FWIW, I asked some coworkers to share their impressions of the top 7 designs, and here's what was said about this one:
* "Sample #9 - no. The picture on top of picture is confusing to look at."
* "I quite like #9. It looks nice and clean.
* "# 9 - One of the sharpest designs. Really said wow when I 1st saw it. Just like the way it looks. Concerned if with the layout if there will be enough room to post content in the middle.... but maybe big, long text paragraphs on a webpage is a bad thing anyways. I like this one. I would hope the links at the very top highlight when moused over as they blend in pretty good."
* "#9: The photo on top is too busy - it is a cool effect but makes it hard to read. The headings on the navigation are okay - but may be too much emphasis."
* "#9 - Interesting concept, but we'd have a hard time finding a back photo that looks decent with the middle blocked out. Also not sure transparency will look OK (or transparent at all) on older computers."