I think you might be misunderstanding me. I'm not saying that, when the time comes that you absolutely can't avoid using a database, you should slap it on the side and hope. Codd's rules for normalization and all jazz are just as important if you add a database late in the day as they are if you're going down the 'Big Design Up Front' route.
This is just the XP "You Aren't Gonna Need It" principle in action. Until the code tells me I need a database I won't worry about it. Once I know one is needed I'll take the time to make sure it's well factored and well normalized because that's the only way to keep my cost of change down.
The problem I have with RDBMSes is that the Relational model doesn't really map onto objects and back again that well; What you want is some kind of general solution that you can chuck an arbitrary object at and have it automagically stored, giving you back a magic cookie that you can use to retrieve it later. Given careful design it's possible to work things so that the day to day running of your code doesn't require complex queries (because complex queries are *nasty* with the kind of database that'll stash arbitrary objects).
So, the approach I'm taking with the code I'm working at the moment is to have two different databases. One object database (not yet written, we don't actually need it yet) that doesn't mess around trying to do cunning queries or relational magic, which will probably use a combination of BerkeleyDB and Storable, and a reporting/logging database which will be properly relational, allowing for the kind of reporting and queries that are needed for invoice generation, user reporting and all that jazz.
Speaking of which, the customer is pushing that to the front of the story queue, time to sit down with a bunch of index cards, a handy whiteboard, and the office's token big iron database programmer.
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