It loads slower with the extra pictures... and they're different every time I hit the back button to come back from a thread so 4 new pictures have to load each time.
I'd like to see site-specific stuff higher... I don't need a calender... have one on the task bar... put it at the bottom, if not just delete it.. The current survey should remain at the top just below a single picture.
Off-site news feed can go to the bottom. I'd rather see who's online here higher.
You'll have the important info, especially for a new member, at the top, Member Info, Search Box and Quick Links on the left, a teaser picture/link and survey on the right. Who's online and newsfeed could be below that on either side.
Just my $0.02 worth.