Specially designed focusing of light beams has been proposed as a means of improving the performances of optical buffers based on cells containing hot atomic vapors (e.g., rubidium vapor). There is also a companion proposal to improve performance by use of incoherent optical pumping under suitable conditions. Regarding the proposal to use focusing: The utility of atomic-vapor optical buffers as optical storage and processing devices has been severely limited by nonuniform spatial distributions of intensity in optical beams, arising from absorption of the beams as they propagate in atomic-vapor cells. Such nonuniformity makes it impossible to optimize the physical conditions throughout a cell, thereby making it impossible to optimize the performance of the cell as an optical buffer. In practical terms simplified for the sake of brevity, "to optimize" as used here means to design the cell so as to maximize the group delay of an optical pulse while keeping the absorption and distortion of the pulse reasonably small. Regarding the proposal to use incoherent optical pumping: For reasons too complex to describe here, residual absorption of light is one of the main impediments to achievement of desirably long group delays in hot atomic vapors. The present proposal is directed toward suppressing residual absorption of light. The idea of improving the performance of slow-light optical buffers by use of incoherent pumping overlaps somewhat with the basic idea of Raman-based slow-light systems. However, prior studies of those systems did not quantitatively answer the question of whether the performance of an atomic vapor or other medium that exhibits electromagnetically induced transparency (EIT) with Raman gain is superior to that of a medium that exhibits EIT without Raman gain.