Re: exterior surface markings of Kirk's Enterprise
"Outside the TOS-R references, I'd think all ejection functions would be clustered near the shuttle facilities, save for things that can be fired from torpedo tubes. The TOS-R approach to the ion pod thus appeals to me a lot."
I'm surprised you don't find fault with the TOS-R approach to the ion pod.
It's not an ion pod, it's a running light of the TOS Enterprise!
(just another thing they screwed up because they didn't watch or really knew the old series).
Just rewatch the first seconds of the original version of "The Galileo Seven". Nice starboard view of the Enterprise with this running light going on-off-on-off where TOS-R wants to make us believe the ion pod is (not to be confused with the opening shots of the Pike Enterprise where during the fly-bys someone switches off the lights in the observation corridor above the shuttle flight deck).
"The first duty of every Starfleet officer is to the truth, whether it's scientific truth or historical truth or personal truth! It is the guiding principle on which Starfleet is based! Jean-Luc Picard